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Literature / Sheep's Clothing

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My name is Dr. Nathaniel Meadows, and I swear on my mother's eyes that every word of this manuscript is true.

Doc Meadows has always been a sensible man. He is polite and helpful to his neighbors in the small frontier town of Salvation, and is a successful doctor, providing aid to those in need.

In the Year of Our Lord 1874, however, he is about to treat a rough-and-tumble wanderer named Wolf Cowrie, who brings with him some terrifying news.

All the tales and legends about ghosts and monsters that he had discarded with his boyhood are true. Vampires exist. Ghosts and werewolves are just as real as his neighbors. And if Doc can't find a way past his fear and skepticism, Salvation may end up just another ghost town on the frontier...

Sheep's Clothing is the debut novel of Elizabeth Einspanier, a Weird Western that gets back to the roots of popular legends, rather than rehashing existing modern interpretations.

Now available here and here.

A sequel, entitled Hungry as a Wolf, was released October 31, 2015.

This story contains examples of:

  • Animals Hate Him: Played with. Horses shy away from both Russeau and Wolf, but Russeau also commands an army of crows and Wolf seems to have a way with dogs.
  • As You Know: Averted. Most people West of the Mississippi have never heard of vampires in 1874. Even Doc only knows about them because of the Eastern European strigoi myths.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Doc and Wolf hit this pose for the final battle to keep Russeau from outflanking them, and this is how the pair of them are depicted on the cover.
  • Beat It by Compulsion: Wolf advises that scattering a handful of seeds or other small objects outside doors and windows will keep a vampire in or out because they will be too busy counting.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Wolf snarls an untranslated insult at Doc in Lakota (Takuni slolye sni, meaning "idiot" or literally "crazy white man").
  • Bring My Brown Pants: The narrative obliquely mentions that Doc wets himself when attacked by one of the vampires.
  • *Click* Hello: Doc Meadows' first impression of Wolf is the business end of a revolver.
  • Combat Medic: Doc doesn't typically leap into the fray, but he's a good shot with a rifle, and he knows exactly how to cripple a man.
  • Convenient Misfire: Doc's gun jams during the final battle. His resultant moment of inattention nearly gets him killed.
  • Creepy Crows: A flock of carrion crows arrive in Salvation shortly after Russeau & Co. do.
  • Curse Cut Short: Wolf nearly calls Russeau a son of a bitch before remembering he's in a church at the time and stopping himself.
  • Diagnosis from Dr. Badass: Doc's narration describes what exactly happens to DuPont's knee When Doc kicks it, even listing the tendons that are torn or damaged in the process.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Doc and Wolf's conversation after Doc's run-in with Rosette has shades of this. Justified as Doc is still in shock at this point, and probably a little drunk.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After Kimimela is destroyed, Wolf polishes off most of a bottle of brandy.
  • Funetik Aksent: Wolf's dialogue is a lot less refined than Doc's is. The rest of the Salvationers exhibit a lighter form.
  • Fur Against Fang: Wolf isn't hunting his vampiric quarry out of any ancient rivalry or racial hatred. He just needs killin'.
  • Game Face: All three of the vampires have some form of this: The ladies have a feral, fangy snarl, while Russeau turns into a bat-monster.
  • Genre Throwback: To vampires as charismatic monsters rather than tortured romantic interests.
  • Hellish Horse: The horses that draw Russeau's carriage. Justified here, as other horses tend to spook at the presence of the supernatural.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Two close encounters of the fanged kind in 24 hours drive Doc to whiskey to settle his nerves.
  • It's Personal: Wolf is hunting Russeau because Russeau took and turned Wolf's ladylove Kimimela, and Doc joins him because he threatens to do the same to Doc's own love interest (and feed on the rest of the town, incidentally).
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Just after Russeau attacks Sarah—an incident punctuated by a shotgun blast, screaming, and inhuman roaring—Doc realizes as he's carrying her back to his clinic that nobody seems to be coming to investigate the ruckus.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Russeau is identified as a hungry spirit from Native American folklore called a child of Jumlin, possessing a human shape and feeding on blood, and who is able to turn others into vampires as well. In appearance, he resembles the Bram Stoker variety of vampire, possesses a form of Glamour to hide his nature, and smells of decay. He is also able to transform into a bat-monster, and hypnotizes the people of Salvation to keep them from noticing his odd traits.
    • Brain Washed: People who are bitten by a vampire tend to become very helpful to them, not even noticing their strangeness
    • Breaking and Bloodsucking
    • Classical Movie Vampire: Russeau bears a very strong resemblance to a red-haired Vlad Tepes, but otherwise dresses like any city-dwelling gentleman in 1874.
    • Daywalking Vampire: Russeau is seen up and about during the day, at least, and his powers are diminished during this time. Whether his brides share his ability to walk around during the day is unclear.
    • Glamour Failure: Vampires are pale, tend to be room temperature or colder, and have a faint smell of decay around them.
    • Holy Burns Evil: This is not limited to Christian holy items or rituals, as Wolf seems to have fared quite well with shamanic rituals and items as well.
    • Mind Manipulation: Wolf calls this "hexing". Vampires can make people see what they want to see—usually a perfectly ordinary, if charismatic, human. Protective items can ward off the hexing, but Russeau tries to brute-force his way into Doc's mind anyway, leaving him sick and miserable.
    • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: Part of the process of destroying a vampire.
    • Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness: Charismatic and cunning, but way over on the unfriendly side.
    • Stronger with Age: Older vampires develop more abilities.
    • Super-Strength: Russeau and his brides are monstrously strong; it is implied that Russeau broke his manservant's neck with his bare hands.
    • The Undead: Explicitly described as a corpse reanimated by an evil spirit.
    • Vampire Bites Suck: Here, vampire bites leave a cluster of four parallel scratches on the victim, and in at least two cases the wound is very messy.
    • Must Be Invited: Discussed at length as Wolf eliminates the Lucky Lady as a potential hideout.
    • Vampiric Draining: Not only for sustenance, but also to "mark" mortals as cattle.
    • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Russeau travels in the shape of a black dog with red eyes, and arrives at the climactic battle in the shape of a monstrous bat. Wolf mentions that he is able to assume other forms as well.
    • Wall Crawl: How Russeau and Kimimela escape from their room at the Lucky Lady.
    • Weakened by the Light: For certain values of "weakened"; Russeau is still stupidly strong in the daytime, though he cannot shapeshift.
    • Wolverine Claws: The ladies can grow long, sharp fingernails strong enough to draw blood when trying to subdue a meal.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Wolf Cowrie is half-Sioux and half skinwalker. He is able to take the shape of a muscular man-wolf at will, has keen senses of smell and hearing, super-strength and super-agility. Silver is poisonous to him, but once Doc pulls the shard out of his side he heals up in two days.
    • Not Using the "Z" Word: Wolf is a werewolf in everything but actual name. Justified because werewolves as such had not been popularized at the time the story is set.
    • Super-Senses: Implied; Wolf is able to smell vampires and seems to see just fine in the dark.
    • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Wolf is able to change into a man-wolf form that seems to be unaffected by the full moon. He uses it during the final battle with Russeau.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Twice in dialogue and once in narration:
    Wolf: (after explaining that Doc's instincts are telling him that Russeau & Co. are bad news) Dun—ya—ignore—that.
    Wolf: (While Doc is being psychically assaulted) Leave. Him. Alone.
    Narrator!Doc: (getting ready for the final battle) He.
  • Smooch of Victory: Doc receives one of these from Sarah after he wakes up after Russeau's defeat.
  • Staking the Loved One: Wolf must do this to Kimimela. It leaves him emotionally messed-up afterwards.
  • Stress Vomit: Doc gets violently sick after having to fight off a mental domination effect from Russeau, and again after witnessing the horrible death of Kyle Cook, when he discovers that Wolf plans to talk to the dead man's severed head.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Wolf's eyes are amber, even in his human form.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Doc Meadows, once he comes to terms with what's going on in Salvation.
  • Unstoppable Rage: After Sarah is attacked, but it takes Wolf calling Doc a coward before he gets angry enough to try to beat the shit out of a werewolf.
  • Weird West: Vampires and werewolves in 1874.
  • You Have Failed Me: After Wolf and Doc learn where the lairs are, Russeau snaps DuPont's neck, as DuPont was the only possible source of this information.