One of my greatest talents as a blogger, is finding folks more talented than I, to write my weekly column for me. Hey – the reader gets a better end product, so they win, right? I brought Talking Tolkien to Black Gate in 2023. And I had some great help yet again for A (Black) Gat in the Hand.
So some of you Black Gaters may be surprised that I occasionally actually write my own essays for the Monday morning slot. John O’Neill is too savvy an editor for me to completely fool him for almost ten years.
So here are what I thought were ten of my better efforts in 2023. Hopefully you saw them back when I first posted them. But if not, maybe you’ll check out a few now. Ranking them seemed a bit egotistical, so they’re in chronological order. Let’s go!
Don’t Panic! We’ve Got Douglas Adams Covered Here at Black Gate (January 2, 2023)
If I do say so myself, things absolutely started off strong, the second day of the new year! Black Gate has a bunch of Douglas Adams fans. This was my eighth Adams-related post, and I included links to five prior posts by Black Gaters (Steven H Silver, and M. Harold Page).
Thirteen posts about Douglas Adams. SURELY you can find something interesting. This current post included me fooling around with a new entry for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I think it’s pretty funny. And if you’re not familiar with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, that’s actually my favorite Adams book. Click on this one and get a larf.
The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Parson’s Son (January 16, 2023)
I’ve got about a half-dozen short stories included in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories series’. This is one of them, if you’d like to see how well I emulate the good Doctor Watson. Arthur Conan Doyle was interested in several true-life crimes, and he fought fiercely to help overturn the unjust conviction of George Edalji. I took that crime and turned it into a Holmes story. I think it turned out okay.
I Never Get Your Limits, Byrne. There are Unexplored Possibilities (February 13, 2023)
Until the Mods turned out to be annoying as heck, I was posting shelfies in a cool subreddit. Reddit can be more toxic and annoying than Facebook, but r/bookshelf was a good bunch who like sharing pics of their bookshelves.
I posted dozens of shelfies – mostly of my Sherlock Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle collection. And in the comments, I talked about various books shown. I really enjoyed sharing. It was fun.
There’s more to me than just mystery and fantasy books. I have been into the Constitutional Convention of 1787 since college (I have a Poly Sci undergrad). I have two-plus bookshelves related to the topic – to some degree. I love reading about the Convention, the time, and the Founding Fathers. For a home library, I have a pretty impressive collection. And here it is. With links to a couple prior posts of my Holmes shelfies.
Senator, You’re No Jack Kennedy. Continuators – Yes or No? (March 27, 2023)
The topic of series’ written by other authors (whether the original creator has already passed on, or is still alive), can be a very divisive one. Some folks have very strong opinions about it. I myself am a fan of continuing a series. With the caveat that a good writer be the continuator.
I’ve read some Sherlock Holmes stories which are better than some of Doyle’s originals. I enjoy reading books with characters created by Clive Cussler, Robert E. Howard, Rex Stout, and Agatha Christie, written by other authors.
However, I’ve also read bad books featuring characters created by Clive Cussler, Robert E. Howard, Rex Stout, and Tony Hillerman. I’d rather those books weren’t written at all and the characters left in peace. Check out my post on the subject. And my rant that if your sole qualification is that your parent created the character – you shouldn’t get to continue it. I’m looking at you, Anne Hillerman!
Conan has Come Hither: The Book is in Print (April 10, 2023)
I’m pleased with a lot of my contributions to Black Gate over the past nine years. But asked to pick out the ONE thing that stands above, it’s Hither Came Conan. An incredibly talented group of Robert E. Howard fans and experts came together to produce something that I believe really contributed to the field of REH scholarship.
And Jason Waltz turned it up to 11 and used the series as part of a print book that I expect to be the definitive Conan guide for decades to come – maybe forever. If you have the three Del Rey Conans, you’re not gonna find a better book to sit next to them. I can guarantee it. Here’s the table of contents, with a bit about the project itself.
I am very proud to be one of the four cornerstones of this book. Being an editor, writer, and co-developer, is my greatest writing accomplishment. And I don’t kid myself – I stood on the backs of all these awesome contributors in winning my two Robert E. Howard Foundation awards. I’ve worked hard on my REH essays, but Hither Came Conan is the cornerstone.
If you like Conan, you really should get this book. After I read one of REH’s original stories, I then read the corresponding essays in the book. I can’t imagine a better Conan experience.
Talking Tolkien: Ten Things I Think I Think (August 7, 2023)
Next week I’m going to talk about the various semi-regular series’ I do here in my Black Gate column. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been the Monday morning guy since March of 2014. I’ve taken a few breaks, but almost every week, if you were so inclined, you could come here and see what I was rambling on about now.
Ten Things I Think I Think started because I couldn’t figure out what to write about, and I decided to share my thoughts on various and sundry things. I’m constantly reading, watching, listening to, and playing, lots of things. I quite enjoy writing up these posts, and I get to share about different things I like. And occasionally, rant about things I don’t.
(I’m actually tinkering with a Ten Things I Think – Grumpy Old Man Edition. Picture me standing on my lawn in my bathrobe, yelling ‘You kids get off of my lawn’ and shaking my cane. With humor)
I wrapped up our Talking Tolkien series with a Ten Things centered on the Professor. And it includes links to all of the entries in the series. If you like Tolkien (and not just LotR – we went well beyond that), you should click on this one.
A (Black) Gat in the Hand – Hammett & Zigzags of Treachery (August 14, 2023)
There had been a few earlier posts, but my Summer Pulp series, A (Black) Gat in the Hand, formally got underway with the wrapping up of Talking Tolkien. I’ve had some TERRIFIC guest essays from talented friends, as we surpassed the 100 post mark this Summer. But I actually do write most of this one.
Steeger Books is kind enough to let me write introductions to some of their books. Steeger owns the rights to THOUSANDS of pulp magazine stories and novels: Including such magazines as Black Mask, and Dime Detective. Matt Moring has been doing wonderful work getting great stuff back in print.
I was absolutely thrilled to write an intro to volume one of the Continental Op stories. Getting to write about Hammett is like writing about Shakespeare, or The Sistine Chapel. Hammett is the Holy Grail of hardboiled Pulp. This is absolutely the best intro I’ve written yet for Steeger, and I’m looking forward to volume two. If you like Hammett, I think you’ll find this an interesting read.
A (Black) Gat in the Hand Turns 100!: Erle Stanley Gardner’s ‘Getting Away with Murder’ (October 2, 2023)
My intent was that my new hardboiled PI series in the summer of 2018 would just run for a couple months and be done. But instead, it hit 100 posts during this, it’s sixth summer run! I’ve had a bunch of friends help out, and the scope has expanded deep into the Pulp field (my area of expertise is hardboiled, so that’s why it was the early focus). I’m very proud of the great essays about various Pulp-related topics. It will be back next year, of course!
To celebrate #100 – along with links to all the prior entries, which I include in every post – I featured a terrific essay by Erle Stanley Gardner. I think it’s a great read.
What I’m Reading: November 2023 (November 20, 2023)
Another semi-regular series I do is this one (along with What I’m Watching, What I’m Listening To, and What I’m Playing). I enjoy sharing about books I’m reading. I regularly post in the FB group, What Are You Currently Reading, and I can go a lot more in depth here in my column.
I spent a huge chunk of November and December re-reading, and catching up, on Steve Hockensmith’s Holmes on the Range series. It was a BLAST! I read/listened to all ten novels, and the three story collections.
I got so immersed, I expanded my 2019 Black Gate post on the series. And I developed the first comprehensive chronology, which I hope to run in a January column. And, I’m working on a Q&A with Steve.
If you haven’t discovered Holmes on the Range, click this link, then go check it out.
There will be more What I’m Reading posts in 2024, of course.
If I actually wrote all my own column’s posts, I might have had enough good ones to pick one post from each month. But since I con…I mean, since friends graciously help me, I came up a little short on that approach.
But I try to write positive stuff, and I inject as much humor (often self-deprecating) as I can. Since they haven’t gotten rid of me yet (actually, I just keep figuring out how to get around the firewall), I must be doing something right.
If you’ve been reading my stuff, you know I reply to almost every comment. I love discussing the stuff I write about. It’s a big reason I pick the topics I do. And even if we disagree, we can have a cool discussion. So please, leave a comment on my posts, if you’re so inclined. Both of us might even learn something new!
Hopefully you’ll find more interesting stuff to read on Monday mornings in 2024. I’ll do my best to keep beating the security and post weekly.
Bob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made its Black Gate debut in 2018 and has returned every summer since.
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. Which is now part of THE DEFINITIVE guide to Conan. He also organized 2023’s ‘Talking Tolkien.’
He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV, V, VI, XXI, and XXXIII.
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.