David B. Riley sends us The Two Devils for review, published by LBF Books in 2005, featuring the adventures of Miles O’Maley, his horse Paul, and the machinations of Satan and Ah Puch — ed. N.E. Lilly
They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions and you’ll find Miles O’Malley happily riding his horse Paul on that road. They often fail to mention that that same road is populated with hold-outs from the War of Northern Aggression, vampiric shadow-spirits, horny fallen angels, ghostly assassins, nuns on the run, extra-Solar gunslingers, Wyatt Earp, the slightly soused Angel of Death, Secret Service agents, God, God’s personal assistant, men from Mars, and of course, The Two Devils.
David B. Riley, a science-fiction/western addict, brings us this tale of The Two Devils. Devil the first: Ah Puch, the Mayan deity of the Underworld; Devil the second: Nick Mephistopheles, the current ruler of Hell; And stuck in-between? Miles O’Maley, a simple, trusting soul, who inadvertently becomes the champion for Nick Mephistopheles.
Miles O’Maley is a simple man clearly of the Percival archetype: pure, simple, and unskilled in horsemanship or gunplay ”“ definitely not the type that you’d confuse for a hero, nor a cowboy for that matter. His life has been a series of odd jobs, leading up to where he is introduced in the story, on his first day performing the duties of a dishwasher at a mining camp.
Miles’ adventures start innocently enough: after a night spent with a prostitute who disappears from his bed in the middle of the night under mysterious circumstances. This occurrence foreshadows events to come, starting with the introduction of Nick Mephistopheles, who sends Miles on a supernatural errand. Nick Mephistopheles who is the very same Devil who in one way or another orchestrates many of Miles’ other adventures ”“ which include the aforementioned hold-outs from the War of Northern Aggression, horny fallen angels, ghostly assassins, et al.
Not that any of this turns badly for Miles as he makes his way in the Wild West and tries to find something to end his string of odd jobs. He is introduced to Paul (the most intelligent and charismatic horse in the world), obtains a magic pistol and rifle as gifts from the Devil, has “relations” with the fallen angels (with hearts of gold), has a meeting with God, and shares a drink with Death. All of which leads Miles to conclude that the Devil really isn’t that bad of a guy.
Meanwhile, Ah Puch is trying to regain his place as ruler of the Underworld, and is enlisting ex-Confederate soldiers to renew his reign. Nick will have none of it, and uses Miles to keep Ah Puch off-kilter, with Miles’ ability to inadvertently foil Ah Puch’s plans. The story culminates in the ultimate showdown between Miles and Ah Puch, the Mayan Lord of the Underworld, himself ”“ live, on-stage in San Francisco.
If I had to sum it up I’d call it The X-files in a Dime novel; a nice series of short stories that contain a major story arc. If you’re looking for serious, scholarly treatment of lasting literary value, then avoid this book like the plague. This book: not for you. The Two Devils, however, wasn’t meant to be that. The Two Devils was a quick ”“ and entertaining ”“ read. It’s the kind of book to take on vacation, relax with, and enjoy. I hope that we haven’t seen the last of Miles O’Maley or The Two Devils.
Other works by N.E. Lilly
- The Emancipation of Bat Durston, or, “I’m from Iowa, I only work in Outer-space” (Dec 5, 2022)
- Interview with Phil Foglio (Nov 8, 2009)
- 10 Most Influential Space Westerns (Oct 25, 2009)
- Space Western Most Wanted (Jan 25, 2009)
- Interview with John G. Cawelti (Dec 7, 2008)
- more by N.E. Lilly