Friday, November 30th, 2007 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Things I’m Looking Forward to Reading in Coming Months

E. E. Knight’s third Age of Fire book, Dragon Outcast. I loved the first two; I can hardly wait to see number 3 on my bookshelf beside them. You want great dragon protagonists and world building and surprising plot twists? Here ya’ go.

Detroit Noir, edited by E. J. Olsen and the mighty John C. Hocking. For those not in the know, the rise of noir is closely aligned with the rise of sword-and-sorcery. Robert E. Howard’s style is not too far removed from Dashiell Hammett.

Leigh Brackett’s Lorelei of the Red Mist. If you’re a regular blog reader here you already know how much I love Brackett’s sword and planet and space opera work. Finally someone’s putting her complete short works into gorgeous hardcovers. 

Martha Wells’ trilogy of novels starting with The Wizard Hunters. I first read Wells’ work in the pages of Black Gate, and especially liked her second offering. I just obtained copies of all three through the mail this week.

Scott Oden’s Memnon, a historical swashbuckler set in ancient Persia. I was raving about his first historical earlier this week.

The Best of Robert E. Howard, volume 2. Sure, I’ve already read most of the stories in this book, multiple times. I’ll probably read them all again. I’ve just devoured the intro by Rusty Burke and closer from Steven Tompkins and was immensely impressed.

What I’ve Been Reading

It’s been a LONG time since I threw myself at so many novels in so short a time. Since Thanksgiving I’ve read four, starting with Northwest Passage. I’ve also read three naval adventures, hoping to find inspiration and information about ship handling. My conclusion?

C. S. Forester still comes out on top. I re-read a few chapters of Beat to Quarters yesterday after having tried the other folks for a few weeks, and even in his first book Forester is smooth and surely in command. That’s not to say that I disliked the other writers. As  said, I read three, although I tried four. My local library has an amazing collection of naval fiction, and appears to have most of each of these series, so it won’t be hard to continue any of them.

Julian Stockwell’s Kydd: This is the fictionalized account of one of the handful of men who started out as a pressed seaman (meaning he was forced to sea against his will) in the age of sail and worked his way up into the officer’s ranks and then up the ladder to admiral. It was a first class acount of life at sea and I will probably read more from this series.

Dewey Lambdin’s Gun Ketch: This was the fifth novel in his Alan Lewrie naval adventure series. I found myself reading compulsively, yet by the end I’m not sure I’ll be seeking out more, and I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ve read so many I’m suffering genre fatigue, but it may be because the pacing didn’t quite agree with me.

Alexander Kent’s Passage to Mutiny: This is the seventh novel in Kent’s (real name of Douglas Reeman) immense Bolitho saga, but I was some 60 pages in and nothing much had happened yet except characters thinking and characters being described, and it didn’t hold my interest. Maybe I’ll try one of his other books later, but it was my least favorite of all four.

Dudley Pope’s Ramage: This is the first of eighteen books about the young Lord Ramage and his rise to naval prominence. In some ways I liked it better than all the others. Pope occassionally reminds me so much of Forester that they sound the same, and I’m reminded of what one Shakespeare critic said of John Fletcher being the one playwrite who can, for short stretches, sound like Shakespeare. (Remember that Shakespeare and Fletcher worked together at the end of Shakespeare’s career.) But Fletcher worked with types rather than rounded characters, and Pope seems to do that as well. The main villain is kind of cartoony. Then there’s the annoying way Pope will break out of really excitinq sequences to give us long background in Ramage’s thoughts, or not QUITE unobtrusively enough provide us information through dialogue. When he does that it’s not as bad as “as you know, Smith, we are on this secret mission because…” but it’s not as smooth as it should be. On the other hand, Pope will turn around and create gripping action scenes, difficult situations for his characters to resolve, and he also knows his seamanship. He may actually be better than Forester at bringing tangible elements to life — the world building as he effectively describes some aspects of the Italian shore line or life at sea felt true and fully realized. According to some sources, which I haven’t been able to verify, he was Forrester’s appointed successor. Hornblower gets mentioned as a character in this first Ramage book and I’ve found other sources that say Hornblower makes appearances later in the series.

…and that’s it for my reading binge. I’ll read some more Kenneth Roberts soon, but not at this breakneck pace. I have been, as Robert E. Howard called it, “filling the well,” eagerly drinking in information and author style and background prior to a plunge into more writing.

Now back to regularly scheduled Black Gate matters, a few submissions, and heroic fiction.


LOTR Musings

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

My family owns the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies, which, with the exception of Return of the King, we enjoy more than the theatrical releases. The week before Thanksgiving and through the Thanksgiving school break we finally watched all three WITH the children. My youngest is 7 going on 8 and until recently we thought it might be a bit too intense. 

They really enjoyed it. My favorite part, though, took place in the moments after King Theoden’s death. The screenplay tweaked the already powerful final moments of King Theoden so that the dialogue was even sharper than the book — and it was acted superbly. Once again I was teary eyed as Theoden spoke his last. Then the camera panned over the carnage that was the battle site, and we saw dead men and horses and orcs and the massive oliphaunts sprawled across the immense field, twisted horribly as far as the eye could see. My lttle girl piped up brightly: “It’s going to take a LONG time to clean up THAT mess.”

I laughed so hard it hurt.



Tuesday, November 27th, 2007 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

A very pleasant Thanksgiving was had by all in the Black Gate rooftop headquarters. I’ve been away a long time and there’s a lot I intend to write about, but I’m going to pace myself and go for a series of short posts.

First, John O’Neill is closing on the end of the submissions pile and making final choices amongst those tales I forwarded him from e-subs. I have a handful of subs I need to address before month’s end and hope to get to them in the next few days.

Second, I’ve been meaning to write about a great swashbuckler I read on the plane to and from the World Fantasy Convention. Scott Oden’s Men of Bronze is the most fun I’ve had reading a historical in years. Set in the time of the Pharoahs, it’s a heads-down, swift-paced action novel that starts at a run and never really lets up. The central character is a Carthaginian mercenary named Hasdrubal Barca, who, while commanding a legendary border unit, stumbles upon a Persian invasion plan set in motion by traitorous Greek mercenaries. There’s soaring descriptions, vivid action, and heroics galore. I’m very much looking forward to more from Oden’s pen, and have added his Memnon to my Christmas list. Be warned — if you don’t like Robert E. Howard, or are into fiction where mopey people wander about emoting their woes and doing nothing, this book’s probably not for you.

I love a good historical adventure novel, and picked up another that’s been sitting on my bookshelf since I last read it at 12 or so, Kenneth Roberts’ Northwest Passage. I ended up spending a lot of time over my Thanksgiving break heads down over that compelling novel, wondering why I hadn’t ever read more by Roberts. That’s something I aim to correct soon, although right now I’m reading non-Hornblower nautical fiction to research the feel of, well, nautical stuff, for my own stories. I’ll read Hornblower again, someday, but I’ve already read almost every volume three times over the years, and wanted something different.


A Review of A Vision of Light and In Pursuit of the Green Lion

Sunday, November 18th, 2007 | Posted by Web Master

Judith Merkle Riley writes tales of Middle Ages history and romance spiced with potent amounts of the occult and supernatural. Three Rivers Press has recently brought two classic entries in her Margaret of Asbury series back into print. If you’ve never sampled Riley’s fiction, read Black Gate‘s review by Amy Harlib to find out what you’ve been missing.


Writer’s Strike

Thursday, November 15th, 2007 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Here’s the lowdown on the writer’s strike, told Daily Show style:

A Review of Salon Fantastique: Fifteen Original Tales of Fantasy

Sunday, November 11th, 2007 | Posted by Web Master

Two of the shining lights in the fantasy editing field are Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. Over the years they have brought out a staggering amount of quality fantasy fiction in both book and magazine form, and the many awards they’ve won stand as a testament to the quality of their selections.

Join Black Gate reviewer Mark Rigney as he delves into one of their latest anthologies, containing tales from writers as diverse as Jeffrey Ford, Paul Di Filippo, Peter S. Beagle, and Lucius Shepard.



Thursday, November 8th, 2007 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Still feeling cruddy. It’s been so long since I was sick I forgot how annoying it is. Got some good editing done… but I think I’m going to crawl off to bed now.


World Fantasy Convention

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

I should have a post on the World Fantasy Convention up fairly soon. I came back with a low-grade fever and a couple of deadlines, and I have to deal with them first. In sum, John and I had a good time and met a lot of great people. More details in the next day or so.


A Review of Jade Tiger

Sunday, November 4th, 2007 | Posted by Web Master

Since 1999 Jenn Reese has made a name for herself writing fantasy tales at times whimsical, contemplative, and moving for markets as diverse as Strange Horizons, Flypaper, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress book anthologies. Now we finally have a novel from her, one with plenty of romance and exotic, kung-fu crime fighting to keep you reading. Black Gate’s Rich Horton gives you the details.



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