Archives: Harold Lamb


It was a late night last night, getting my revision ready for final turnover. Or, at least, hopefully final turnover. The morning that followed was delightful and promising but should remain mysterious for now.

So since I have nothing new to say, here’s one of Lamb’s very best stories, Durandal, as published by Doubleday back in 1931. That’s my personal copy. I very seldom see copies with dust jackets.

Durandal was originally published as three separate novellas, two of which were reprinted by Donald M. Grant Co. in the 1980s. They were planning to finally reprint the third, and I actually supplied them with its text, but nothing ever happened.

I intend to try, before the end of the month, a final time to get the complete collection printed by Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press. It’s criminal that this historical swashbuckler remains out of print. The problem is that Bison seems to have moved away from it’s historical prints. I’m going to give it my best shot, though. Keep your fingers crossed. And have a great weekend!

Manic Monday

Whew. Well, as of about 20 minutes ago, the revised version of For the Killing of Kings is with my editor, or at least his in-box. I would liked to have read it straight through a couple of more times, but as I strive to be a man of his word I delivered the manuscript on the first day of the first full week of November. This draft would not have been possible without the editorial aid of a wicked and beautiful enchantress whom I have surely mentioned before.

In celebration, I’m wearing one of my favorite t-shirts, which, alas, is beginning to show its wear.

Today I’m going to spend some time putting the house back together after about a week of neglect, and that will include some last minute pre-winter garden work. Maybe this evening we’ll start watching the second season of Stranger Things.

I need to get back to work on issue 2 of Tales From the Magician’s Skull. And, partly because I’m a madman, but mostly because it took longer than I expected to address all the changes to book 1, by the first week of December I need to turn over the first draft of book 2. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.

Editing Harold Lamb

bill ryan howard

Bill Ward, Ryan Harvey, & Howard Andrew Jones, World Fantasy 2010.

In February of 2011 Bill Ward interviewed me for Black Gate magazine. Back then three things I’d been involved in were coming to life within a few months of each other — my first two novels (The Desert of Souls and Plague of Shadows) and the second wave of the Harold Lamb books I assembled for Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press.

You can find the other portions of the interview at Black Gate, but given that I’m often asked how I got involved in editing the Harold Lamb books, I thought it high time to move this portion of the interview to my own site.

I’d like to thank Bill for asking such great questions. I think it was only the year before that we’d finally met in person, at Dragoncon. In the picture here we’re standing with old friend Ryan Harvey, another brilliant essayist and writer. I have a slightly glazed look because I’ve been up late at the con for several days, and we all have red eyes because we’re vampires. Ryan’s holding an anthology that one of Bill’s stories had just been printed in, Desolate Places.

Anyway, all questions are from Bill. Take it away, old friend:

Heroes of the Steppes: The Historicals of Harold Lamb

lambvol1This article I wrote some years back has been floating around on the inter web in a couple of places, and I thought it past time for me to bring it back to my own site. So — here you go!

Before Stormbringer keened in Elric’s hand, before the Gray Mouser prowled Lankhmar’s foggy streets—before even Conan trod jeweled thrones under his sandaled feet, Khlit the Cossack rode the steppe. He isn’t the earliest serial adventure character, but his adventures are among the earliest that can still be read for sheer pleasure.

He was created in 1917 by Harold Lamb, in a time when “costume pieces” provided the same kinds of thrills that fantasy and science fiction adventure stories deliver today, and he appeared in the pulp magazines.

The best remembered of these magazines today are probably those devoted to the adventures of single characters—like Doc Savage or The Shadow—or the early magazines of the fantastic wherein those we now recognize as giants were published—Weird Tales, and, later, UnknownPlanet Stories, and other science fiction magazines.

Shortly after World War I, though, there was very little to be found in the realm of the fantastic. For all their fame, the later science fiction magazines and Weird Tales were hardly representative of the content found in most pulps. The most popular of magazines tended to be devoted to westerns and detective tales. Aside from the occasional Verne reprint and a few innovators—like the fellow who’d written of a civil war soldier transported to Mars—adventure was found in more recognizable places.

And then came Lamb. 

The Best of Harold Lamb

If you’re been reading and loving the Harold Lamb collections put out by Bison Books (edited by yours truly) and wanted to convert a new reader to the glories of Lamb’s prose, what stories would you want to hand over?

I’m thinking about putting a “best of” volume together and while I have some definite opinions on what stories are best, I wanted to throw this discussion wide and see what other people thought. For instance, I know my friend Deuce Richardson thinks the third volume of Cossack stories is when the series shines most brightly. What does everyone else think?

Name your favorite stories here, and if you like Harold Lamb, spread the word around to sites where other Lamb fans might be and tell them to report back here with their opinions on favorite stories. And yes, if I do this, I’m wanting to do a complete Durandal trilogy at the same time, although there are still some copyright issues to iron out.



Guttering Candles

Some years ago I ended up with a book written by Harold Lamb containing a personal dedication to his mother. If you’re new to this site, or to me, you may not know that I spent some ten years or so tracking down Harold Lamb’s work and helping to bring it back to print. I happen to think he’s one of the greatest adventure writers these United States have ever seen, although he happens to remain pretty obscure.

Anyway, so there I was, looking at this dedication, which read something along the lines of “to my mother, who was so supportive of my first book, I present my tenth.” By the time that book came into my hands, Lamb, his mother, his wife, and his children were all dead, leaving none to come after. There were only the books, and me, holding this one, wondering how it had found its way here and thinking about the day he must have penned that note and presented it to her.

Lamb is gone, and so is almost all that mattered to him, and when I remember that moment I feel like I am sitting alone in a very large, dark room, near a single, guttering candle. But maybe that’s how all of us humans should feel a little more often, so we remember how precious is the light.

Treasures from the Vault of Time

When people talk about unique books, they usually mean a printing of a book that’s unlike any other. They almost never mean that there is only ONE of them. Well, me being the bibliophile that I am, I have a pretty cool selection of one-of-a-kind books. A few other people may have books like them, but no one else has these particular adventures from the pulp magazine days preserved in quite this way.

Click to embiggen.

To the right you’ll see a shelf above the window in my office, and beside the Harold Lamb books are ten hardback volumes. There are two other oversize volumes on nearby shelves, and two others loaned out to the mighty John Chris Hocking, bringing the total to fourteen. Every single one of them is one-of-a-kind.

If you’re a frequent visitor to my little corner of the web, you know that I spent years tracking down Harold Lamb’s fiction and getting it into print, and that I launched a search for other quality fiction from the same places — old pulp magazines that carried historical adventures. You might also have seen me write that no other pulp historical writer was as consistently excellent as Lamb. I never meant to suggest that there were no other good pulp adventure writers, or no other great historical stories! There were plenty of both. But finding those tales, ah, now that is a trick.

Harold Lamb’s Adventure Fiction

In discussion of my influences I always mention the writer Harold Lamb, but it’s a sad truth that he’s still little known today. That wasn’t always true. A few generations ago he was one of the most popular writers in one of the best (and most respected) of all pulp magazines, Adventure. Later in life his biographies and histories were award winning and well-regarded, and he was considered such an expert on the Middle-East that the state department sometimes consulted with him.

Once I discovered just how consistently excellent Lamb’s adventure fiction was it was my dream that it would be brought properly  into print, and I am extremely proud to have been intimately involved in making that happen through the Bison Books imprint of the University of Nebraska Press.

There are several things that drew me to Lamb’s fiction. When I was young it was the headlong pace and the exotic settings, so exotic, as L.  Sprague de Camp once wrote, Lamb might as well have been writing of Burroughs’ Mars. But Lamb wasn’t inventing his setting, he was enmeshed in a great deal of research at a time when detailed research meant mastering other languages and journeying to distant lands and libraries.