Robert Jordan redux


For those who enjoyed my thoughts on Robert Jordan’s death last week, an expanded edition of same is now the featured article at Black Gate magazine. I added some commentary about the Jordan/Gemmell deaths and their legacies, as well as more specifics on the crash-and-burn of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

Conan stalks into the hallowed halls of National Review


Robert E. Howard aficionado John J. Miller, the National Political Reporter for National Review, has conducted an interview with Rusty Burke at National Review Online, focusing on the release of the two Best of REH volumes debuting this summer and fall. Lots of good red meat to savor here.

And for those who missed it, check out John’s article on Howard in The Wall Street Journal from late last year.

The Last of the Trunk preview


Paul Herman at The Robert E. Howard Foundation recently sent me the following information concerning the much anticipated Foundation release The Last of the Trunk, which collects most of the remaining unpublished detritus of Howard’s career.

PAUL: The Last of the Trunk is now available for pre-order. Well, as soon as the website is updated, that is, today or tomorrow. Book should ship in November.

Robert E. Howard generated an enormous volume of written works, around 3.5 million words. In his tiny room in his house in Cross Plains, REH kept a trunk to hold all his output that was still awaiting a sale, as well as works that were rejected, unfinished, something he especially wanted to save, or simply copies of early drafts that he would reuse the back of in typing up another story. At the time of his death, that trunk held literally tens of thousands of pages of material, all hand-typed by REH.

In the early 1960s, Glenn Lord obtained the contents of REH’s trunk. He had the duty, pleasure, and challenge of sorting it all out, and to begin sheparding those works into print. Hundreds of stories and poems poured forth, to see print in assorted books, magazines, and fan publications.

Ever since the publication of Glenn Lord’s The Last Celt in 1976, collectors of the works of REH have been aware of, but unable to read, more than a hundred unpublished stories and fragments. A few were published in the intervening years, but not many.

Finally, in this volume, The Last of the Trunk is being revealed. Virtually all the remaining unpublished prose will be included. While this certainly is not his most memorable or impressive work (those works are already in print), it does fill in lots of blank spaces for the scholars and collectors, and perhaps yield a little more understanding of one of the greatest pulp writers.

This will be the largest REHF publication to date, at 672 pages. Hardback with dust jacket by Tom Foster. Edited and with an introduction by Patrice Louinet. Design by Dennis McHaney. Many of the works are incomplete or unfinished. Many of the complete stories are either boxing or high school papers.

A detailed list of the contents:

Blue River Blues; The Battling Sailor; The Drawing Card; The Jinx; The Wildcat and the Star; Fistic Psychology; Untitled (“Huh?” I was so dumbfounded . . .); Fighting Nerves; The Atavist; A Man of Peace; The Weeping Willow; The Right Hook; A Tough Nut to Crack; The Trail of the Snake; The Folly of Conceit; The Fighting Fury; Night Encounter; The Ferocious Ape; The Ghost Behind the Gloves; Misto Dempsey; The Brand of Satan; Incongruity; The Slayer; The Man Who Went Back; Untitled Synopsis (Hunwulf, an American . . .); Untitled (Thure Khan gazed out . . .); Untitled (As he approached . . .); A Room in London (outline); The Shadow in the Well (draft); Fate is the Killer; The Grove of Lovers; The Drifter; The Lion Gate; Untitled (Franey was a fool.); The Ivory Camel; Wolves – and a Sword; Untitled (I’m a man of few words . . .); Untitled Synopsis (First Draft: James Norris . . .); The Dominant Male; The Paradox; Untitled (Mike Costigan, writer and self avowed futilist . . .); The Splendid Brute; Circus Charade; The Influence of the Movies; Untitled (William Aloysius McGraw’s father . . .); A Man and a Brother; Man; Pigskin Scholar; The Recalcitrant; Untitled (“Arrange, Madame, arrange!”); Untitled (“Yessah!” said Mrs. . . .); The Question of the East; In His Own Image; The Punch; The Female of the Species; The Last Man; The Treasure of Henry Morgan; Untitled (The lazy quiet of the mid-summer day . . .); Through the Ages; The White Jade Ring; The Roving Boys on a Sandburg; Westward, Ho!; The Wild Man; What the Deuce?; The Land of Forgotten Ages; The Funniest Bout; The Red Stone; A Unique Hat; Untitled (“A man,” said my friend Larry Aloysius O’Leary . . .); Untitled (. . . that is, the artistry is but a symbol . . .); Untitled (I met him first in the Paradise saloon . . .); Untitled (Maybe it don’t seem like anything interesting . . .); Untitled (So there I was.); Untitled (Trail led through dense jungle . . .); Untitled (Two men were standing in the bazaar at Delhi . . .); Untitled (When Yar Ali Khan crept . . .); Untitled (Who I am it matters little . . .); A Twentieth Century Rip Van Winkle; The Ghosts of Jacksonville; A Boy, a Beehive, and a Chinaman; Mr. Dowser Buys a Car; A Faithful Servant; A South Sea Storm; The Ghost of Bald Rock Ranch; A Fishing Trip; Friends; Ten Minutes on a Street Corner; The Wings of the Bat

The price will be $53 for REHF members, $59 for non-members. Shipping costs will be posted at the website.

Any questions, let me know!

Gibbets and Crows!

Just as an irritant to those who think this site is afflicted with too much Tolkien content already, it’s worth mentioning that, all due respect for “Black Vulmea’s Vengeance” notwithstanding, the most unforgettable modern appearance of the word “gibbet” is in Chapter Ten of The Two Towers, “The Voice of Saruman.” On the front steps of the tower of Orthanc Gandalf, accompanied by Théoden, Éomer, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, summons the former head of the White Council to account for himself. From his high window Saruman strives to cozen Théoden with a mellifluous offer of “peace and friendship,” but the king of Rohan has learned a hard lesson extremely well:

‘. . .You are a liar, Saruman, and a corrupter of men’s hearts. You hold out your hand to me, and I perceive only a finger of the claw of Mordor. Cruel and cold! Even if your war on me was just — as it was not, for were you ten times as wise you would have no right to rule me and mine for your own profit, as you desired — even so, what will you say of your torches in Westfold and the children that lie dead there? And they hewed Hàma’s body before the gates of the Hornburg, after he was dead. When you hang from a gibbet at your window for the sport of your own crows, I will have peace with you and Orthanc. So much for the house of Eorl. A lesser son of great sires am I, but I do not need to lick your fingers. Turn elsewhither. But I fear your voice has lost its charm.’

The Riders gazed up at Théoden like men startled out of a dream. Harsh as an old raven’s their master’s voice sounded in their ears after the music of Saruman. But Saruman for a while was beside himself with wrath. He leaned over the rail as if he would smite the King with his staff. To some suddenly it seemed that they saw a snake coiling itself to strike.

‘Gibbets and crows!’ he hissed, and they shuddered at the hideous change. ‘Dotard! What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among the dogs. Too long have they escaped the gibbet themselves. But the noose comes, slow in the drawing, tight and hard in the end. Hang if you will!’

Memorable invective is a joy forever, whether it be that exchange or Moira’s scornful rejection of Thorfel’s offer to make her his lawfully wedded wife in “The Dark Man.” Churls will complain, as they always do, that words like “elsewhither,” “dotard,” or even “gibbet” itself discriminate against the 21st century reader, render Tolkien’s meaning inaccessible to the great unwashed or the borderline unlettered. Too bad. Howard and Tolkien were master dramatists when they wanted to be (which is why any REH adaptation that doesn’t revel in his dialogue is foredoomed, which is why no Germanic bodybuilder will ever pass muster as Conan), and their kings and malign beings regularly scale rhetorical Himalayas.

Like [redacted], I’ve devoured J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, but one place where she falls down hard without any cushioning is Voldemort’s dialogue. His each and every utterance is from a broken-spined, jaundiced-with-yellow-highlightings copy of The Supervillain’s Phrasebook. In a steelcage deathmatch or Thunderdome showdown to determine Most Hackneyed, I might bet on Voldmember even against the de Camp/Carter Thoth-Amon, who couldn’t verbally intimidate Scooby-Doo. When the worst of the worst achieve true immortality despite being killed deader-than-dead, (not just Dark Lords, a “human” character like Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop works as an example) it’s often because a language-kindled nimbus of hellfire blackens the edges of every page on which they appear.

REH Word of the Week: gibbet



1. a gallows with a projecting arm at the top, from which the bodies of criminals were formerly hung in chains and left suspended after execution.

verb (used with object)
2. to hang on a gibbet.
3. to put to death by hanging on a gibbet.
4. to hold up to public scorn.

[Origin: 1175-1225; ME gibet (earlier, staff or cudgel), dim. of gibe, staff, club]


“In any event you hang, either from my yard-arm or from a gibbet on the Port Royal wharves.”

[from “Black Vulmea’s Vengeance”]

Snakes On A Comparatively Mundane Plane


Having enjoyed [redacted]’s recent “Thoth-Amon, Lord Voldemort. Voldemort, Thoth-Amon” post, I’d like to follow up on Mark’s references to ophidians as “an eternal symbol of menace, ” and “a symbol of ultimate evil.” They aren’t invariably the ultimate evil in Howard’s work, and therein lies a tale, or two tales, “The Scarlet Citadel” and “The Valley of the Worm.” The former story debuted in the January 1933 Weird Tales, the latter in the February 1934 issue; did readers who were paying close attention wonder about a connection between the Satha of “Citadel” and that of “Valley”?

In the Conan story, once the king of Aquilonia is shackled in Tsotha-lanti’s “very Halls of Horror named in shuddersome legendry,” the next order of business is to introduce Satha, which Howard does by way of “a soft rustling sound, blood-freezing in its implications.” Conan, by this point in his life a formidably experienced practical herpetologist, recognizes “the unmistakable sound of pliant scales slithering softly over stone.” What torchlight is available reveals the owner of those scales to be “the ultimate horror of reptilian development,” an eighty-footer the “titan coils” and footlong, scimitar-like fangs of which beggar “all Conan’s previous ideas of snakes.” Satha’s hide “white as hoar-frost” (Frazetta was unfaithful to the text of “Citadel” in his cover painting for Conan the Usurper) leads the Cimmerian to conclude “Surely this reptile was one born and grown in darkness,” but that doesn’t keep its eyes from being “full of evil and sure sight.” Just how sure, we learn as the story progresses.

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