One of the Best Swordfights in Fantasy: Dray Prescot 20: A Sword for Kregen by Alan Burt Akers

One of the Best Swordfights in Fantasy: Dray Prescot 20: A Sword for Kregen by Alan Burt Akers


Dray Prescot 20: A Sword for Kregen (DAW Books, August 1979). Cover by Richard Hescox

About 1979, while in college at Arkansas Tech University, I visited a local used bookstore and found a copy of A Sword for Kregen.

The great cover, drawn by Richard Hescox (who I got a chance to meet), had what looked like a human locked in a sword fight with a creature with four arms and a tail with a hand on it. The four arms immediately reminded me of the Tharks of Barsoom. No way I was leaving the store without that book. It only cost me $1.17. (The price is still written on the cover.)

The book proved to be Sword & Planet and had one of the best swordfights I’d ever read. And, the human hero turned out ‘not’ to be the best swordsman in the fight. I’d never imagined such a thing from reading Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom books and the works of Gardner Fox and others. I fell in love. And best of all, the cover said this was #20 of a series! I had a lot more good reading ahead of me, and I didn’t know the half of it.

[Click the images for larger versions.]

The first 36 volumes of Dray Prescot (DAW Books, 1972 – 1985). DAW published a total of 37.

The inside cover of the book claimed that the author was “Dray Prescot,” “as told to Alan Burt Akers.” Prescot was the hero so it was clear to me that Akers must be the author.

Edgar Rice Burrough himself had used a similar kind of frame to set up the first Barsoom books. I began searching for the series and even wrote to the publisher (DAW Books) to order more.

Interior art by Richard Hescox

Soon, I had a little cache of the series, which I tore through at a fast pace. It was quite a few years before I discovered that Alan Burt Akers was really a tremendously prolific British writer named Kenneth Bulmer.

The Dray Prescot series is the longest Sword & Planet series ever produced, and — I would argue — the most detailed. I’m going to spend several posts talking about it at the Swords and Planet League on Facebook.

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David Montgomery

We must be of an age because I remember reading them starting in grade 8 and on through high school. I should probably give them another read but I don’t want to spoil my memories

Thomas Parker

I love ERB so I read the first couple of these… and found them hard going, though I’ll probably read another one sometime. For my money, the best non-Burroughs Burroughs is still old Otis Adelbert Kline.

Last edited 9 months ago by Thomas Parker
Thomas Parker

Bulmer did these in more or less self-contained “cycles” of three or four books, didn’t he? I’m obsessive about reading things in sequence, but if that’s the way he did them, maybe I’ll jump back in farther along.

Brian Kunde

There were fifty-two books, total, plus a few associated short stories. DAW Books had a change of direction after #37 and dropped the series, but the German firm that had been issuing translations wanted to continue the series, so Bulmer kept writing them, and they kept getting translated into German and published in Germany without prior English publication, right up until he had his stroke and couldn’t write them any more. More recently, the whole series of 52 has been reissued in ebook form, with door-stop POD print volumes compiling the cycles (sometimes into two paperbacks in a cycle was a long one). Republication was held up for a while because the English manuscript of one book could not be found; eventually they had to REtranslate this one from German back into English! All the ebooks are still available from Mushroom eBooks; the print publisher was Bladud Books, but its website seems to be defunct.

Charles Gramlich

Yes, I’ve got all the books and the short stories, and the one Novella published by DAW. Wizard of Scorpio. I’ve read the first 40 or so. Got some more to go, which I picked up in those Bladud versions. Maybe when retirement roles around. I may have to get the ebooks too because the print on the Bladud compendiums is pretty small.

Jim Pederson

I saw a bunch of these at a library book sale and picked up #33 “Werewolves of Kregen” strictly because of the terrific cover. It was a good story. Thanks for the pics of the variety of covers – wow! When I see all those great covers I’m reminded of how neat it would be to make a collage of all the great sci-fi/fantasy covers but I would never ruin a book by removing the cover – after they’re read, the books go back into “circulation” through donation)

Charles Gramlich

I saw a picture of a quilt recently that had old paperback covers as the panels. Very cool. Would love to have something like that with some old Pulp SF/Fantasy

silentdante

i picked up the first 3 on kindle a while back but havent started yet, it will be a while before i get to the sword fight but at least it is something to look forward to, haha

Charles Gramlich

there’s a lot of action throughout that series

Andrew P Weston

Awesome post, Charles! There are few authors who can capture your imagination so profoundly that you end up collecting a mega- series of their work. (I’ve followed several like that, a few for more than 40 years now). . .
And seeing as I’m going to be revisiting some vintage stories in the near future, I may give this a try 🙂

Charles Gramlich

Thank you. I love talking about books

Joe H.

I picked up some number of the original DAW paperbacks a while back, but never quite made any headway with them. Someday …

Charles Gramlich

so much going on in most of our lives these days that it’s hard sometimes to really focus on even a good book

Thomas Parker

To divert slightly – to the actual title of this post – my favorite fantasy swordfight is the battle between Oscar “Scar” Gordon and the the Eater of Souls in Robert A. Heinlein’s Glory Road.

Charles Gramlich

I actually read that about a year ago. I’ve seen it described as Sword and Planet but I don’t know that I agree. I don’t specifically remember that fight. I’ll have to go back and reread that section

Gary

Great to see this series getting noticed!. I’ve loved these books since I was a kid and never understood why they aren’t more well known. I’m finally getting to read the last few that were originally published in German.


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