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Sunday, January 23, 2011
My Five Favorite Howard Yarns
"Worms of the Earth": Bran Mak Morn, King of the Picts is (almost literally) willing to make a deal with the devil to get revenge on the hated Roman conquers. This is a tour de force by Howard with some great elements--the clash of cultures Howard loved in his historical fiction, a brooding hero, and weird horror.
"Xuthal of the Dusk": Also called "The Slithering Shadow." This may not rank among the best of the Conan stories for most folks, but I love the setting of a lost city full of drug-addled inhabitants awaiting an inevitable--but unpredictable--death from a weird menace. The original title is suitably enigmatic, too.
"Blades of the Brotherhood": Apparently, Howard’s original title was “The Blue Flame of Vengeance,” but I first encountered it under this title in the Marvel 1986 comics adaptation, with great art by Bret Blevins. Solomon Kane takes on a gang of pirates he’s been dogging, as he’s wont to do. Kane gets some great, badass lines, and deeds to match.
"The Shadow of the Vulture": My favorite of Howard’s historical actioners, its got an epic plot that would make a great film. It's got German Ritter Gottfried von Kalmbach with Howard’s real Red Sonya (no “j” or chainmail bikini) against the Turkish Empire, culminating in the siege of Vienna, 1529.
Close to these are “Pigeons from Hell,” “Red Nails,” and “People of the Back Circle.” I fact, ask me in a week and one of those will have bumped one the ones above out of a top spot. In fact, in most of Howard’s fantasy stories I find some elements I like even when the whole thing may not work for me.
Happy belated birthday, Bob!