If you’re hankerin’ for a new-fangled Old West Christmas, it’s available right this minute in The Christmas Journey, the latest Blaze! adventure by series creator Stephen Mertz.
This one has everything anyone could want in a Christmas story: Santa Claus, religion, sex, love, shootouts, goodwill towards men, bank robberies, motherly love, wild Indians and a hat tip to The Grateful Dead.
It begins with J.D. Blaze (fastest gunslinger in the West) playing Santa Claus at the insistence of his nubile wife Kate (the second fastest), and gets crazier by the minute. Next thing they know they’re on a two-horned quest, committed to catching a couple of bank robbers and rescuing an innocent boy from the hangman’s noose.
That’s when the Journey (of the title) begins, first with a stagecoach ride (complete with echoes of the John Wayne flick), then onto a train attacked by redskins (complete with a fight on the roof) and finishing in a prairie schooner (with Three Wise woMen). Along the way, we meet a large cast of quirky characters, including smart and stupid outlaw brothers, a preacher who’s lost his faith (and never gets it back) and a good-guy Injun chief named Iron Eyes.
Everyone exhibits the Christmas spirit in their own way—even the Apaches. Recognizing that the season is special to the white eyes, they deem it a bad time for shedding blood. “Well,” says one, “could we at least raise a little hell?” The answer is yes, so in attacking the train they shoot over passengers’ heads, laughing all the way.
And, this being and adult Western series, we have a deftly handled sex scene:
Kate knew that no woman could ever tame a man like J.D.—but she could handle him in the oldest way known to the species. She consciously shifted the way she sat against the headboard. Her legs stretched out before her beneath the clinging bed sheets, parted ever so slightly.
She smiled and said in a throaty whisper, “It sure would please this girl if her husband would oblige her this one single favor in keeping with the holiday spirit.”
J.D. could not restrain his eyes from appraising her naked curves so clearly outlined beneath the thin sheet concealing her from the neck down. He said, “Uh, are we negotiating?”
“Maybe we’re just celebrating Christmas early. Maybe this girl would like Santa to come down her chimney.”
J.D. shucked his trousers. He climbed into their bed.
He said, “Ho Ho Ho.”
The author (at right) even manages to slip in a sly bit of autobiography. This passage with Kate Blaze ruminating about southeastern Arizona comes straight from the heart:
Kate, born in the East, had come to love this country. When it was her time, when God came looking for her, He would find her in these southernmost borderlands of the U.S. where mountain ranges—the Huachucas, the Whetstones, the Mules—were already dusted with snow above the tree line. Big sky country where a soul could breathe.
This was her home. A land of open prairie and rugged mountains and isolated pockets of what they called civilization; small towns like Horseshoe. Beyond the town limits, beyond the mountains lush with pine and game, home of the Apache, the vistas swept clear to the distant horizon, where you could roam free. She led a free range life with J.D. and she could never again live any other way.
One of the things Kate loved out here was the weather. She could recall snow blizzards that had hammered the desert right around Christmastime but more often the season was like today. The daytime air crisp but pleasant in the sunshine. It beat hell out of the harsh winters she’d endured growing up as a kid back east.
J.D. Blaze sums up Blaze! The Christmas Journey with the borrowed lyric, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” That’s true. It’s also a tribute from Mr. Mertz to the land he loves, a celebration of the Christmas spirit, and a rollicking good time. Minus the sex stuff, it would make a great TV movie. Are you listening, Hallmark Channel?
The book, or eBook, can be had HERE.