Monday, January 23, 2006

Robert E. Howard, 100 years old (if he weren't dead)

So Sunday was the 100th birthday of Robert E. Howard, famed creator of Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn among others. Howard was probably my second most important author when I was a child, the first being Tolkien. But my entryway to Howard came through The Savage Sword of Conan comic book magazine (here's one which may even be one of the one's I read back then).
My neighbor, a man in his 30s, gave me a copy of his Savage Sword comics because he thought I'd like them. And I did. They are perfect young male teen reading: lots of strange places, bizarre creatures and tough guys who knew exactly what to do. After a few issues, I started talking about them to my neighbor and he started saying things like, "well, if you liked that you should see what he did in the original story when..." That was it, I was hooked. I grabbed the first two books in the paperback series that was available in those days, the one's with the Frank Frazetta artwork and additional stories by Lin Carter and L. Sprague DeCamp. The stories were second only to "Lord of the Rings" in my world.
I've loved them ever since and have reread many of the stories over the years. My favorite of what I've read was "Red Nails." How could I not love a story that begins with Conan and a woman being chased by a dinosaur and only gets weirder from there?
Over the last few years, I've been buying the new Conan collections as they come out and I look forward to reading the stories I never had a chance to read in the past: "The Hour of the Dragon" and most of the King Conan stuff. The books get the recommendation of Michael Dirda at the Washington Post, which makes me happy. Apparently, there was a big celebration of Howard's birthday in Texas, wish I could have been there.
Here's a few Web sites about the man:
Cross Plains Howard page
The Robert E. Howard United Press Association
Wikipedia entry
Conan official Web site
Robert E. Howard archive
The Cimmerian journal
The Hour of the Dragon online
Howard ebooks

There is also a movie about Robert E. Howard called "The Whole Wide World" starring Vincent D'Onofrio and Renee Zellweger. The packaging of the DVD makes it look like a romance movie (which, I guess it is, a bit) but it's mainly a character study of Howard and Novalyne Price. D'Onofrio does a great job. I recommend it.

No comments: