Archives: Heroic Fiction

Brood of the Witch Queen

Are there any Sax Rohmer fans among my regular visitors?

I’m finally reading one of his novels, although it’s not a Fu Manchu title. I’m about halfway through a supernatural menace novel titled Brood of the Witch Queen. Rohmer can turn up the dial on the menace really well, and is really strong on the description — sometimes I stop and re-read paragraphs because they’re so nicely composed. The heroes are a little wooden and pulpy but the rest of the prose definitely has enough strengths that it’s worth a look, if you’re at all curious.

I’ll have to try some Fu-Manchu now, although I might first finally get around to reading Calgaich The Swordsman, the famed Gordon Shireffs historical that’s supposed to very good and quite Howardian.

Flamehair

For years now I’ve been hearing about the adventure fiction of H. Bedford-Jones, a pulp historical writer famed as being one of those guys who wrote an astonishing amount of prose. Some people love him. Until now, though, everything I’ve read by the guy has been… competent, and I figured maybe that’s what you’d get out of a guy who mass produced his fiction — high competence but maybe not a great deal of characterization or sophisticated plotting, maybe a guy who recycles plots, or who doesn’t really revise much.

But after talking with Tom Roberts of Black Dog Books at Windy City, he reminded me again of that H. Bedford Jones book he’d given me a few years back, and I pulled it off the shelf — and man, does it start with a bang. It’s far and away the best thing by the writer I’ve ever read. Will it hold up as I get deeper into the book? I dunno. Are there other good stories by H. Bedford Jones? Maybe so. I wonder who’s done the digging through his immense catalog to discover which by him are the very best?

Any of you out there Bedford-Jones fans? I’d love to hear if there are other fine tales out there by him.

And here’s a link if you want to pick up a copy and read along with me.

Windy City

Yesterday evening I got back from the Windy City Pulp and Paperback convention. It was pretty grand, if you happen to like old magazines, old books, art from both, and the people who love that stuff.

Here’s a pic of some of the treasures I returned with. Click to enlarge. I’ll summarize the events later this week. Note in the lower portion of the picture that there’s the Haffner hardback collecting the amazing Paul Pine detective stories of Howard Browne, Halo for Hire. Harder to see are the paperbacks from DMR publishing. They’re nifty little paperbacks printed on high quality paper. I picked up the first of DMR’s sword-and-sorcery anthologies, Swords of Steel, and their printings of the first collected editions, ever, of Weird Tales authors Clifford Ball and Nictin Dyalhis. Both are definitely worth a look, and a steal at the $10.00 price point. You can find them here.

While I was away, another review of Tales From the Magician’s Skull rolled in, from Morgan Holmes over at Castlalia House, He seemed to like issue 1!

How Captain Kirk Led Me to Historical Fiction

It was Star Trek that got me interested in historical fiction. Not because I’d been watching the crew interact with historical figures on the holodeck—the Next Generation didn’t exist when I was a kid. And it wasn’t because Kirk and Spock once met a simulacrum of Abraham Lincoln. It was because, Star Trek nerd that I was, I’d read that Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry had modeled Captain Kirk after some guy named Horatio Hornblower. I didn’t think I’d like history stories, but I sure liked Star Trek, so I decided to take a chance. Once I rode my bicycle to the library and saw how many books about Hornblower there were, I figured I’d be enjoying a whole lot of sailing age Star Trek fiction for a long time to come.

Undisclosed Location

I’m writing from an undisclosed location, in the midst of a secret mission. Most of the assignment involves writing copiously every day, but I must also infiltrate fine dining establishments every evening and order the most excellent of their menu items. I’m occasionally in the company of a beautiful and wicked enchantress, but otherwise I’m ensconced in a haunted mansion, drafting prose.

As I was aware that there would be several transdimensional migrations during my journey here, I packed some old paperbacks to read. I like having short old novels to read during planar shifts. You can pack several little ones into your carry-ons, and if there are interruptions or you’re just plain tired it’s easier to keep track of short and therefore less convoluted plot lines.

First up was the first Brian Garfield western I’ve read, part of an Ace double, and incidentally the first of his six Jeremy Six novels, starring a laconic western marshall. And I have to say, after that first one I’ll be reading the rest. I’d heard he was a good writer and it seems it’s true. This was Mr. Sixgun. As with a lot of these old westerns and mysteries, don’t be deceived by the art or cover advertising. Also, like a lot of writers active in the ’60s and earlier, Garfield wrote under a bunch of pseudonyms, like the one shown here. He’s best known for the Death Wish novel and its sequels that spawned the movies.

Calgaich

calgaichHave any of you read this book? I’ve been hearing about it for years, but never owned a copy until Morgan Holmes sent me one last week. I’ve since bumped it ALMOST to the top of my TBR stack. It would have gone higher, but I have some library books and some novels by friends on the top row, and I need to get to them first.

Reruns

lambvol1I found myself scrolling around through some of my previous posts on heroic fiction, pulps, and sword-and-sorcery this last week and decided that rather than draft something new I’d just point readers towards some of my favorite oldies.

First, an overview of some great pulp historicals.

Here was my look under the hood at Robert E. Howard’s writing techniques.

Here I wrote about one of my favorite writers, Leigh Brackett.

Harold Lamb is the unsung and often unrecognized grandfather of sword-and-sorcery. Also, he was a great adventure writer. Here’s proof.

Lastly, how can I discuss pulps without mentioning the one-and-only Ki-Gor?

But wait, there’s more! Here I discuss a unique pulp collection on my shelves. Feast your eyes upon these with envy!

 

 

Remembering Corum

CorumI’ve spent a lot of time talking about how I discovered sword-and-sorcery, and how I went to the local library, then the local bookstore, then the local used bookstore, before I found ANYTHING listed in the famed Appendix N at the back of the DM’s Guide. This was the very early 1980s, when I was still in junior high and riding my bicycle all over the city.

I couldn’t latch onto much of anything from that recommended reading list except, in the library, some Zelazny. Every regular visitor knows about my love for a lot of Zelazny work. The used bookstore had Leiber’s Swords Against Death, for which I am eternally grateful. And they ALSO had three beat up paperbacks by Michael Moorcock.

Adventure!

Adventure coversI wanted to share a treasure unique to my work space. To the left is a frame of three Adventure magazine covers. A few of you may know that I purchased much of my Harold Lamb pulp collection from the widow of Dr. John Drury Clark, some time writer, perhaps best known by some as one of the co-writers of a letter to Robert E. Howard that inspired him to write an overview of Conan’s career.

Like Robert E. Howard, Dr. Clark was a big Harold Lamb fan, and he had carefully preserved a large stack of Harold Lamb stories in a hinged wooden box, each carefully separated from different issues of Adventure magazine. He’d also hand bound a few other tales into small hardback books, and my guess is that he’d planned to bind the rest into additional home built hardcovers but never got around to it. That box was a treasure trove that included perhaps 70 – 80% of all the uncollected Lamb Adventure stories, and without him having preserved those texts, I wouldn’t have been able to scan them and prep them for the Bison Book collections. (Yes, more work was required by myself and other scholars and fans to track down other tales, but THIS was the mother load.)

Used Westerns

Used WesternsUsed to, I had no idea what authors to look for in the western sections at a used book store. These days, I have a much better idea, but the sections are SUBSTANTIALLY smaller than what they used to be. There are fewer people reading westerns, and those used books that are left tend to be pretty beat up.

But I found some treasure. First, two more Marvin Albert novels, which you can see in the lower left of this picture. Second, a slew of Fawcett Gold Medal books by authors I don’t know. Any older Gold Medals, though were probably edited well and will at least be good. Maybe they’ll be great. If you enlarge the picture, you’ll see that some &*&%^! wrote X-P over the front and sides of a number of the books. Nice going, dipwad. Way to ruin a book forever.