The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane. Kull: Exile of Atlantis. The Bloody Crown of Conan. Weird Tales Unabridged. His take on werewolves and his take on vampires are worth lifting for contemporary works. They are certainly more interesting than much of the contemporary canon especially for werewolves, who have been underserved. But there is also plenty of room to flesh them out further. The ghost stories are a good reminder that Howard was as inspired or more by Texas folklore as by Lovecraft. These stories, in particular, remind me of those that I grew up with.
And remind me that Weird Tales also published stuff like the Silver John stories. The only anomaly being that one features a giant snake and one the ghost of an ape. Because this is Howard, after all. I am a big fan of both, so I see the collected Solomon Kane stories in my near future.
The Hills of the Dead provides the image for the cover art. Some themes reoccur. Howard was an only child, and you get the sense he regretted not having a sibling. A character called Conan of the reavers appears in the excellent People of the Dark. Howard would use that name again. Delenda Est and The Cairn of the Headland are historical, supernatural horror, and each has a nice twist to it that really leverages the history.
There are two stories in particular from this chunk of the book that are worth discussing: Worms of the Earth and The Valley of the Lost. Worms of the Earth is my first Bran Mak Morn tale. It was a good intuition, though. Bran Mak Morn is a Pict king during the twilight of his people, fighting the encroachment of the Roman Empire.
Bran Mak Morn is no Conan, though.
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He is more normal in stature, and distinctly wolfish. Where Conan might have lashed out immediately when a Roman governor crucified his countryman if he even cared that it was one of his countrymen , Bran Mak Morn coldly plots revenge. And to get it, he goes straight to dabbling in the black arts, negotiating with a degenerate, fae race dwelling underground to strike at his foes.
There are no weapons I would not use against Rome! My back is at the wall. By the blood of the fiends, has Rome fought me fair? I am a barbarian king with a wolfskin mantle and an iron crown, fighting with my handful of bows and broken pikes against the queen of the world.
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What have I? The heather hills, the wattle huts, the spears of my shock-headed tribesmen! And I fight Rome — with her armored legions, her broad fertile plains and rich seas — her mountains and her rivers and her gleaming cities — her wealth, her steel, her gold, her mastery and her wrath.
The Valley of the Lost is just about a perfect story in every way although the prose is a little pedestrian for Howard. The structure, the tension, the payoff, the twists, the worldbuilding.
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Howard does a phenomenal twist on the zombie. And none of them sparkle. Howard again features a degenerate race grown stunted in their pursuit of wickedness, their glory and millennia of evil behind them. All against the backdrop of the red Texas sun, leather-skinned cowboys, and bloody red Texas feuds. He had never seen the great cities of the world.
But he knew that nowhere in the world today such a city reared up to the sky. Howard never got very far from Crossplains, Texas, but imagined things that nowhere in the world had anyone quite imagined just the same. The weird westerns are highlights. This section of the book also contains a pretty good barbarian, sword and sorcery story, The House of Arabu. This section also contains a story, The Hoofed Thing, that, like his Conan story Beyond the Black River, gives a prominent role to a heroic dog.
The racial politics are baked into the story, but that will be true of any story set in the rural Deep South in the decades after the Civil War, at least if it is written with any realism. We see this language even where Howard shows some sympathy toward the African-American character, such as in The Spirit of Tom Molyneaux. It is very in your face. But the really troubling attitude comes up in some of his other stories, particularly The Children of the Night. The story opens Kirowan, Conrad, and four others casually discussing skull formation. Pseudo-science like phrenology would power the eugenics movement and be welcomed with open arms by the Progressive movement.
Howard, then, shows not just the prejudices of his geography but also those of his intellectual class. As to the latter assertion, I wholeheartedly agree that Black Canaan is tremendously effective. Howard is masterful at slowly ratcheting up the tension throughout the story. As the blogger noted, the role of race in the story makes it more effective as horror, not less, and the entire thing is delightfully creepy. The first question to ask: measure up to what? I am woefully under read in horror.
I would take Robert E. Lovecraft at all. I read The Turning of the Screw a few years ago, and it bored me to tears. It has never grabbed me as a genre. But I did love these stories. None of these alone will supplant Conan for me yet , but this collection shows Howard undeniably had serious range as a writer. Howard with original art. Jun 29, Joseph rated it liked it.
Subterranean Press Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
OK, there's an elephant in the room, so let's just deal with that first. Robert E.
Howard lived, and wrote, in rural Texas in the s and s, so some of his racial and gender portrayals are Not actively vicious, necessarily, but containing some very unfortunate stereotypes and the occasional cringe-worthy use of dialect. All of which is amplified by the fact that most of the stories take place in contemporary settings, and many are first-person narrated by people who OK, there's an elephant in the room, so let's just deal with that first. All of which is amplified by the fact that most of the stories take place in contemporary settings, and many are first-person narrated by people who are, well, products of their time.
So now that we've got that out of the way As per the title, these are all horror stories of one stripe or another; mostly with contemporary settings rural Texas or Louisiana in the s, plus one haunted boxing ring , but also with some historical settings -- a fair number of "gothic" tales on the moors of the British Isles, one or two Westerns an era which, at the time of Howard's writing, was much less removed than it is now , and a few medieval or even ancient stories.
Many of the stories are short -- just a few pages with a final line in italics because of the unutterable horror and surprise! My favorite new-to-me story in this book was probably "The House of Arabu", a horror story set in ancient Sumeria. Definitely worth checking out -- I still really enjoy Howard's prose style -- despite the caveats above.
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Probaby closer to a 3. View 2 comments. Jun 09, Charles rated it it was amazing Shelves: horror , fantasy. If you're a fan of Robert E. Howard you'll surely love this massive collection of his short horror stories. I read some review that said there isn't much horror in them. Well, there is a lot of action, something Howard was always a master of, but there is certainly horror if your definition of that term is broad. Howard's horror spans the gaps between ghosts, werewolves, ancient haunted tombs, eerie pine lands, and many more. There's a lot of Lovecraftian elements here, and lots of eerie western If you're a fan of Robert E.
There's a lot of Lovecraftian elements here, and lots of eerie western scenarios. Pigeons from Hell is Howard's best horror piece, to my way of thinking.