The Soul Gatherers: Thirteen Western Tales presents thirteen short pieces by storyteller Charlie Steel and infuses Western themes with stories of faith and leading a good life, versus making choices that lead to wrongdoing and Hell.
Each story holds powerful messages wrapped in a succinct adventure or encounter that changes the characters and provides insights into their lives.
The opening story, for example, 'The Devil, The Gambler, and The Girl', tells of an intelligent boy who, early on, turns to the dark side of making a living via gambling. "Slicker with cards than the average man," Jack Diamond holds the ability to gamble with luck, shuffle a winning deck, and affect the odds to fall on his side.
As with any gambling situation, his skill eventually runs out, even when it's powered by his own prowess in manipulating the cards. In this case, Jack's aging process affects his acuity and portends disaster and retirement. Also at play is remorse over those lives destroyed by his gaming scams.
When Jack blurts out a pact with the devil that trades recurring nightmares for his soul, the haunting dreams vanish, but he's still left with remorse: “...he had taken the easy path, using his sharp mind to count cards, to cheat his fellow man, to turn to avarice in pursuit of a wastrel’s life.”
Jack's inadvertent involvement beyond his encounter with the Devil offers redemption in a surprising form...something his entire life's influences could not achieve.
Or, take 'Death And The Devil Come For An Old Man'. Xavier P. Horace waits for death and reflects on a 'wasted life', lost in reminisces of regret.
He isn't surprised to see the devil arrive, having seen fleeting glimpses of him all his life during his career as a soldier and killer of men. What is surprising is that death doesn't bring resolution, but a confrontation between Angel and Devil that stirs up some uncommon truths about the old man's life...truths that change this last outcome with a surprise most won't see coming.
Each story centers on the evolution of good and evil lives, the forces that influence and change them, and the potentials for final redemption from chosen paths of darkness.
It's unusual to see Western themes paired with those of faith and redemption, the stories succeed in capturing powerful elements of both.
While traditional Western readers seeking the thrill, action, and daily lives of cowboys in frontier settings may initially be surprised by the underlying spiritual messages and tone of these encounters, The Soul Gatherers: Thirteen Western Tales will delight spiritual readers who enjoy more than cursory considerations of Western experiences. This collection is outstanding.
-D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
The Soul Gatherers is, a collection of thirteen fictitious tales by author Charlie Steel dealing with one of the most fascinating, popular, and evil literary adversaries in history. The Devil—also referred to as Satan, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, and other names—takes center-stage in each of Steel’s well-crafted short stories with the goal of claiming the soul of someone flirting with the dark side of life.
Jack Diamond, for example, a once-successful gambler now a desperate and lonely drunkard searching for inner peace, finds himself sitting across from the Prince of Darkness in game of five-card draw. Now, who can resist that sort of set-up? But, I won’t tell you who wins. The story, the first in the collection, delivers a hint of what lengths the meddling Devil will go to convince those he considers miserable and worthless to give up their souls so he can meet his quota.
Satan, the ultimate salesman, usually arrives on the scene in a flourish of roaring winds, explosive thunder, intense heat, and the acrid smell of sulfur. But, as you’ll see in these fast-moving tales, the Prince of Darkness is not without his own powerful adversaries. And, we learn that with each should he loses, his power weakens
Charlie Steel has written a package of entertaining stories that capture the fear, loneliness, and desperation some individuals suffer while coping with living. But each encounter is laced with elements of humor, vindication, and promises of salvation—all with the unspoken hope of bringing Satan to his knees.
Tom Rizzo, “Author, Last Stand at Bitter Creek.”
Charlie Steele's newest Western anthology plants you comfortably beside a crackling campfire beneath a starry sky. This masterful cowboy storyteller captures the spirit of the Old West by conjuring spirits of the West in their timeless battles of Good versus Evil. The Soul Gatherers is perfectly named, as it transcends doctrinal details and shoots straight to the heart of age-old themes of Life, Death, the Afterlife, and the power of Human Kindness. Sitting by my imaginary campfire, I didn't want the stories to end.-
Marta Keen Thompson, retired school librarian
Mr.Steel's campfire tales are a good read. Drawn into these gems I see through the lens of a Judaeo-Christian extensive education. Charlie's strength is that he ends the tale prompting a further statement from the engaged reader. While the question is seemingly simple, the answer never is. At the core of all spiritual endeavor is the the basic struggle of good vs. evil. It isn't in the finalization of an answer we gain wisdom. But when we move forward because we have an answer we have chosen to saddle up and be counted. This is a good collection for reflecting. From someone on an individual retreat to a youth group at a real or virtual campfire, each reader will find an angle to view and the discussion with self or others will bring a wider view into focus. God bless us all as we learn new ways that we are one as the Trinity is One!
-The Rev. Lyons, MDiv, BS, OblSB, Nevada
A book of delightful cowboy tales with a theological twist. They resonate with a traditional/open-minded love for both good long-held values and a taste for something different. It may very well begin a new genre!
-Francyl Gawryn, Assoc. Pastor, Grace Community Church, Boulder City, NV