East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Robert E. Howard, 80 years after

Robert E. Howard died eighty years ago today.
He was a troubled young man, and a writer – not necessarily in that order.
At his worst, he was not very good – but still enjoyable, and entertaining.
At his best, he was a master storyteller and had an extraordinary control over his prose. He infused such an energy in his stories, that it was impossible not to get caught and carried along, dragged along screaming, almost, by the plot, the action, the imagery.

carried away

Howard’s role in the development of imaginative fiction and of fantasy in particular cannot be summarized in a single post on a backwaters blog like this.

But I’m going to list a few good stories – because that’s what we always do, right, when we talk about an author we love?
We suggest a few good titles for the uninitiated to check out and see what it’s all about.
And please, do the same, in the comments, and list your favorite Robert Howard stories. Continue reading

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Conan the Adventurer at Fifty

Today marks fifty years since the original publication of Conan the Adventurer by Lancer Books.
The collection, edited by Lyon Sprague de Camp, was the first in a series of paperbacks that revived the interest of the fantasy-reading public for Howard’s character.
The book featured an iconic cover by Frank Frazetta.

Continue reading


The Mystery of Chapter 20

HowardBerkleyHour-1I read The Hour of the Dragon, Robert E. Howard‘s only full-length Conan novel, back when I was in high school.
I had found a copy of the 1977 Berkley edition of Howard’s novel, part of the series edited by Karl Edward Wagner that restored the original text, removing Lyon Sprague De camp‘s editorial changes.
It was reading K.E. Wagner’s introduction that I found out the mystery of chapter 20.

It’s not that complicated, mind you.
Quite simply, in The Hour of the Dragon we get from chapter 19 to chapter 21.
There is no Chapter 20.

Now, three hypotheses have been made about this fact. Continue reading


Providing continuity

Today I’ll mix nostalgia with hype, if you don’t mind.

conan l'avventurieroWhen I was a kid, say 15 years old, I discovered Robert E. Howard and Conan the Barbarian through the Italian editions of the Lancer Books collections edited by Lyon Sprague de Camp.
My first was Conan the Adventurer, and I was hooked.
Also, I decided this was the sort of stuff I wanted to read, and possibly to write.

The little hardback book had a wonderful dust jacket (by Dutch artist Karel Thole), and it came with a gorgeous map of the Hyborian world.
Then there was a fun introduction by Italian critic and translator Riccardo Valla, and then the stories.
And each story was introduced by a snippet of text by L. Sprague de Camp, providing some sort of continuity to the series.

Stuff like…

After escaping from Xapur, Conan builds his Kozaki and pirate raiders into such a formidable threat that King Yezdigerd devotes all his forces to their destruction. After a devastating defeat, the kozaki scatter, and Conan retreats southward to take service in the light cavalry of Kobad Shah, King of Iranistan.

It was fun, it gave me a sense of history. Continue reading