Title: Hell Hole
Author: Hunter Shea
Format: eBook/Paperback, 282 pages
Published: July 1st 2014 by Samhain Publishing
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Deep in a Wyoming mine, hell awaits. Former cattle driver, Rough Rider and current New York City cop Nat Blackburn is given an offer he can't refuse by President Teddy Roosevelt. Tales of gold in the abandoned mining town of Hecla, in the Deep Rock Hills, abound. The only problem-those who go seeking their fortune never return. Along with his constant companion, Teta, a hired gun with a thirst for adventure, Nat travels to a barren land where even animals dare not tread. But the remnants of Hecla are far from empty. Black-eyed children, strange lights and ferocious wild men venture from the deep, dark mine...as well as a force so sinister, Nat's and Teta's very souls are in jeopardy. There's a mystery in Hecla thousands of years old. Solving it could spell the end of the world.
The mines were the heart of Hecla, the reason for it ever being a town. I guess I just wanted to see if the heart was as dead as the rest of the body. In this place, death was everywhere. I could feel it in my gut, taste it in my mouth with every breath.
HELL HOLE by Hunter Shea is a gripping sci-fi thriller set mostly in the wild west spiced with humor and history! I discovered Hunter Shea's writing when I won an audible of SWAMP MONSTER MASSACRE in a contest just before Halloween. I loved it! I was so excited to be offered the opportunity to read/review HELL HOLE as the description of HELL HOLE fascinated me with Teddy Roosevelt and the western setting. It did not disappoint!
In the Deep Rock Hills of Wyoming, there was a town named Hecla built around its copper and gold mines. It should have been a thriving, bustling town, but one day, mysteriously, all of its residents - men, women and children - disappeared. Since then, anyone who has stepped foot in Hecla has joined the missing including a squad of troops who had been dispatched with a mission to discern and fix whatever was wrong in the town. The problem is that the town is not abandoned... there's definitely life there... but it's not human.
We meet Nat, our hero, as he is responding to an urgent summons from President Theodore Roosevelt at his Sagamore Hill home in Long Island, NY. Nat had been one of Teddy's Rough Riders and Teddy credited Nat with saving his life multiple times. Now Teddy needs Nat's help again. He tasks Nat with finding out "what the blue hell is going on there and what we can do to get that gold from the mines." The President tells Nat that he "can't think of anyone I'd trust more to find the truth." Nat accepts the task and leaves the President to find his "blood brother" Teta to let him know they were leaving for Wyoming ASAP.
This story embraces a colorful smorgasbord of characters starting with our fifty-year-old hero, Nat "jefe" Blackburn, who besides serving as a Rough Rider under Teddy Roosevelt, had prior history as a cattle driver and a NY City cop. I loved Nat's outlook on life and the way he unwaveringly faced whatever and whoever was thrown at him.
Nat's loyal sidekick was a wild Dominican, Teta, whose real name was Nica Delacruz. It was a good thing that Teta was so staunchly tried-and-true, as I wouldn't want him for an enemy. Teta had assisted the Rough Riders - that's how he met Nat. They'd each saved the other's life too many times to recount and was now a NY City cop with Nat. I loved that Teta was a voracious reader. He was reading THE WAR OF THE WORLDS by H. G. Wells on the train as they left NYC. Nat said Teta "loved a good story, whether it was in a book or coming out of a pretty mouth." Nat's and Teta's relationship reminded me of that of the Lone Ranger and Tonto.
The Nat/Teta duo became a trio when they were subsequently joined in Hecla by Selma McCallum Smartwood, a beautiful Hispanic widow, who was searching for answers into the disappearance of her husband and his brothers who were last seen in Hecla seeking their fortune.
Finally, the threesome later became a quintuplet when Reverend Matthias Manning and Angus Ibbs, arrived in a Buffum Roadster claiming to have been summoned to Hecla by the Trumpets of Armageddon. LOL! They said they were in the business of ghost-busting! AND we can't forget President Theodore Roosevelt!
The author's writing made me feel that I was walking with the characters through the deserted mining town. I could barely breath when they were in the mining tunnels. Hunter is truly a master at colloquial expressions, imparting a sense of realism to HELL HOLE, its characters and villains.
I find the author's writing quite entertaining - as it alternates between shock and awe and witticism.
Following please find a few of my favorite quotes illustrating his writing style:
Teta was wary, but anxious to leave city life behind. He was born in a shack on a farm and raised more by the animals and elements than his parents. His stint in New York was against his nature. But no matter how many times I told him to skedaddle, he stayed by my side like a tick or a bedbug. Blood brothers, he called us. I was never sure if he meant it in the traditional sense or if he was referring to the prodigious amount of blood we'd shed together.
"Yes. I think I'll name my next horse Charlotte. She had tits a man could die between."
Teta like to name his horses after special women in his life. I'd noticed how he never mentioned naming a horse after his wife.
"A man must always take advantage of opportunities to piss and sleep. I've done the one, now it's time to do the other."
You probably think I'm just a hysterical woman who would be better off home doing woman's work."
"We're in the state that was the first to give women the right to vote. I'm not about to tell you what a woman's work should be," I said...
Teta stuffed the remains of his sombrero in his waistband and said, "You've gone off the deep end, jefe. Lucky for you, I have too."
I have to give a call-out to Teta's sombrero here. It plays a meaningful role - serving as a sort of gauge measuring how Nat and Teta are faring thru-out the tale - such as in this short update as Nat and Teta were leaving NY heading towards Wyoming:
The train left Grand Central Station with a sudden lurch and Teta slipped off his seat. He's somehow managed to land on his sombrero, squashing it pretty good. He didn't appreciate my laughter.
"That's a bad omen," he said, punching it back into shape and hanging it on a hook.
"For your cap, it sure is."
So... when the sombrero had a rough time, the reader knew things would not be going well for the characters. Early on, Nat filled in how the sombrero came to be Teta's. I loved this short tale so I'm sharing it with you here:
He'd been hired to capture or kill a Mexican bandit who had held a two-bit town in terror for several months. I couldn't remember the town, but it was somewhere in the western end of Texas. Working alone, Teta strolled down Main Street, telling everyone he met to let the thief know he was there to put him in a box. He'd be waiting for him in the saloon.
It all sounded like something out of a pulp novel, but with Teta you never know.
Sure enough, the Mexican storms into the saloon with a gun in each hand, firing away like he had all the bullets in the world. Luckily, the saloon was relatively empty, so no one got hurt too bad. The Mexican figured the best way to handle Teta was to shoot him in the back. No need for talking. No standoff in the streets. In real life, you had to take your opportunities when they presented themselves.
Unfortunately for him, Teta had just stepped out of the bar to hit the outhouse in the back. He was turning the corner of the saloon when the Mexican busted in.
No dummy himself, Teta walked behind him and shot him in the back. The Mexican was dead before his knees buckled.
As the Mexican crumpled to the floor, according to Teta, a harsh wind blew down the street and into the saloon. Somehow, it plucked the sombrero from the Mexican's head and deposited it on Teta's own noggin. He saw it as a sign that the Mexican's spirit held no ill will toward his murdered.
The pacing is fast and grisly. The ending was a hoot! I highly recommend HELL HOLE to anyone who loves action-packed, sci-fi horror. If you have never been treated to any of Hunter's books, there's no better place to start than with HELL HOLE.