I think it was early in 2015, I decided I wanted to gather a bunch of folks who know more about Robert E. Howard than I did (THAT was an endless list!) and have them write about all kinds of different facets of Howard and his life. Sure, there would be a little Conan, but I wanted to minimize that. I wanted to introduce folks (and further teach others) about various aspects of this amazing writer. And so was born Discovering Robert E. Howard; almost three dozen essays by an All-Star cast of REH experts and fans. Here’s the final post in the series, with links all the prior ones.
It went over great, and I got to know the REH community a lot better than I did before. Inspired by an irregular series I was writing about Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories (I’m a gargantuan fan), I thought it would be fun to ‘round up the usual – and unusual – suspects’ (if you know me, you know that’s from my favorite movie of all time) and tackle Conan. Each contributor would explain why that story was the best of REH’s original Conan tales (no pastiches here). The twist was, each story was randomly assigned! I used an Excel spreadsheet and did a blind assignment – the modern technology equivalent of names out of a hat.
Of course, you can’t definitively prove ‘the best story’ – though we each have our favorite. But what each writer did (and it was a lot harder for Dave Hardy than it was for me, with our assigned stories!) was pull out the good in each tale. It showed that even in a Conan story that isn’t considered one of the better ones, Howard still wrote something of worth. That he was a good writer. And from my perspective, randolmly getting assigned a story made it kinda fun.
And EVERY single Monday, for over six months, a slew of REH scholars (yes, including me. You put the thing together, you get to include yourself – valuable lesson there for you kids out there) tackled the Conan Canon. The essays were fantastic. I couldn’t have dreamed for better pieces. We had to juggle the schedule a bit (which is why they aren’t exactly in order, though we largely followed the Del Rey books), but we got to every story, – even including the unfinished “Wolves Beyond the Border” – and I added a couple bonus posts. I don’t know how it could have been a better project.
And the weekend before last, Hither Came Conan – along with contributor David C. Smith – co-won the 2019 Robert E Howard Foundation’s Cimmerian Award (Outstanding Essay – online). So, (in order of publication) congratulations, and huge thanks to: Bobbie Derie, Fletcher Vredenburgh, Jason M. Waltz, John C. Hocking, Morgan Holmes, David C. Smith, Jason Durall, Scott Oden, James McGlothlin, Keith West, Fred Adams, Steven H Silver, Keith J. Taylor, Ryan Harvey, Mark Finn, Wolfe Deitrich, Jeffrey Shanks, Deuce Richardson, Patrice Louinet, and Gabe Dybing.
I really believe this talented bunch contributed something great to the literature of REH. I very much appreciate all of them putting in the time and effort to participate. It is one heck of a series.
I had actually begun laying a little groundwork for a Solomon Kane version of Hither Came Conan (Flintlocks and Sabers). But my real life in 2020 made the Pandemic seem like a minor inconvenience, and the project went into hibernation.
But that Kane thing could see the light of day in 2022. It worked so well for Conan, why not for the Puritan pilgrim? Here, in Del Rey order, is the entire Hither Came Conan series. Enjoy!
Here Comes Conan!
The Best Conan Story Written by REH Was…?
Bobby Derie on “The Phoenix in the Sword”
Ruminations on “The Phoenix on the Sword”
Fletcher Vredenburgh on “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”
Mark Finn on “The God in the Bowl”
Jason M Waltz on “The Tower of the Elephant”
John C. Hocking on “The Scarlet Citadel”
Patrice Louinet on “Queen of the Black Coast”
Deuce Richardson on “Black Colossus”
The Khoraja Saga
Morgan Holmes on “Iron Shadows in the Moon”
Iron Shadows, the Bible, and Dark Horse
Jason Durall on “Xuthal of the Dusk”
David C. Smith on “The Pool of the Black One”
Bob Byrne on “Rogues in the House”
Dave Hardy on “The Vale of Lost Women”
Scott Oden on “The Devil in Iron
James McGlothlin on “The Servants of Bit-Yakin”
Keith West on “Beyond the Black River”
Fred Adams on “The Black Stranger”
Steven H Silver on “Man Eaters of Zamboula”
Keith J. Taylor on “Red Nails”
The Animated Red Nails Movie that Never Happened
Gabe Dybing on “People of the Black Circle”
Ryan Harvey on “Hour of the Dragon”
Jeffrey Shanks on “A Witch Shall Be Born”
Woelf Dietrich on “Wolves Beyond the Border”
Bob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made it’s Black Gate debut in the summer of 2018 and returned in 2019 and 2020. The 2021 run is on the way.
His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017. And he irregularly posts on Rex Stout’s gargantuan detective in ‘Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone.’ 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.
He organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series, as well as the award-winning ‘Hither Came Conan’ series.
He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV, V, VI and XXI.
He has written introductions for Steeger Books, and appeared in several magazines, including Black Mask, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, and Sherlock Magazine.