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Literature / The Golgotha Series

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The Golgotha Series is a series of Weird West novels by R.S. Belcher.

Golgotha is a town in Nevada a bit more unusual than most. They say that the sheriff is a living dead man, who can't die again, and that his deputy is kin to the coyotes in the desert. Everyone in town seems to have secrets: the mild-mannered housewife who is a member of a secret order of pirates and assassins; the unnerving taxidermist who pursues forbidden sciences with the intention of conquering death itself; the mayor who struggles with his faith even as he presides over a vault of sacred Mormon religious artifacts; and the ruthless businessman who may be more than human.

For fifteen year old Jim Negey, on the run from a murder charge in West Virginia, it seems a fine place to go to ground. Maybe he'll be able to find some answers about his father's false eye, an emerald stone passed down to him by Chinese mystics which holds a mysterious power over the spirits of the dead. But his arrival in the town happens to coincide with dark happenings. An ancient evil has awakened at the bottom of the town's played-out silver mine, and the town's residents must overcome their suspicion and distrust of one another and unite if they wish to survive.

The series thus far consists of The Six-Gun Tarot, The Shotgun Arcana and The Queen of Swords.

Tropes appearing in this series include:

  • A God Am I: Ray Zeal declares himself the God of Murder and Torture and Pain, and furthermore states his intention to kill off every other god so that he can be the world's only god.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The third book The Queen of Swords, focuses on Maude, her ancestor Anne Bonny and the order, "The Daughters of Lilith" that they belong to.
  • Action Girl: Maude and her daughter Constance, who come from a long line of pirates and assassins.
  • Advanced Ancient Humans: The First Men were immortal humans that crawled out of a cave with no knowledge how they came to be. They learnt and developed wonders and would eventually be the ancestors of early humans. One of these First Men was once known as Merlin would be the one to introduce Anne Bonny to the Daughters of Lilith
  • All Myths Are True: Old Testament religion, Native American religion, Chinese Mythology, Mormonism, Mother Goddess worship and whatever else features in the series; they're all treated as true but not completely so (allowing for any contradiction that pops up).
  • Ancient Order of Protectors: The Daughters of Lilith are an order of women charged by Lilith herself, to protect humanity from evil and the tyranny of men and gods.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: The teachings of the Daughters of Lilith are the originating source of all martial arts, and as such any Daughter of Lilith can instantly learn an unknown martial art just by watching it and then develop a counter to it.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Clay is a mad scientist obsessed with reanimating the dead...which he sees as an extension of existing medical science and a way to help humanity, not as a vehicle for his own aggrandizement. Perhaps this is why he succeeds. He also uses his mad science inventions to help investigate the "Dove Killer" (making him a mad forensic scientist) and to fend off Ray Zeal's minions.
  • Badass Gay: Harry Pratt, the Mayor, who learns that he is The Chosen One of his religion and goes into battle wielding a number of powerul, magical Mormon artifacts.
  • Bloody Murder: Phillips is nearly invincible, but Mutt is able to harm him using a knife coated in Mutt's own blood. This due to Mutt's blood carrying the spiritual power of his father, the god Coyote. Prior to Shotgun Arcana, he has the local blacksmith forge a knife and infuses it with his blood as it's being made.
  • Bullet Catch: Maude's training included catching bullets.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Major Aversion. Golgotha has several churches from multiple denominations. Catholics like Augustus Schultz suffer (period realistic) discrimination for their faith.
  • Chupacabra: The Shotgun Arcana begins with Mutt and Jim taking down a chupacabra. It can fly, and has glowing Hypnotic Eyes which fortunately only work on goats.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: When Jim sees that Mormon religious artifacts have magical power, he asks if that means the Mormon religion is the correct one. The Angel Biqa responds that enough of any form of belief will grant power.
  • Deadly Doctor: Golgotha has bad luck in this regard with their doctors. Their current doctor, Dr. Francis Tumblety, is a racist and sexist quack who is only tolerated because the town's previous two doctors turned out to be murderous monsters. His predecessor was a monster which turned people to stone and drank their memories, and the one before that was some sort of creature which had to be staked through the liver and buried under the railway tracks. And Dr. Tumblety ends up continuing the streak, as he turns out to be Jack the Ripper.
  • Death by Childbirth: All women who give birth to half-Angel children, Nephilim, die in childbirth.
  • Divine Conflict: All of humanity's myth about the war of the gods, are echoes of a war between the First Men, early humanity and a repentant Lilith versus Typhon, his brother Carcosa alongside the children that Typhon had with Lilith.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Biqa is unwilling to kill Raziel, but also knows that there is no prison in the world capable of holding him. He therefore hands custody of Raziel over to Lucifer, who drags him bodily to hell.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Darkling, which existed in the darkness before the Universe's creation. Not even the Creator can kill it, because it predates the creation of death. Typhon and his brother, Carcosa are the dream children of this being and almost as nasty.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The world includes gods, spirits, and magic from a variety of sources, including Christianity, Chinese mythology, and the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • Heel–Face Turn: After her exile, Lilith became the mother of Typhon's monstrous children as revenge on the gods. Seeing the damage that these beings were causing humanity, she repented her action and allied herself with early humans to fight them.
  • Hate Plague: If the Skull of the First Murderer were to be broken, it would unleash a hate plague that would cause everyone in the world to murder one another.
  • Human Resources: The Blood of the Wurm, an oily black Psycho Serum, is created from the blood of murdered infants.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Chupacabras having glowing hypnotic eyes. However, they only seem to work on goats.
    Jim: I think... it's trying to... hypnotize us, Mutt. I don't think it's working.
    Mutt: It'd have a damn sight better chance if it wasn't so backside ugly. Now vampires, there are some hypnotisers, I'll tell you what.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: A recurring theme in The Shotgun Arcana is heroes having villains at their mercy but choosing not to kill them.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Skull of the First Murderer selects murderers to become its worshippers, and it particularly prefers those with a taste for cannibalism. Examples include Boyle "Liver-Eatin'" Douglass, Charles Cook, Nikos Vellas, and the Brechts.
  • Ironic Echo: When Biqua confronts Raziel over the chaos he's caused in San Francisco, he asks why God hasn't stopped him by now, if what he's done is so horrible. When Biqua is about to hand him over to Lucifer, Raziel argues that God wouldn't allow it, and Biqua throws the question right back in his face.
  • Living Battery: Professor Zenith has come up with a process for converting living humans into electric batteries. He is unconcerned with minor downsides such as the constant screaming or the tendency to catch fire.
  • Losing Your Head: After Auggie's wife Gerta died, Clay reanimated her head.
  • Mad Scientist: Clay and Professor Zenith. Clay wishes to reanimate the dead, while Zenith wants to use humans as batteries for his diabolical machines.
  • Mainlining the Monster: Clay begins keeping some of the worm-like parasites which created the Tainted in captivity so he can harvest their secretions as ingredients in a regenerative serum.
  • Mother of a Thousand Young: One of the Black Madonna's titles is "Mother of a Thousand Young"; she is the mother of the worm-like parasites that transform people into Tainted.
  • Mundane Solution: The climactic battle between Clay and Professor Zenith culminates in a Beam-O-War between their lightning-shooting superscience machines. Zenith's plan is to calculate and implement a precise series of complicated power modulations that will allow his machine to overwhelm Clay's. Clay's plan: while Zenith is busy with that, sneak up behind him and hit him with a wrench.
    "You ever hear of Occam's Razor, jackass?"
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: The Donner Party appears in The Shotgun Arcana. Being driven to cannibalism rendered them vulnerable to the evil influence of the Skull of the First Murderer.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: At the beginning of The Shotgun Arcana, some of the characters talk about having to deal with a group of vampires with powerful Hypnotic Eyes. Golgotha's cemetery may also contains a vampire; if a certain grave isn't kept enclosed within a salt circle, people mysteriously begin to die of exsanguination.
  • Politically Correct History: Averted. The racism, sexism and prejudice of the 1800s is in full ugly display.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Professor Zenith converts children into living batteries for his inventions.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: The Tainted can shrug off most wounds; one of the only ways to put them down is a gunshot to the head.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Golgotha contains an abundance of ancient sealed evils:
    • The Darkling, also known as Uktena, Chilong, or Nyarlathotep, is imprisoned within the Earth and specifically beneath Mount Argent.
    • One of the graves in the town cemetery contains a powerful evil, which must be kept surrounded by a salt circle lest it break free.
    • A cave in Mt. Argent contains the Skull of the First Murderer, which imprisons a powerful manitou that could cause a humanity-ending Hate Plague if freed.
    • The town well connects to an underground river that runs through a buried temple where Typhon, Father of Monsters, is imprisoned.
  • Shaming the Mob: Auggie does this when the rest of the townsfolk are about to stone Bick to death.
  • Shout-Out: The town theater is showing The King in Yellow as the end of the world begins.
  • Sequel Hook: Shotgun Arcana ends with several:
    • Maude's father, Martin, has taken Constance back to South Carolina, believing that Maude is unfit to raise her, and she has to go after him.
    • Black Rowan is blackmailing Harry with the fact that he and John Ringo are lovers - and turns out to be Ringo's sister.
    • Francis Tumblety, a.k.a. Jack the Ripper, has escaped.
    • Gillian is pregnant with Auggie's child, but isn't sure about whether it was conceived before or after Clay brought him back from the dead.
    • Roland Kinloch, one of the children that Mme. La Tour held hostage, has her tooth from the Skull of the First Murderer.
    • Typhon has escaped from his imprisonment under Golgotha.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: Silver is stated to carry a trace remnant of divine energy, making it a potent weapon against supernatural beings.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: The Sons of Typhon have their own combat method to counter the Daughters of Lilith's martial abilities. They can't match the Daughters' agility and skill, so what they do is body hardening techniques and self-inflicted nerve deadening to greatly reduce the damage taken. They then build up their strength to inhuman levels so that their martial art of crude, near-random flailing can knock out a Daughter in a single hit when they land a lucky hit.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: When the Darkling begins breaking free, the sun fails to rise and the stars are extinguished.
  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: Sheriff Jon Highfather was hanged three times at the end of the Civil war, none of which worked. He believes that neither that nor anything else can kill him as it's not his time yet.
  • Tarot Motifs: Each chapter is named after a particular card in the Tarot. Counts as a Genius Bonus.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: Clay, the town taxidermist, is creepily obsessed with death: for instance, he only agrees to help Jim on the condition that he'll get to taxidermy Jim's mule if it dies. He is soon revealed to be a Mad Scientist obsessed with reanimating the dead.
  • Tulpa: Typhon even describes himself and his brother Carcosa as this. They were the evil dreams of the Darkling made flesh.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Jim, thanks to him murdering the men who killed his father.
  • 0% Approval Rating: Malachai Bick by the time of The Shotgun Arcana. When Ray Zeal announces his attention to come into town and kill Malachai, no one speaks against him and most people start cheering.

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