Flu got a tight hold on me this year and kicked me solidly under my bum. I am on steroids and antibiotics right now because of secondary infection and so I’m constantly irritable. Suffice to say, I have been in a miserable state, both physically and mentally, for the last two weeks. At least until this morning. I have not been able to get in the gym for the same period and that has driven my frustration more than anything else. Just some context. I injured my neck about two months ago which developed into a herniated neck disk. So I had some hick-ups which slowed my progress in the gym. And now complications with influenza.
But I did say miserable until this morning because I am miserable no more. A package arrived this morning from Keith West over at Adventures Fantastic, which is a blog you should follow if you like pulp and adventure stories or just appreciate a good story and have an interest in the authors of yesteryear. Keith goes to Howard Days every year and I have made it known for a while now that attending this celebration of REH’s life and works is one of my dreams. Sitting in New Zealand at the edge of the world makes it slightly problematic to attend. However, Keith, being the generous scholar and friend that he is, made sure I still get to experience a piece of Howard Days. And so today I want to share with you the blessings I received this morning, the package filled with books that lifted my mood so much.
The first is Post Oaks and Sand Roughs & Other Autobiographical Writings published by the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press and edited by Rob Roehm. I blogged about it here and you’ll note from that post that my intention was to purchase a copy, especially because of the limited print run and because of what it collects within. And now I have a copy of my own thanks to Keith.
Only 200 copies were printed and my copy is number 44.
The second book is the memoir One Who Walked Alone: Robert E. Howard, The Final Years by Novalyne Price Ellis who had a short but close relationship with Howard. It was first published in 1986 with only 800 copies printed. It was later reprinted in 1988 and 1998, each print run consisting of a few hundred copies only. The book was adapted into the film The Whole Wide World in 1996. The dust jacket was changed on the third print run to include a picture of Renée Zellweger from her role in the movie.
Although I could easily enough have watched the movie I did not want to. I wanted to read the memoir first as my imagination would stay true to what I know about Howard and to the words used in the book. A movie limits your options and stifles the creative part of your emotional interpretation. The book allows you to form a picture in your mind uniquely to the ambience you have of the words the author chose to use and of the subject matter. The movie shows you the picture and you are stuck with what you see and takes away any reason to be creative. And so I could always watch the movie but I first had to read the memoir. Unfortunately, living in New Zealand, chances of me finding a copy of this memoir were slim.
The third book is Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures published by Del Rey. It’s illustrated by award-winning artist John Watkiss with an introduction by acclaimed historical author Scott Oden.
From the back copy:
Adventures, set in medieval-era Europe and the Near East, are among the most gripping Howard ever wrote, full of pageantry, romance, and battle scenes worthy of Tolstoy himself. Most of all, they feature some of Howard’s most unusual and memorable characters, including Cormac FitzGeoffrey, a half-Irish, half-Norman man of war who follows Richard the Lion-hearted to twelfth-century Palestine—or, as it was known to the Crusaders, Outremer; Diego de Guzman, a Spaniard who visits Cairo in the guise of a Muslim on a mission of revenge; and the legendary sword woman Dark Agnès, who, faced with an arranged marriage to a brutal husband in sixteenth-century France, cuts the ceremony short with a dagger thrust and flees to forge a new identity on the battlefield.
The book collects several stories, poems, fragments, and essays. The stories themselves are more historical adventure than the sword & sorcery Conan type that would make Howard so famous later on. Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales, published most of them in Oriental Stories but the magazine only lasted four years and some of the stories collected here in this book remained unpublished in Howard’s lifetime.
Suffice to say, this beautiful book has been on my to-buy list for a while.
Of course, these are not the only books I received this morning.
Echoes of Valor is an American anthology of fantasy stories, edited by Karl Edward Wagner. It was first published in paperback by Tor Books in 1987.
The first book collects three classic fantasy novellas by Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, and Henry Kuttner. Howard’s Conan story “The Black Stranger” was published in its original form for the first time in this edition. Previously published versions carried L. Sprague de Camp’s mark.
The second book collects nine classic fantasy short stories by various authors and two original versions of Howard’s Conan story “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter”, one for the first time since its original publication, and the other for the first time in print in 1989.
The third anthology collects eight classic fantasy short stories, also edited by Wagner and was first published in paperback by Tor Books in 1991.
And then there was Oron by David C. Smith. More specifically, Oron and the Valley of Ogrum published by Zebra Books in 1982. I am not familiar with the character or the author (although I suspect I might have read one or two of his books in the late 80s). If you read the back copy you’ll see it falls well wthin in my interests and so I am excited to get into this book.
Oron is a barbaric warrior first introduced in the novel of the same name in 1978. It was followed by Mosutha’s Magic (1982), The Valley of Ogrum (1982), and The Ghost Army (1983) as well as the novel The Sorcerer’s Shadow (1978). Smith also wrote a further 18 short stories and novelettes all set on the imaginary island-continent Attluma. Smith, like Howard, developed a detailed history of his created world.
As I mentioned, I have not read the Oron books so I’m looking forward to getting into this one.
But wait. That is not all. There is more. One more.
The last book is Jirel of Joiry by C.L. Moore, published by Ace Fantasy Books in 1983. It was first published in 1934 under the title Black God’s Shadow. I am a relative new fan of Moore thanks to Keith and his blog and my collection of her fiction is slowly growing.
Jirel of Joiry first appeared in a series of sword and sorcery stories published in Weird Tales. Jirel is described as proud, tough, arrogant and beautiful, and ruler of her own domain somewhere in medieval France. Not unlike Conan’s adventures, Jirel’s own adventures tend to involve supernatural elements.
Ryan Harvey wrote a more in-depth piece over at Black Gate discussing Jirel of Joiry and you can read it here. Similarly, Keith reviewed Black God’s Kiss here and some more insights on Moore here with various influences on her works here.
As you can see, I have much to be thankful for and I have much to read. Then again, reading has never been a burden. Only a blessing.
Thank you, my friend.