“Did you ever wake up in the night an’ find everythin’ out of kilter? The door seems in the wrong place? Everythin’ switched around? Well, that country can be that way, only it doesn’t stay that way for minutes–it’s like that for hours!”
Right there on page 8 is where the Haunted Mesa hooked us.
It’s the end of an old cowboy’s story of how he went into the wilderness near Navajo Mountain in Southeast Utah in search of gold and went through to the Other Side. Somehow he came back with a map.
It sounds like the start of a D&D adventure–or better yet, a 0-level module for DCC RPG.
In this case, however, Mike Raglan, the book’s protagonist, isn’t looking for gold, but his friend and entrepreneur, Mike Hokart, who decided to build a secluded home on top of a mesa known for its legends of the paranormal. When Hokart fails to meet Raglan at the appointed spot, and his journal appears the following day in the hands of a beautiful woman, Raglan is drawn further to a convoluted story involving the history and myths of the lost Anasazi.
The neat thing about Raglan: he’s a paranormal investigator who doesn’t really believe in the paranormal.
The plot, of course, tests this belief as a series of strange events unfold around him. When in town, he’s uncertain who he can trust. When Raglan visits his friend’s half-completed house on the mesa, we discover how scary the desert can be.
Rest of the book features some good solid storytelling Louis L’Amour is known to deliver.
There’s a couple rough spots, such as when L’Amour has Raglan ponder the situation through a series of questions: “Crossed over? Was he actually buying that story? Did he believe in such a thing? A kidnapping not for ransom but for what Erik knew?” Sometimes this go on for paragraphs, or cut in the on the action every couple of paragraphs or so.
Otherwise, we recommend The Haunted Mesa. It’s part-Western, part-Science Fiction. Many of the Louis L’Amour hardcovers have some nice maps on the inside covers for reference. (It’s also fun to look up the locations on Google Maps and see how they compare).
You can probably track down a hardcover copy at your own local used book store for a reasonable price (such as Book Nook in the Atlanta area, where we got our copy). Barring that, the softcover and Kindle versions are available at Amazon.
Read this if: You like the idea of combining westerns with the supernatural. You have no idea who Louis L’Amour is/was. The Haunted Mesa is a decent starting point for rest of his novels.
Don’t read this if: You’re not interested in Westerns or the Supernatural, or reading books published 30+ years ago seems unappealing.