Monday, June 20, 2011

Two-Gun Bob

When I was in my early teens I was helping my dad stock the shelves of one of his bookstores and I happened across this cover art on one of the novels I was putting up in the science-fiction and fantasy section:

It was, of course, painted by Frank Frazetta, and it was the cover art to one of the Bantam Books editions collecting some of the stories of Conan the Barbarian created by Robert Ervin Howard.

Grabbed by the power of the painting I took the book down as my own and read it. I'd heard of Howard, of course, but it was the first time I'd read his work; and I was hooked. Howard was the quintessential adventure pulp writer. His style was actually rather stark for a man earning his living by the pennies-per-word, but there was brilliance--perhaps even genius--in that style. Other writers have picked that style apart, trying to figure it out and doing their best to copy it. But it was unique and Howard was even, perhaps, doing his best to emulate the likes of Jack London and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Who knows? But whatever his influence, the result was amazing.

Although the quite highly disturbed Howard committed suicide in 1936, his work lives on. He had an amazingly fertile imagination and his output of fiction was impressive. Because his work was so well written and has been able to transcend the passage of time, he remains popular today. In addition to prose, his work has been translated to film, television, and comics. In some weeks, the new version of a feature film of Conan will hit the screens. I was never a fan of the original films that starred Arnold Schwartzenegger, so I'm hoping that the new movie will do a much better job of interpreting Howard's characters and themes.

We'll see.

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