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.


11 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

    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!


    • 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!

  5. I just can’t understand why people love this book. It’s below average even by pastiche standards.
    The plot totally lacks imagination: it’s yet again an evil wizard bent on world domination. Yawn.
    Conan is a shadow of himself: he does not even appear in 40%-50% of the chapters! By page 36 he has already lost 2 fights, including one against a woman (seriously???). Later on he could not have bested a demon without a sorceress, the same soreress who took care of bandits in an earlier fight, etc…

    • I see it very differently. To start with, Conan acts like Conan, which puts it head and shoulders above almost all other pastiche. The author is clearly familiar with the world, setting, and feel of Robert E. Howard’s world and characters, and that is conveyed through the prose. The prose is clear, clean, and evocative, which also raises it several notches. The plot makes sense and has proper rising and falling action, with a great deal of forward momentum, which may sound like simple good writing but is, again, absent from a great deal of pastiche.

      Conan doesn’t appear in every scene in the original stories and is sometimes absent as we learn about other characters. And sometimes he’s defeated before he triumphs. I didn’t see that aspect of this novel as any kind of detraction. As to the plot, if you reduce any plot to its barest essentials, it can sound very similar to another.

      In my opinion this one has well earned its reputation.

      • Then we agree to disagree Howard 🙂

        This book does not read like anything REH could have written (and I’m very familiar with his work).

        I absolutely did not recognise Conan. REH’ characters steal the scene when they appear in the story and from then on takes centre stage, even when they are not here (in Beyond the Black River, for example Balthus’ efforts to save the settlers – even though they’re successful – look pale compared to Conan’s achievements). In the Emerald Lotus Conan’s seems adrift and more a supporting character: I also don’t recall any scene in this book where he actually uses his cunning. Conan uses his brain a lot more in many other pastiches.

        As for the plot, again I disagree: many stories written by REH have for central plot a search for a treasure, a war between states or some palace coup where Conan happens to meet the frightened princess in a dark alley. With most pastiches – like this one – it’s a sorcerer who wants to dominate the world/a country. In Howard’s stories, you don’t even always have a sorcerer. Sometimes there is a ancient curse haunting some ruins or a cursed object, but the wizard may have died centuries ago (see the Jewels of Gwalhur or the Queen of the Black Coast).

        I can’t really comment the style, not being a native English speaker. I found it at times confusing though but it may well be because I was bored and did not focus enough.

        I have all the pastiches – even the Italian Solomon Kane pastiches (luckily translated in French). It took me 20 years to collect them all, but I don’t intend to add the Living Plague to my collection. I guess that gives you an idea of how poorly I rate the Emerald Lotus.

        That said I do wish the Living Plague to be a huge success. I guess other pastiches (Conan, Solomon, Agnes de Chastillon…) depend on it!

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