The Right Hand Of Doom & Other Tales Of Solomon Kane
By R. Howard
Publisher : Wordsworth Editions, 2007
Solomon Kane is one of the least known and strangest of Robert E Howard’s characters and that makes him to my mind one of the most fascinating. This collection of 10 short stories and 3 poems will shed some light on Solomon Kane but as outlined by M.J.Elliot in the excellent introduction Kane will always remain an enigma. He is shortly, however, going to become a much better known enigma as a trilogy of movies are currently in production, you can get a good introduction to the character (and the movies) from the director Michael Basset.
Essentially Kane is a puritan who roams the land in the 17th century, actively seeking out adventures and generally taking on all comers. He dishes out vengeance with sword, rapier and pistol and no sinner is safe from his wrath. Describing himself as a “fulfiller of Judgement” or a “vessel for gods wrath” it is clear that religion has a major part to play in his life but at one stage he is even said to have pagan tendencies and certainly seems to have little of the compassion or mercy associated with his religion.
This intense hatred for all things dark and occult leads Kane to many confrontations and whilst his motivation is never explained his fundamentalism is clearly a major factor. It will be interesting to see how the films create a new backstory to explain Kanes zealous attitude.
These tales however were less concerned with character motivation than creating good adventure stories. Many appeared in the Weird Tales issues in the late twenties and early thirties and have all the pulp requirements of foreign adventure, nasty bad guys and a bit of bodice ripping (although Kane clearly doesn’t indulge in any of that nonsense!).
The tales range from pure ghost stories in “Skulls In The Stars” and “Rattle Of Bones” to Indiana Jones style adventure in “The Moon Of Skulls”. A few are quite bizarre such as “Wings in the Night” and there is a marvellous voodoo versus vampire tale in “The Hills Of the Dead”.
If they have a flaw, and a few do, it’s in the style of the writing and particularly the dialogue. Howard attempts to recreate the 17th century dialogue of a Devonian Puritan which comes across as a biblical pirate! Howard may well have achieved accuracy (it was a bit before my time) but the stilted dialogue does not help the flow of the stories. The tenth story is only a fragment “Deaths Black Riders” of what sound a fascinating idea.
I don’t believe this collection has the depth or overall quality of the other Howard collection “The Haunter Of The Ring” but Solomon Kane is such an interesting character it is definitely worth a read and as always with Wordsworth Editions the price is hardly likely to put you off. So impress your friends before the film comes out and explore the mysterious life of Solomon Kane for yourself.
Rating 3 out of 5