The Haunter Of The Ring & Other Tales
by Robert E Howard
Publisher : Wordsworth Editions
Robert E Howard was a fascinating character. Of course, most people who have heard of him (and that’s probably the vast minority) immediately think of Conan. Not only do they think of Conan but they think of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the 1982 film (trashy but fun) what they don’t think of is the man who single handedly invented the sword and sorcery genre, a man who was mates with H P Lovecraft, a bookish boy who became a leading prizefighter or a man who achieved this in a short lifespan of 30 years before committing suicide whilst watching his mother die.
Howard was a leading light in the pulp magazines, such as Weird tales, of the 1930’s along with many of his contemporaries (can you imagine visiting the newsagent to pick up the latest issue with all new stories by Howard, Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith !!) and perfected the art of short story writing in the process. Wordsworth editions have picked up many of these short stories and crafted this collection, all with a supernatural twist.
We, therefore, get early Conan tales, Cthulhu tales, Ghost stories, Indiana Jones style adventure tales and sheer trashy adventure crammed into the 400 pages of this book. To my mind the stories which succeed best are those which draw on Howard’s extensive knowledge of Celtic/Pictish mythology (The Cairn On The Headland) or those he wrote whilst corresponding with Lovecraft and which add to and enrich the Cthulhu mythos (The Children of The Night) but there are several which cross over such as The Black Stone which contain elements of both.
There are weaknesses, clearly the stories were written with a pulp market in mind so whilst they read easily, several are pretty shallow, there are also some uncomfortable racist and sexist comments which in our world would be unacceptable but when the stories work they are brilliant, the sacrifice scene in “The Black Stone” for example even 76 years after publication can still shock. The books’ true strength is in revealing the depth of Howard’s talent (and importance) and as a starting point for the reader wanting to enjoy the Howard that exists beyond Conan and reassess one of the founding fathers of the modern genre. Oh and did I mention its £2.99 !!!!!!
Rating 4 out of 5