Thursday, January 22, 2015

Robert E. Howard

On this day, the 109th anniversary of his birth, I feel compelled to post my own thoughts on good ole’ Bob Howard.

Like many of my generation, I discovered Howard’s work through the 1982 Conan the Barbarian film.  And while it can be argued that the character was nothing like Howard wrote (which I agree with, but I still love him anyways), just seeing the film, and the possibilities it represented was enough to hook me.

I had been playing D&D by that time for about 2 years.  Having just moved to Okinawa where my mom was stationed in the Air Force, I had a lot of time on my hands because I wouldn't start school for a few more weeks. 

My mom let me watch a lot of movies while she was at work, and made some suggestions based on my love of D&D.  Conan was among them.  I probably watched it over a dozen times during those first few weeks.  And throughout the rest of high school it was often playing on my own TV, even if just in the background.

Then I took a Sci-Fi/Fantasy class, and I had to pick a book to read.  I found the first Lancer/Ace book, and mistook it for the book based on the movie.  I read it, and was immediately hooked even deeper.  Within a few months I had all twelve volumes, and had read them all, some more than once.

About 10 years ago, I started exploring the other works of Howard.  I have my favorites, among them is Steve Costigan and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey.  I haven’t read all of his work yet, but there’s time.  I own almost all of the Del Rey editions, and several of the various paperbacks that have been published over the decades.

Interestingly, his high-octane short-form writing has defined my reading tastes.  I can’t read GRRM or his ilk, simply because those books feel so plodding and slow by comparison.  Howard only produced a single novel-length work, The Hour of the Dragon (there is some debate about whether he completely wrote his other credited novel, Almuric).  I have read HotD probably five times, and consider it among the greatest fantasy novels ever written.

Others have worded this better than I can (Howard Andrew Jones and Keith West), but there is something about Robert E. Howard’s writing that just grabs the reader and drags them along for the ride.  His knack for action, dialogue, dialects, unique characters, and fantastic settings, all blend to create a reading experience that many have tried to recapture (including myself), but few can match.

It’s probably a safe bet that if you are reading my blog, you have read some of Howard’s works. But, if by chance you haven’t, get thee to the book store, and find some Howard to read!  I promise, you will be entertained at the very least.
Here's to you, Bob!  Your legacy lives on!


Keith West said...

Thanks for the shoutout, although I don't know that I said it any better than you, just differently.

One of the things I find interesting is that even though they come to Howard through different paths, once they read him they tend to be hooked. That says something about the man and his writing.

Charles Gramlich said...

Amen, dog brother.