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The cult British horror movie The Wicker Man has many great qualities, but it’s fair to say that surprise is not one of them. For a start, it’s called The Wicker Man. And its publicity material features a burning effigy of a figure – a man made from wicker. So when, in Cowboys For Christ, a hapless Christian copper gets set upon by the goatbothering brethren of a remote Scottish island, it’s not difficult to see where it’s all heading...
However predictable it may have been, it was clearly not enough for The Wicker Man’s director, Robin Hardy, who has now written virtually the same story all over again. Admittedly, the names and locations may have changed – this time, a border town replaces the island and, instead of God’s policeman, the prey are two Texan missionaries – but everything else runs strictly to plan. As for the creepy local laird, he’s virtually indistinguishable from The Wicker Man’s Lord Summerisle – a point which is driven home by the fact that Christopher Lee is slated to star in an upcoming film version.
Hardy has a pretty peculiar prose style, too, constantly interrupting the story with clunky, superfluous asides on everything from the Chernobyl disaster to 9/11, and an extended tour of Glasgow that reads like a Berlitz city guide. Cowboys For Christ must surely also be a strong contender for the annual Bad Sex Award, for a scene in which a woman’s pubic topiary reminds her lover of Hitler’s moustache (“an oblong black tuft of hair, as smooth as a cat’s pelt”). That’s one thing we weren’t expecting...