Conan and the Emerald Lotus

THIS is one of my favorite Conan books. You’ll note that it is not by Robert E. Howard. Howard himself actually wrote only one full-length Conan novel, as Conan was aimed at Weird Tales, a short story market. (If you’re THAT curious, you can go read up on REH at various sites.) I will add that it is my favorite pastiche Conan, ever, much as I greatly enjoy some of the John Maddox Roberts Conan novels. And it’s better than Karl Edward Wagner’s Conan novel The Road of Kings (often the default “best pastiche” answerand ANY Conan novel by Robert Jordan.

Conan and the Emerald Lotus was written by John Chris Hocking about twenty years ago. A big fan of Robert E. Howard, noir, and Weird Tales, Hocking wrote Emerald Lotus and sent it in, unagented… and because it was so danged good the publisher snapped it up and printed it. (In case you’re wondering, that NEVER happens.) The second Conan novel by Hocking, as it turns out, is even better, and L. Sprague de Camp relayed to Hocking that de Camp and his wife were so eager to see how it unfolded that they sat together on the floor of their study turning the pages. Conan and the Living Plague, unfortunately, never saw the light of day even though it was intended to re-launch the Conan line, because the purchasers of the line seemed uninterested in anything that had come before.

Conan and the Emerald Lotus, however, is still available. It is such a fantastic adventure romp that by the first third of the book I was saying out loud to myself: “wow, this guy really knows what he’s doing!” I was also saying “I have got to talk to this guy.” Because Hocking was a friend of a friend, we were soon exchanging e-mails and he’s now one of my closest personal pals. But even if he had ended up being an antisocial doofus, I’d still be raving about what a great sword-and-sorcery adventure this is. If you want, search for my name and Emerald Lotus and you’re bound to turn up one or two quotes.

Because this is sword-and-sorcery, and because, moreover, it’s pastiche, you won’t find too much additional discussion of its excellence… except suddenly, in the last few weeks. Conan and the Emerald Lotus has been read by two fine writers, Evan Lewis and James Reasoner, both of whom feature the book and discuss its plot and strengths in detail. If you haven’t ever believed me, go read what THEY have to say.

From time-to-time people ask why Hocking was writing tie-in fiction. Well, he loved Conan, and he wanted to see the character handled properly if he was going to be written. And then, it must be remembered, in the ’80s it was hard to get sword-and-sorcery on the shelves UNLESS you were writing Conan or your name was David Gemmell.

And WHY oh WHY haven’t the powers-that-be ever put Hocking’s other Conan novel out? In recent years they’ve published a set of poorly received novels set in Conan’s world (apparently each of the authors was only given 3-6 months to write THREE books), and they oversaw Harry Turtledove’s poorly received Conan novel, but did they ever think to publish a novel ALREADY written by one of the two Conan pastiche writers alive who is still getting good ratings and reviews?

If so, they didn’t think long, because it’s never happened. I live in hope of many things, but one of them is that someone in power there will finally wise up and publish Conan and the Living Plague. If they’ve really got their act together maybe they’ll even hire Hocking to write the others he had planned…

Anyway, if you like sword-and-sorcery and good adventure fantasy, just go read the book.

I’m going to stop grumping and get back to writing my Hearthstones novel.

 

8 Comments on “Conan and the Emerald Lotus

  1. Great review; I also read and enjoyed this one quite a bit!

    I’d recommend those out there hunt down Hocking’s tales of the archivist from swordandsorcery.org.

    And Howard, I’m going to ask you to put a little pressure on Mr. Hocking to get that Archivist ebook compilation out! They’re great little S&S adventure stories, and deserve an audience!

    Mick.

    • Hey Mick! He has had a few archivist stories pubbed at Black Gate as well, and has a few more in inventory. It’s great stuff. He was working on a collection and had started outlining a related novel, but has been super busy with his job for the last year (he has to travel a lot).

  2. Agreed, this is an excellent novel and any fan of S&S should most definitely give it a read. In fact, it was in trying to track down any additional Conan works by Mr. Hocking, back in the day, that I Googled upon a comment that he had posted on SFReader forums, which brought me to that site, and to you and your work as well. Good times…

    I do so envy you that you’ve had the opportunity to read The Living Plague, and can only hope that some day it will be published so that the rest of us have the chance to read it.

    • I feel very fortunate to have read Living Plague. I learned in discussion with Hocking that he might still have the first third of the third Conan novel on an old Apple in his basement and I was trying all of my persuasive techniques to get him to fire it up so I could read what he had.

      Hocking doesn’t write like I do. Me, I have to get the draft down and then wrestle and wrestle and wrestle and show it to other readers for feedback. Hocking gets it right pretty much the first time. When I edited him at Flashing Swords or Black Gate, I was usually his first line reader, and would, perhaps, suggest changing one or two words. Anyway, I’m expecting to find gold if that partially written story can still be discovered on his old Apple.

  3. Pingback: Conan and The Fan Fic Writers of Doom : Howard Andrew Jones

  4. It pains my contrarian nature to join the praise fest, but the truth is the truth, Emerald Lotus is a great book. Hey author, how about changing the place name’s/hero’s name in your unpublished book? I’d buy it!

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