Monthly Archives: August 2014

Robert E. Howard in Lincoln County

In June of 1935, Robert E. Howard and his friend Truett Vinson took a road trip through New Mexico, and on the way stopped in the town of Lincoln.  Howard was fascinated by the Lincoln County War.  It’s easy to understand why.  It was a horrible, senseless conflict fueled by greed and pride from which no one came out looking good.

A friend and I took a similar trip this past June.  We’d been talking about this trip for over a year.  Family considerations required him to move back to Kansas, so we knew we had to go or the trip would never happen.  We managed to find a couple of days when we could both get free and headed west.

After hiking in the mountains we made our way to Lincoln, where we stayed the night at the Wortley Hotel (Where No Guest Has Been Gunned Down in Over 100 Years).  The next morning, we toured the town before heading home.

Howard described his impressions of Lincoln in a letter to H. P. Lovecraft in a letter circa July 1935.  My intention of this post is to comment on some of the things Howard wrote about, supplemented with my own photos from the trip.  I didn’t know much about the Lincoln County War before we went, but I’ve learned a lot since then.  (I hadn’t read that portion of Howard’s correspondence at the time.) Had I known more, I would taken some additional pictures.

REH in LincolnWhile it’s not the most famous picture of Howard, the photo on the left has been fairly widely disseminated.  It was taken in front of the Lincoln County Courthouse.  Click to enlarge the image.  The sign says “The house from which Billy the Kid made his fast escape after killing his two guards Bell and Ollinger before ? 1881 being later killed by Sherriff Pat Garrett. Visitors Welcome.”

I’m not sure who the person on the left is.  It could be Vinson, but I have a vague memory of reading somewhere that it’s one of the locals.  I just can’t remember where I read it.  If I really did.

If that is one of the locals, it would most likely be Ramon Maes, who was the grandson of Lucio Montoya, one of the participants on the Murphy-Dolan side of the conflict.  (Billy the Kid fought for the McSween-Tunstall faction.)  Maes regaled the Texans with tales of the fighting and gave them the key to the building.  At one time it was the Murphy-Dolan store and bank, and after the Lincoln County War ended, it became the courthouse and jail.  When Howard was there, it was a storage building. Continue reading

Blackguards Kickstarter Launches

BlackguardsRagnarok Books is establishing itself as one of the fresher and more innovative small publishers around.  Their previous Kickstarter project, Kaiju Rising, is sitting over there making its way to the top of the TBR stack.

But their latest, Blackguards, has just launched.  It’s a massive anthology full of some of the hottest names in fantasy.  Subtitled Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues, it is edited by J. M. Martin and looks like a lot of fun.

Here are the contributors:  Carol Berg, Richard Lee Byers, David Galglish, James Enge, John Gwynne, Lian Hearn, Snorri Kristjansson, Joseph Lallo, Mark Lawrence, Tim Marquitz, Peter Orullian, Cat Rambo, Laura Resnick, Mark Smylie, Kenny Soward, Shawn Speakman, Jon Sprunk, Anton Strout, Michael J. Sullivan, Django Wexler.

That’s an impressive list.  I, for one, can’t wait to get a copy of this book in my hands.

To pledge, or just learn more about the project, go to the Blackguards Kickstarter page.

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Has a New Issue

HFQtimthumbWell, actually, by this time, it’s not that new, having been out a few weeks.  This issue contains four pieces of fiction (as opposed to the usual three), one of which has an extra illustration.  There are also two poems. Continue reading

Feasting at The Raven’s Banquet

the_ravens_banquet_250x384The Raven’s Banquet
Clifford Beal
ebook, $6.99  Kindle Nook

I didn’t realize (because I didn’t read the promotional email carefully) that The Raven’s Banquet was the prequel to Beal’s first novel, Gideon’s Angel. Which I haven’t read. But I intend to.

This was a riveting historical fantasy set during the Thirty Years War. Richard Treadwell is a younger son, setting out to make his fortune as a mercenary. He gets a lot more than he bargains for.

The novel is told mostly in flashbacks as Richard awaits trial for treason during the English Civil War. To pass time, he records his memoirs. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury olderRay Bradbury was born on this date in 1920.  He was one of the greatest writers in his, or arguably any, generation.

Bradbury was one of the first science fiction and fantasy authors I ever read.  We lived in Wichita Falls when I was in the 5th grade.  The children’s section was in the basement of the main branch of the library downtown.  It was a wonderful place.

Off to one side they had a spinner rack of paperbacks, much like you could find in a drug store.  On the rack were James Blish’s Star Trek books, a couple of collections of Twilight Zone tie-ins, Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle, and I don’t remember what else.

Except for the Ray Bradbury volumes.  Those I remember quite clearly.  Most of these were the Bantam editions from the late 70s that had a drawing of Ray’s face in the middle of the cover and a mural behind him.  The Illustrated Man was there.  And Something Wicked This Way ComesS is for Space.  And The Martian Chronicles.  I would read Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, Long After Midnight, The October Country, and all the other books later, but the titles I listed first have remained in my memory for decades.

I started reading off that rack regularly in the 5th grade, and when a guest came to our reading class and read “The Screaming Woman” to us from that very edition of S is for Space, I was hooked.

We lost Ray a couple of years ago, and I wrote then of the impact he had on my life.  Ray Bradbury is one of the few authors in my library with an entire shelf reserved for his works.

Now if you’ll, excuse me, I’m going to read a few selections.  Maybe something from The October Country, followed by a tale from The Illustrated Man

Happy Birthday, H. P. Lovecraft

LovecraftHoward Phillips Lovecraft was born this day in 1890.  He died of cancer of the small intestine in 1937.  Lovecraft’s greatest claim to fame these days is the creation of what has become known as the Cthulhu Mythos, although he started out writing fantasies in the vein of Lord Dunsany, richly detailed stories with a dreamlike quality.

As great as his contributions to weird fiction were, one could make the argument that his most lasting influence was on those writes who corresponded with him as well as those who came after.  Those writers include but aren’t limited to Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Stephen King, Henry Kuttner, Brian Lumley, August Derleth, and many others.  (I know I’m leaving some out.)

I would argue that Lovecraft is to weird fiction what Tolkien is to fantasy.  In both cases, the authors had a tremendous impact on the field, one that continues decades after their deaths.  Both have many imitators as well as detractors.  It is almost impossible to escape their influence.

Lovecraft World Fantasy Award(And speaking of detractors, there is a movement to replace Lovecraft’s image on the figurine given as the World Fantasy Award with that of another writer.)

I’m a relative latecomer to Lovecraft.  I never really got into his work growing up.  It’s only been in the last five to ten years that I’ve come to appreciate his work.  There are still some majors stories by him that I’ve not read.

I think I’ll read some of them to celebrate his birthday.

From Now Until Labor Day

the_ravens_banquet_250x384I didn’t realize until a few minutes ago how long it had been since I’d posted here.  I guess I’d been posting more at Gumshoes, Gats, and Gams than I realized.  Of course two of those posts are obituaries/tributes.  I still have one review I need to write over there.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a bit burned out on novels.  Probably because I’ve been juggling too many of them lately.  Having multiple formats for reading has its downside.  I’ve got a novel I need to finish,   That would be The Raven’s Banquet by Clifford Beal, a gritty historical fantasy that I’m liking a lot.

There are a couple of more novels I need to make some progress on, but for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to concentrate on short fiction.  Classes start next Monday, but I’m back in the office trying to get ready.  That means the syllabus for my class, syllabi for all the labs I’m directly in charge of, and trying to get TA assignments complete.  We don’t normally run labs the first week because there are too many logistical issues, but the semester schedule has some quirks in it that necessitate doing so.

All of which is to say that I’m not sure what my time is going to be like.  I may have large blocks free (not likely, but hey, it could happen), or I may have to read and write in quick snatches.  Which means I’ll be focusing on short fiction.

I’ve got about half a dozen anthologies/single author collections in multiple genres I’m working my way through.  Plus some short fiction venues such as Weird Tales and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.  The last two will be finished and reviewed by Labor Day for sure.  Beyond that, I’ve learned the hard way not to make promises I might not be able to keep.

The result could very well look like feast or famine as far as posts are concerned.  I might not post anything for a week, then have four or five posts go up at my various blogs over the course of a couple of days.  It will all depend on what I’m in the mood for and how much time I actually have.

And somewhere in there, I’d like to make some progress on my own writing…


More Bookstore Closing Acquisitions

I posted recently about one of the local used bookstores (currently there are 4: 2 good, 1 decent, 1 not worth bothering with) closing and some of the titles I picked up.

You know I went back.  The store will be open for a little while yet.  Here’s what I picked up this time.

More AcquisitionsI couldn’t resist the cover of the Howard pastiche by Offutt, even though I doubt I’ll read it.  The People of the Mist is an upgrade of my existing copy.  The Starfollowers of Coramonde is a later edition, but the Darrell K. Sweet cover matches the one on the first novel in the series.

I loved Sean Stewart’s Galveston some years back, but I haven’t read any of his other books.  The Tanith Lee speaks for itself.  The third row contains the first 3 of 4 in Lawrence Watt-Evans Lords of Dus series.

The last row is a reading copy of one of Evangeline Walton’s books that was part of the BAF series.  The Zahn is part of a series that looks like a lot of fun.  And the Paul Preuss because I wanted some solid science fiction in the old style.

But the gem of this little collection is the volume in the upper left of the picture.  It’s Whispers, edited by Stuart David Schiff.  It’s a collection of stories published in his groundbreaking small press magazine of the same title.  I’ve got a copy of this already, but I couldn’t pass this one up.  The contents include “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner, “The Barrow Troll” by David Drake, “The Dakwa” by Manly Wade Wellman, plus stories by Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, William F. Nolan, Hugh B. Cave, Dennis Etchison, Joseph Payne Brennan, Ramsey Campbell, Richard Christian Matheson, Brian Lumley, and many others.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go reread “Sticks”.

Two (Count ’em, Two) New BAF Posts at Black Gate

I’ve not posted here much in the last few weeks, but I’ve still been busy.  I’ve had two Ballantine Adult Fantasy posts over at Black Gate.  The first, which went live a few weeks ago, was over Hannes Bok’s The Sorcerer’s Ship.  The one that went live today was over Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz.Deryni Rising

I’ve also posted some reviews at Amazing Stories.  This week it was the poetry collection They Say the Sirens Left the Seas by James Hutchings.  Before that it was Lee Martindale’s collected fiction, Bard’s Road.  And at the beginning of July, I reviewed the final volume in Joshua P. Simon’s Blood and Tears Trilogy.

I’ll be posting more here and at my other blogs over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned.

Introducing Andrasta and Rondel

Cult of SutekThe Cult of Sutek: The Epic of Andrasta and Rondel vol.1
Joshua P. Simon
ebook $2.99 (free on Smashwords as of this writing)
paper $11.99

Joshua P. Simon has proven himself to be a consistent writer of solid, character driven fantasy adventure. His Blood and Tears Trilogy (reviewed here, here, here, and here, interviewed here) was one of my favorite epic fantasy series of the last few years.

Now he’s turned his hand to a story that’s smaller in scope and more personal in nature, the sword and sorcery series he’s calling The Epic of Adnrasta and Rondel.

Andrasta is a woman from a distant country, a warrior who is out to steal a jewel in the Tower of Bashan. Rondel is a minstrel who got caught in the wrong bedroom. They meet in a dungeon when Andrasta is thrown in Rondel’s cell. Of course they escape, and shortly thereafter rescue a young woman named Dendera who turns out to be the daughter of a king. Since Rondel knew the king from his minstrel days, they return her home, hoping for a reward to finance their jewel heist.

Unfortunately, the Cult of Sutek is staging a comeback. They believe in human sacrifice and practice cannibalism. Not the sort of folks you want moving in down the block. Continue reading