Summer of Conan: Robert E. Howard Was the Texan Tolkien

The Conquering Sword of Conan is the final volume in Del Rey’s three-volume collection of every Robert E. Howard Conan story.  I wrote about the second volume, and how Robert E. Howard wrote like Hank Williams sang, last week.  Gregory Manchess provides the illustrations for this volume, and they may be my favorite of the three.  There is again a foreword by the illustration, as well as an introduction (by Patrice Louinet), notes, synopses, and drafts, a letter, and the final part of Louinet’s Genesis of the Hyborian Age essay.  The letter, in particular, is interesting.  It tells us essentially everything we know about Conan’s early and later years.

The Conquering Sword of Conan is probably the strongest volume of the three.  At least two stories—Beyond the Black River and Red Nails—are frequently cited among Conan’s best, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree.  But Howard was growing tired of writing Conan stories, or at least disassociated with the character.  He wanted to write stories in new settings and it shows.  Beyond the Black River could have been set on the Texas frontier, The Black Stranger the coast of North Carolina during the Golden Age of Piracy, Red Nails Aztec Mexico at the discovery of the New World.

George R.R. Martin has been called the American Tolkien.  He isn’t, but if he were, Robert E. Howard would be the Texan Tolkien.  Continue reading

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Review of Devil’s Call by J. Danielle Dorn

Devil’s Call is one hell of a story, a bloody weird western propelled by protagonist Li Lian’s remarkable voice.

Li Lian is the mixed race daughter from a family where witchery runs on the female line.  She follows her husband, a former army doctor, to the Nebraska frontier.  It is there that something goes terribly wrong.

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 2

Before we begin, let us take a moment and reflect on how remarkable it is that the biggest show on television is . . . an epic fantasy.  It wasn’t that long ago that we went almost an entire decade (the 90s) without a live-action traditional fantasy movie.

Spoilers ahoy!

Photo courtesy of HBO.

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 1

I resisted as long as I could, but no longer.  With just two truncated seasons left, I have to recap Game of Thrones.  Hence the belatedness of this post.  Future posts should go up the morning after the episode airs (these will replace my Dark Tower first read posts).  This recap will be shorter than my recaps for the rest of the season.

Photo courtesy of HBO.

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Summer of Conan: Robert E. Howard Wrote Like Hank Williams Sang

The Bloody Crown of Conan is the second of Del Rey’s three-volume collection of Robert E. Howard’s Conan yarns.  Including Howard’s only Conan novel, it has the fewest stories of any volume in the collection.  The Bloody Crown of Conan is also heavily illustrated, this time by Gary Gianni.  Gianni did excellent work for George R.R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms collection.  I don’t like his Conan artwork quite as much (the art in my paperback copy is black and white).  There is a foreword by Gianni, an introduction by Howard scholar and series editor Rusty Burke, several synopses, drafts, and notes, and the second part of editor Patrice Louinet’s long essay on the Genesis of the Hyborian Age.

The stories in this volume are longer than those in the first volume.  Conan is well served by stories running more in the novelette range.  The novel, The Hour of the Dragon, can’t help but feel a bit conventional, even with its breakneck pace.  The other two stories, The People of the Black Circle and A Witch Shall Be Born, are two of my favorite of all the Conan stories.  This volume might be a better introduction to Conan than The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian.

Hank Williams famously said, “You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly.”  Conan’s version is “It takes oppression and hardship to stiffen men’s guts and put the fire of hell into their thews.”

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Review of Graveyard Shift by Michael Haspil

Alex and Marcus are officers working the Graveyard Shift in the Miami-Dade Police Department Nocturn Affairs Division.  “Nocturn” being the PC term for vampire after the reveal.  They’re well qualified for the job.  Marcus is an “Ancient,” a vampire so old he served as a governor in the Roman Empire.  Alex is Menkaure, former pharaoh and resurrected mummy.  After a slow start, things heat up as Alex and Marcus close in on the source of the spiked artificial blood appearing throughout the city, and the mummy and Haspil’s twist on werewolves helps make up for vampires that stick to well-trodden ground.

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Big Read: The Drawing of the Three – The Pusher

Welcome back to my first read of the Dark Tower series!  Today I finish up The Drawing of the Three with The Pusher.

The Dark Tower movie opens in theaters on August 4th.  This leaves me with a decision to make.  I will post a review of the movie that Monday, August 7th.  I can try to pound through book 3, The Wastelands in two weeks, take a break for the movie, or put the first read on hold until after the movie comes out.  Thoughts?

[Update: I decided to start writing Game of Thrones recap posts, so the Dark Tower Big Read is on hiatus at least until the end of season 7 of Game of Thrones. I will still write a review of the Dark Tower movie.]


The Story

Before The Pusher, we get another shuffle (re-shuffle).  Roland is in a bad way.  Odetta is back, but they have to get the three of them to the third door so Roland can get more antibiotics, and two of them aren’t in walking shape.

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