Jay Zetterberg of CPI/Paradox was kind enough to provide the REH devotees of the Official Robert E. Howard Forum with a sneak peek at the cover (see above) for the upcoming El Borak and Other Desert Adventures volume from Del Rey. Painted by the marriage-made-in-Valhalla artistic team of Jim and Ruth Keegan, the cover depicts Howard’s Francis X. Gordon engaged in a dispute with a denizen of the desert wastes. The Keegans had this to say:
“We see El Borak as an old-school, swashbuckling hero. While we try to keep the historical influences in mind — Richard Francis Burton, “Chinese” Gordon, and T. E. Lawrence, etc., we also try to imagine a never-to-be El Borak movie directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr., with a soundtrack by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Cue the sun!”
The Keegans were amongst the first people I met at Howard Days 2006. Two finer and more devoted fans of Robert E. Howard would be hard to find. Besides their regular installments of The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob for Dark Horse Comics, the Keegans have also created covers for the two volumes of The Best of Robert E. Howard from Del Rey, as well as crafting the dustjackets for the three volumes of The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard for the Robert E. Howard Foundation.
Quite a while back, Cimmerian alumnus, [redacted], broke the news about this impending release from Del Rey. At the time, it was thought that artist extraordinaire (and REH fan), Michael Wm. Kaluta, would reprise and expand upon the outstanding artwork that he did for the El Borak and O’Donnell volumes published by FAX in the 1970s. Sadly, for still-nebulous reasons, Mr. Kaluta’s work will not appear in the Del Rey edition. Instead, award-winning artist, Tim Bradstreet, will provide the interior black-and-white illustrations for El Borak and Other Desert Adventures, with the Keegans supplying the painted color plates.
I first encountered Mr. Bradstreet’s art back in the early ’90s. Tim was working for White Wolf (ironic name, considering his present project), illustrating their Vampire: The Masquerade line of RPGs. I was initially attracted to the setting by the fact that hot Goth chicks actually played the game, but I was able to tear my eyes from the alabaster cleavage long enough to appreciate that Bradstreet was a talented artist. He went on to do work at Marvel on titles like The Punisher. If his renditions of El Borak and Kirby O’Donnell (see above) are any valid indicators, I think that Howard fans are in for a treat. Rusty Burke and Paul Herman assure me that Tim is excited about the project and a good guy besides.
Here’s the blurb from CPI/Paradox (once again, courtesy of Jay Zetterberg) regarding “Desert Adventures” and the yarns therein:
– The Daughter of Erlik Khan
– Hawk of the Hills
– Swords of the Hills (aka “The Lost Valley of Iskander”)
– Blood of the Gods
– Sons of the Hawk (aka “The Country of the Knife”)
– Son of the White Wolf
– Three-Bladed Doom (short)
– Three-Bladed Doom (long)
– The Curse of the Crimson God
– Sword of Shahrazar (aka “The Treasure of Shaibar Kahn”)
– The Treasures of Tartary
Francis X. Gordon
Gordon is called “El Borak” — the Swift — by the untamed tribesmen of Central Asia and the Middle East. The nickname describes his speed with sword and revolver, the latter skill perfected in an earlier career as a Texas gunman. A freelance adventurer who occasionally hires on with the British Secret Service to foil Russia’s imperialistic designs north of the Khyber Pass, Gordon sometimes rides into trouble alone, sometimes with a small band of dedicated friends. In the fearsome Land of Ghouls, he infiltrates and shatters a resurgent band of outlaws who have attempted to revive the brotherhood of the Assassins. In the corpse-choked Pass of Swords, he throws off his disguise as “Shirkuh,” a killer for hire, to foil the sinister Black Tigers. When WW1 explodes, he follows the call of duty southward to fight alongside Lawrence of Arabia.
Like Gordon, Kirby O’Donnell is a restless American who has found his true home on the far borders of High Tartary. Armed with the fighting-knife called the kindhjal and cloaked in the assumed identity of “Ali El Ghazi,” a Kurdish soldier of fortune, O’Donnell follows a legend of vast treasure to the forgotten city of Shahrazar. He finds the fortune, then consigns it to destruction so as to prevent it from igniting a conflagration across Central Asia. But another fabulous hoard awaits, the ruby-encrusted idol known as the Blood-Stained God; it is O’Donnell’s for the taking, in the rugged hills beyond the Crag of Eagles — if he can survive multiple double-crosses to claim it!
I’ve also been told by Rusty Burke (editor for this book and all others in the Del Rey series) that the original, non-supernatural version of “The Fire of Asshurbanipal” will appear in this volume.
The word on the street is that El Borak and Other Desert Adventures will ship on February 9, 2010, clocking in at four hundred pages. There is also the possibility (according to Mr. Burke) that a companion volume collecting Howard’s “juvenilia” adventures featuring El Borak, Lal Singh and Gordon’s cousin, the Sonora Kid, will be simultaneously published by an undetermined small press outfit.
*Art by Jim and Ruth Keegan, as well as Tim Bradstreet.