This is not a fantasy novel. The title purports to refer to a local silver mine near the town of Warlock (in the Arizona territory) in the 1880s. This is an overtly fictionalized version of the Gunfight at the OK Corral/Wyatt Earp story told through a series of different narrative views, with as much fictionalization as needed for that story, and as much collapsing and challenging the notions of narrative and mythmaking along the way.
If we’re being technical it’s not even about Wyatt Earp; it’s Clay Blaisedell. The Citizen’s Council of Warlock has hired Clay Blaisedell, famed gunman and Marshal of Fort James, to come in and clean up the mess in the town, which amounts to a roving gang of Cowboys refusing law and order, but also also a rotating and largely ineffective sheriff’s office.
Sounds all familiar to be sure, but the novel doesn’t tell the novel in straightforward ways. It challenges how stories are told by untelling a lot of the action. The whole gunfight is told entirely in competing affidavits. There is a voice of the council who weighs in with analysis and would-be moral authority.
In addition, as the novel continues and power struggles unfold, the resulting vacuums allow for more violence to seep in. And of course the very notion of the authority of the council to act unilaterally to hire an extrajudicial police force creates untold sovereignty issues. And at the end of the novel, it’s not even clear what was gained.
This one started it all. It draws heavily from cowboy myths, sprinkles in some Stephen Crane and Ambrose Bierce and rolls it through some noirish and postmodern reflexivity.