Robert E. Howard completed twenty-one tales of Conan, as well as a few more fragments. Of course, some stories were better than others, but even those generally considered among ‘the worst’ offer evidence of Howard’s expertise as a story teller. “The God in the Bowl” rarely makes anybody’s Favorites List, but I wrote an essay, positing that it was a very early example of a police procedural; before the term even existed.
Which might leave the average reader wondering, “What are the best stories in the Conan Canon?” Black Gate is here to tell you… ALL OF THEM! in a brand new weekly series.
Black Gate was proud to round up some of the best Howard scholars, and biggest fans (hey, there’s no shame in that sobriquet – I’m one!), for our award-nominated Discovering Robert E Howard series.
Reaching far beyond the stories of the sword (and axe, and dirk, and torch, and furniture, and…) swinging northern barbarian, almost two-dozen essays delved into the works and life of the pride of Cross Plains. It was a fantastic series that truly paid tribute to the man I consider to be the best fantasy writer I’ve yet read.
Well, Black Gate sure as heck didn’t win a World Fantasy Award for my posts on Sherlock Holmes and hard boiled pulp! Swords and sorcery, epic fantasy, and imagined worlds are what the visitor comes here for. And until they change the password and I can’t log in anymore, I’m going to do my best to keep the Robert E. Howard content flowing. And this time, it’s all about Conan!
Beginning on Monday morning, January 7th, an absolutely All Star roster of guest contributors and Black Gaters (and me. Hey, it’s my series!) is going to be presenting you a cogent argument on why that week’s story is the best Conan tale written by Robert E. Howard.
What? I’m being a bit presumptuous in heaping accolades upon the roster? Okay, fine. You be the judge (the order is still being juggled):
John C. Hocking – The Scarlet Citadel
Jason M. Waltz – The Tower of the Elephant
Deuce Richardson – Black Colossus
Jason Durall – Xuthal of the Dusk/The Slithering Shadow
David C. Smith – Pool of the Black One
Bob Byrne – Rogues in the House
Morgan Holmes – Iron Shadows in the Moon/Shadows in the Moonlight
Patrice Louinet – Queen of the Black Coast
Scott Oden – The Devil In Iron
Gabe Dybing – The People of the Black Circle
Jeffrey Shanks – A Witch Shall Be Born
James McGlothlin – The Servants of Bit-Yakin/Jewels of Gwalhur
Steven Silver – The Man-Eaters of Zamboula/Shadows in Zamboula
Ryan Harvey – The Hour of the Dragon
Keith Taylor – Red Nails
Fletcher Vredenburgh – The Frost Giant’s Daughter
Mark Finn – The God in the Bowl
Dave Hardy – The Vale of Lost Women
Fred Adams – The Black Stranger
I admit, I was bragging a bit. But still think I was overstating things?
Each story was randomly assigned to a writer. So, nobody got to pick their favorite. Or trade for one they really like. That would have made things too easy. And we editors don’t make things easy for writers now, do we?
So, some contributors got a story in which there are some obvious angles to pursue. But others had to really delve into Howard’s plots and prose to assert why that tale is the best of the bunch (I did not envy Dave Hardy the luck of the draw…). This approach really required the essayist to pull out Howard’s strengths. And I think it worked out fantastic!
I plan on interspersing a few other Howard/Conan-related posts as well, so you should have some quality Conan reading from winter into the summer. It will be like going from the frozen wastes of Vanaheim to the deserts of Stygia. Without all the danger and dust.
So, join us as we examine Conan’s gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth: from young, uncivilized thief to king of the greatest nation in Hyboria.
By Crom: This should be fun!
Bob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ was a regular Monday morning hardboiled pulp column in the Fall and Winter of 2018.
His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March 2014 through March 2017 (still making an occasional return appearance!).
He also organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series.
He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.
And he will be in the anthology of new Solar Pons stories coming early in 2019.