John Maddox Roberts wrote eight Conan books. I have three—Conan the Champion, Conan the Bold, and Conan and the Amazon. He is best known for his SPQR series, historical fiction mysteries set in Rome at the dawn of the empire. Roberts may be the best of the Tor pastiche authors. Robert Jordan may be a better storyteller and wrote his best prose in his Conan books, but Roberts “got” Conan in a way that Jordan did not.
The first Roberts book I read, Conan the Champion, is set farther north than any of REH’s stories. Roberts’ Conan is cocky and aggressive, “wild and self-governed.” He will talk some shit, even to the twice-dead corpse of an ice zombie.
“Well, Agiluf,” Conan said when he once again had breath, “you could not slay me when you were alive. Did you think you would have a better chance dead?”
But Roberts’ Conan is no young hothead. Not anymore.
There had been a time when Conan would have instantly split the man’s skull for these words, but age and experience had taught him to be prudent, especially in a strange land. He said simply: “I have no desire to dispute with you here in the home of my friend. But if you really want to sell me to the slavers, let us go over to yonder field, and I’ll carve your guts out and strangle your friends with them.”
Conan the Champion and Conan the Bold are both set when Conan is young (the Tor books, in general, seem to focus on Conan’s younger days). Conan and the Amazon was published too late to be included in Robert Jordan’s Conan chronology, but this is obviously an older, wiser Conan than the first two books (maybe late twenties?). Roberts’ Conan still isn’t quite Howard’s—Roberts leans more on Scottish history; Howard on Texas history and the influence of the Great Depression—but it is pretty damn close.