Some Reviews Of Merkabah Rider And The First Three Pages Of The Series

The Rider’s signature weapon, his silver and gold gilded Volcanic pistol, stamped with twenty two Solomonic seals.

When all the varmints of hell and worse are snappin’ at your boot heels, trust the gun that’s shomer shabbos.

It’s Merkabah Rider.

But what the heck is it?

It’s a weird western.

OK but what’s a weird western? It’s essentially a western with….well, weirdness thrown in. Ghosts, demons, zombies, (my umbrella term is ‘ghoulies’), anything bizarre and out of place. Like Cowboys and Aliens or Jonah Hex. But better than that. More like Grim Prarie Tales or High Plains Drifter, if you’ve ever seen those.

So what’s weird about the west of Merkabah Rider (and that’s Mur-ka-baa Rider)?

Set in 1879-1882, the series follows The Rider, a Hasidic gunslinger tracking the renegade teacher who betrayed his mystic Jewish order of astral travelers across the demon-haunted Southwest. As part of his training and vows, the Rider has given up his true name to prevent his coming under the influence of malevolent spiritual forces. He drapes himself in protective talismans and carries a silver and golden gilded Volcanic pistol covered in glyphs and Hebrew symbols. At times he, sports a pair of blue glass lenses, mystically embossed with Solominic seals that allow him to see into the spirit world.

Now, the world of Merkabah Rider is the historical west, and the Rider sometimes bumps into real people. He’s met Doc Holiday, Geronimo, and Wyatt Earp’s future wife, to name a few. The average joe cowboy doesn’t know jack about angels and demons beyond what the local street preacher tries to hammer through his hangover on Sunday morning.

But the thing about the Merkabah Rider series is, everything’s real. Every bump in the night campfire story, every hell and damnation sermon the pulpiteers throw down. The Rider tangles with a demonically possessed ex-Confederate sharpshooter, a brothel full of antediluvian succubi, and a gang of half-demon outlaws with an infernal cannon in the course of his adventures. But there are worse things out there. Things some people only whisper about. Terrible, cosmic things.

If you’ve read any HP Lovecraft, any Ambrose Bierce or Chambers, you know what I’m getting at. There are things worse than the mere devil and demons of Horatio’s philosophy. Old things from the dark void before God and Creation.

Imagine Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane meets Joe R. Lansdale’s Dead In The West. Although they’re novels, they’re presented as collections of sequential, novella-length ‘episodes’ to evoke the old Zebra and Lancer pulp paperback collections.

Read some reviews, culled from around the web, or click on a cover to the right and read an excerpt.

Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter

“Riding out of the Old West comes the Merkabah Rider, a Hasidic gunfighter who owes his provenance as much to the nasty inhabitants of Elmore Leonard’s westerns as he does his piousness to Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane. This highly original episodic series breathes new life into the overworked western with tight action, inglorious heroes, and unpredictable plots.” – Weston Ochse, award-winning author of SEAL Team 666 and
Scarecrow Gods

“The Rider is a fabulous character, in all senses of that word, and Erdelac’s a fabulous writer. High Planes Drifter contains all the demons, ancient gods, and gunplay a lover of weird westerns could want, but
told from an angle no one else has touched before. Where else are you going to find a Jewish Doctor Strange packing heat in the old west? Nowhere, that’s where. This is crazily entertaining stuff.” – Daryl Gregory, award-winning author of Pandemonium and Raising Stony Mayhall

For a reviewer, it is always a pleasure to find the unexpected trinket of treasure somewhere in the pile of dreck that too many novels of any genre tend to indulge in. The Merkabah Rider series has been exactly that, combining the Weird West mystic overtones of Joe R. Lansdale with the commitment to historical accuracy of Max Allan Collins. -J. Keith Haney, Innsmouth Free Press.

Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name

Merkabah Rider 3: Have Glyphs Will Travel

MERKABAH RIDER-HAVE GLYPHS_Erdelac__edited-HEALINGMerkabah Rider 4: Once Upon A Time In The Weird West

Merkabah Rider 4 cover


And here’s the first three pages of Merkabah Rider: Tales Of A High Planes Drifter….

The Blood Libel

Episode One

The Merkabah Rider passed into the San Pedro River valley on a narrow, stony path through the Huachucas. It was an old road white men and Mexicans wouldn’t use. They dreaded the Apache purported to skulk in the rocky places drunk on tiswin, plotting the rape of virgins and devising new ways to make the blue bellied soldiers scream.

The Chiricahua shunned it too, reckoning it too arduous and remote a pass. Some among them believed it sank into the heart of the mountains and passed through the shadowy worlds of wicker and web where only Coyote dared, to finally open up into the dark place where it was said the ravenous thunderbirds of old nested, dreaming lightning dreams, and stirring at the smell of a man’s terror.

The Rider had encountered none of these things. Thirst and shifting stones and steep paths were all the evils that plagued him. As for the shaggy white onager he led, perhaps it had sensed all manner of evils.

It had balked and shivered enough times on the journey, but whether that was from preternatural unease or inborn wild ass stubbornness, he couldn’t say.

He had spent the day passing through the foothills and trekking across the flat anvil of the baking valley floor in the direction of the river. There was a town there, haphazardly arranged as if some ungainly colossus had tripped over the ribbon of water and spilled the clapboard and adobe buildings from its arms, then stumbled on.



POP 180

The letters were carved into a plank sign bolted to a boulder set along a road, which appeared quite suddenly. It was a rutted swath that slashed through the rough tumble of ominous saguaro and mean dry brush and drove down the center of the town. The Rider followed it.

It was on a dying, red sun Friday when he passed into the town; only the black gummed growl of a scrawny, long-nippled cur that slid from underneath the shadows of a boardwalk, welcomed him. Though there were people locking up stores and heading for their homes, they greeted him in much the same way as the bitch, but in their own, more insidious manner.

Curtains drew. Fleshy lips moved behind lily hands. Whispers carried words he’d heard a hundred times before in towns better than this. Questions both bemused (What do you make of that?) and pregnant with fear-born threat (Who does he think he is?). Speculations (Some kinda Mennonite? A Mormon? A Mexican-Mormon?). Then, probably from some drummer who had been out of the valley once or twice— maybe as far as Tombstone or Bisbee he heard another; Jew.

That was all it took to tip the murmurs spilling. They came gushing over curled lips like the salivation of wagging dogs smelling a kill. They crawled up, pestilent and envenomed, from the throats of shopkeepers—men in aprons, who if they knew whom they were addressing, would have hunkered down behind the counters of their stores and averted their gaze like peons before a passing maharajah. They squeezed through the gritted yellow teeth of posturing men with wide belts and big pistols who thought themselves hard, but would have scrabbled with their fingers in the earth to hide their eyes from all The Rider had seen.

The words meant nothing to The Rider. They were just more words.

Christ-Killer. Heeb. Dirty Jew.

He knew what he was to them, in his strange black garb and his long, blue-black beard and curled payos. He knew they looked on the four white fringes of his prayer tallit with nervous hatred. He was alien to them who knew only mine dust and horse stink, faded calico, and the red faced brimstone clamor of the gospel peddler. He was a weird apparition that stoked distrust in the most neighborly breast. He was a strange mirage shimmering down the desert road, salted in moon dust and smelling of foreign lands.

As he passed a sundry, where a fat clerk leaned in the doorway speaking with a rail thin man in overalls who straddled a barrel, he heard the clerk say;

“One of them. And right down the middle of the street! Someone should…”

The Rider paused in his walk, feeling the onager nuzzle against the small of his back and snort, wondering why they were lingering when water was so near. The Rider fixed his stare on the fat clerk, looking at the man’s pinched face over the golden rims of the blue tinted spectacles he wore. The clerk gave pause, and his eyes flitted to The Rider’s frock where he saw the gilded pistol strapped to his waist. Those eyes met The Rider’s once more, then darted with sudden interest to a sign on the wall—an advertisement for Proven Gall Bitters, which promised a relief to habitual feminine maladies.

Neither the clerk nor the barrel rider spoke again till he was gone.

The Rider was a man who understood the root of fear, but would not suffer its fruits.


If you’re convinced, head over to Amazon and give Merkabah Rider a shot…print or ebook.

And please, love it or hate it, tell somebody or write a review.

Shalom, pardners.

Merkabah Rider Author Notes

Hey all, in writing for Star Wars I noticed a tendency for authors to post unofficial endnotes to their blogs about recently published pieces – basically just some fun behind the scene facts about their stories, things reader might have missed. I did this for my own Star Wars writing (the main character, a shockboxer named Lobar Aybock, is a portmanteau of Rocky Balboa, for instance), and I thought it might be a nifty thing to do for my Merkabah Rider series. I’m a big fan of western history and genre fiction, and I always include nods to some of my own favorites.

So, here’s a rundown of some of the more obscure references in books one and two of the Merkabah Rider series, by book and story.  Think of it as a kind of ‘DVD commentary.’

Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter –

The Blood Libel:

The town in which this story takes place, Delirium Tremens, is fictional (though I’m positive I read the name in a book on American ghost towns which I can’t seem to locate now). It appears in some of my other stories (The Blood Bay, appearing in The Midnight Diner, for instance, and my indie film, Meaner Than Hell).

The town sign the Rider enounters reads ‘Drucker and Dobbs Mining Company Welcomes You To Delirium Tremens.’ 

The name Dobbs is a reference to the avaricious gold prospecter played by Humphrey Bogart in Treasure of The Sierra Madre, one of my all time favorite movies.

The girl kidnapped by Hayim Cardin’s cult, the Reverend Shallbetter’s daughter, is Carrie Shallbetter, the same reverend’s daughter who shows some romantic interest in Jonas Famous, the protagonist of my short story The Blood Bay (Editor’s Choice for The Midnight Diner #3).

The Dust Devils:

Claudio Scarchili

Hector Scarchili, the leader of the bandits who take control of Polvo Arrido, is named after Claudio Scarchilli, a prolific spaghetti western actor (one of Tuco’s gang in Good The Bad and The Ugly). The hoodoo/Vodoun bokor Kelly Le Malfacteur is based on Kelly The Conjure-Man, the titular powerful hoodoo man from a story written by Robert E. Howard.

Hell’s Hired Gun: A little Biblical trivia in this one. The dybbukim (angry condemned souls)  possessing Medgar Tooms identify themselves as Gestas, Lamech, Nahash, and Zuleika.

From L to R: Gestas, Jesus Christ, Dismas

Gestas was the unrepentant thief crucified beside Jesus, who called for him to prove his godhood by saving himself and them. Traditionally, Gestas was also supposedly one of a band of robbers who attacked the Holy Family during their flight to Egypt to escape Herod’s persecution. Dismas, the thief to the right of Christ, chided Gestas and asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. Christ subsequently promised to reward Dismas. Presumably, Gestas did not fare so well.

Lamech is one of the descendants of Cain, invariously described in Jewish folklore as a culture hero of blacksmiths and as the accidental killer of Cain and Tubal-Cain, his own son. He was the first polygamist, and according to some sources, was partially responsible for the Flood of Noah’s time.

Nahash is intended to be the soul of Nahash of Ammon, a cruel king who opposed the first Hebrew king, Saul. Nahash famously besieged Jabesh-Gilead, and offered the populace a choice between death or having their right eyes gouged out. Magnanimous guy.

Zuleika was the name of the wayward wife of Potiphar, the captain of Pharoah’s palace guard, who tempted Joseph during his servitude in Egypt.

The Nightjar Women: There’s a good deal of western history in this novella, which I give a lot of credit to Jim Cornelius of The Cimmerian for actually picking up on.

Josephine 'Sadie' Earp, nee Marcus

First off the character of Josephine ‘Sadie’ Marcus is the Josie that lawman Wyatt Earp met in Tombstone and ultimately married. She later wrote a book about her husband.

Her shiftless paramour, Johnny Behan, later became the underhanded sheriff of Cochise County who issued an arrest warrant for the Earps and Doc Holiday following the famous gunfight at the OK Corral.

Both of them are documented as having been in Tip Top, Arizona around the time I describe.

Tip Top, the setting of this story, is an actual Arizona ghost town, and I did my best to describe it much as it originally stood and partially still stands today. Many of the names mentioned in the story, like Alph Gersten and Constable Wager, were actual residents.

Merkabah Rider: The Mensch With No Name –

In volume two of the Merkabah Rider series, elements of the Lovecraftian mythos come to the forefront.

The Infernal Napoleon: This story is for the most part original, though the scenario of the desert tanks being blown up was inspired by the John Wayne movie 3 Godfathers, in which a lazy traveler dynamites a desert watering hole to hurry the seepage, killing himself and indirectly, a lot of other people in the process.

I always take the names of actual demons for the demons in the series, including the shedim (half-human-half-demons). These come from various sources, both Jewish and Western Estoteric (like the Lesser Key of Solomon, for instance).

Ketev Meriri, the cannon-demon comes from Jewish folklore, and is desribed as a scaly demon who rolls about and whose gaze is instant death. I just turned him into one of the original cannons created by Lucifer for the rebellion against heaven, as described in Milton’s Paradise Lost.

The villainous Dr. Amos Sheardown’s name comes from an individual briefly mentioned in a newspaper article about Minnesota’s Dakota War of 1862. Following the suppression of the Sioux Indians by the Army, 38 Indians were publicly hung in Mankato, Minnesota – the largest mass execution in US history. Prior to being slung into a mass grave, a ‘Dr. Sheardown’ is said to have removed pieces of the prisoners’ skin and later sold it. These ‘artifacts’ were only recently returned to the Dakota tribe by the Mayo Clinic. 

Among Sheardown’s papers the Rider finds a rejection letter written by a Dr. Allen Halsey, turning down his application to teach anatomy at a new medical school opening up in Massachussetts. Halsey is the dean of medical department at the infamous Miskatonic University, as mentioned in Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Reanimator.

The Damned Dingus: The title and concept of this story come from Ambrose Bierce’s similarly titled short story ‘The Damned Thing.’

Lots of western personalities make an appearance in this one. The setting is Las Vegas, New Mexico, a town I’ve always wanted to set a story in. Billy The Kid purportedly dined with Jesse James here. Not long after the Santa Fe and the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroads hired a slew of famous gunfighters like Doc Holiday and Bat Masterson to fight a guerrilla war over the Royal Gorge route in Colorado, the railroad made its way to the east end of Las Vegas, New Mexico. A brand new settlement sprang up around the tracks, East Las Vegas. A lot of those hired gunmen found themselves deposited there.

The law in East Las Vegas became the Dodge City gang, a band of Kansas gun hands led by Hyman Neill, AKA Hoodoo Brown. Elected Justice of the Peace and Coroner, Hoodoo Brown saw to it that any killings performed in the line of duty by his questionable police force were always ruled as justified. His crew included such luminaries as Dirty Dave Rudabaugh (who later rode with Billy The Kid), and Mysterious Dave Mather (all of whom make an appearance here).  Most of the named gangmembers in this story (Bullshit Jack,  Slap Jack Bill, etc) are derived from public record.

That gunfighter Dave Mather and his brother Sy (descended from Cotton Mather) went to sea for a little less

Mysterious Dave Mather

 than a year in 1868 is fact, but that they sailed on The Hetty is my own devising. The Hetty is of course Captain Obed Marsh’s brig mentioned in Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The drunk who tattooed the brothers’ arms with the Elder Sign was likely old Zadok Allen.

William Wallace Spates, the excitable professor working on a ‘catalog’ of supernatural entities, is a nod to Ghostbusters and Ray Stanz’s reference to ‘Spates’ Catalog.’

"Spates Catalog." "Tobin's Spirit Guide."

The Outlaw Gods – Shub-Niggurath and the Black Goat of The Woods are from the Mythos of course. Red House is an actual location in Arizona.

Art by Quinton Hoover

The extra-dimensional angelic beings Chaksusa refers to as Shar-rogs Pa and Mun Gsod are Tibetan approximations of the names ‘Darkness Slayer’ and ‘East-helper.’ Put their names together with the color blue (as Shar-rogs Pa is said to be the blue abbot of Shambahla) and some readers will have an ‘inkling’ of who they are and what world they came to the Rider’s from.

All the references the shade of Don de Arriagua makes to Tiguex and Estavanicio and the like are from history.

The Pandaemonium Ride – Most of my descriptions of Sheol or hell are intertwined with Milton and Dante. The description of Pandaemonium itself comes from John Martin’s 1825 painting of the subject.

John Martin - Pandaemonium (1825)

The number of gates of hell and their locations, as well as descriptions of the angel Pariel and the demons depicted in Pandaemonium’s hall of statuary are from Jewish folklore, most of them culled from Geoffrey Dennis’ ‘Jewish Myth Magic and Mysticsm,’ which has been an indispensible resource throughout my writing of the Merkabah Rider series.

One of the paintings on the wall of Lucifer’s den moves, much to the dismay of the Rider and Kabede. The scene depicted is of a trio of people walking around a garden, and Lucifer and Belphegor take credit for it, stating their intent to introduce the technology to the human race and speculating as to the less than savory future of moving pictures. This was all sparked by a conversation with a friend, about how Lucifer is said to be the light bearer, and would probably find it ironic to corrupt mankind using paintings of light. 

This moving painting described is intended to be Roundhay Garden Scene, a two second short film running at twelve frames per second first recorded on paper film with a single lens camera by French inventor Louis LePrince in 1888 (making it the first real motion picture, predating Edison’s patent).

What attracted me to the use of this particular clip of film were the dark events which surrounded it and its creator, Louis LePrince. 

Firstly, ten days after filming Roundhay Garden Scene, Sarah Robinson Whitley, one of the actresses, died. Being 72, this was perhaps not so interesting.

But two years after filming, director LePrince boarded a train bound for London to exhibit the film showcasing his technique….and never debarked, disappearing without a trace.

Later, when LePrince’s son Adolphe (the gentlman featured in the film) testified in a trial which challenged Edison’s claim of invention, he was shortly thereafter found dead of a gunshot wound.

The hand of Edison or Lucifer’s agents?

Hope this has been illuminating, and happy new year.

Look for the third book in The Merkabah Rider series, ‘Have Glyphs Will Travel’ sometime in the latter half of this year.