Swords & Sorcery – The Reese Way!

One of my first literary loves as a kid was Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. I’ve talked about it before on this blog and it’s still true to this day – nobody writes action prose like Howard. I’ve read nearly all the pastiches, as well, but those are real hit or miss in quality – still, they’re better than nothing, and I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of the many comic adaptations, as well.

Recently, I wrapped up the thirteenth volume of Lazarus Gray and wanted to do something different… eventually I decided to revive a character I created for a long out-of-print book published for Wild Cat Books: Grimarr the Viking.

I’m in the midst of writing a collection of short stories starring Grimarr, whose name and backstory have appeared in various Peregrine stories over the years. This time around, though, our Norseman hero will face evil wizards, monstrous beasts, and seductive beauties as he voyages far and wide. For those that don’t know anything about him, he was a proud warrior that was denied entrance into Valhalla by an inglorious death… but the goddess of death gave him the opportunity to return to the world of the living as her agent on Earth. He would become her Sword of Hel and would have the opportunity to build up his resume for another shot at the warrior’s paradise.

I’m not 100% sure when the collection will arrive from Pro Se but hopefully it will be sometime in the next year or two. Until then, enjoy this GORGEOUS Chris Batista image of Grimarr!

Conan (Icons Writeup)

Conan

Prowess 6
Coordination 5
Strength 6
Intellect 4
Awareness 5
Willpower 5

Stamina 11

Powers
*Broadsword 5
*Depending on the situation, Conan may have access to battleaxes, clubs, etc. He does not typically use ranged weapons but will make do in a pinch. He also frequently has ropes that can be used for climbing.

Specialties
Athletics (Master +3 bonus), Business – Appraisal (+1 bonus), Investigation (+1 bonus), Leadership (+1 bonus), Linguistics (+1 bonus), Martial Arts (Master +3 bonus), Mental Resistance (+1 bonus), Military (Expert +2 bonus), Sleight of Hand (+1 bonus), Stealth (Expert +2 bonus), Underwater Combat (+1 bonus), Weapons – Ranged (+1 bonus), Weapons – Blades (Master +3 bonus), Wrestling (Master +3 bonus)

Qualities
Irresistible to women
Gains and loses money very quickly
Distrusts sorcery
Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women!

Background

Conan is a Cimmerian, a barbarian of the far north; he was born on a battlefield and is the son of the village blacksmith Corin. During the battle in Cimmeria, his mother Greshan was fatally wounded by an enemy while attempting to save Corin. The weakened Greshan uses the last of her strength to give birth to her son and names him Conan before she dies. He grew up quickly: by age fifteen he was already a respected warrior, participating in the destruction of the Aquilonian outpost of Venarium.

After this he was struck by wanderlust and began the colorful and exciting adventures chronicled by Robert E. Howard and others, encountering various fabulous monsters, evil wizards, and beautiful wenches and princesses – he has traveled throughout the world and been a thief and outlaw, a mercenary and commander of a mercenary company, and a pirate. He begins building larger units of men, aiming for greater territorial ambitions, though his efforts are repeatedly thwarted, usually by the total massacre of his force excepting himself. But in his forties, he finally succeeds in becoming king of Aquilonia, the most powerful kingdom of the age, having strangled the previous ruler, Numedides, on the steps of the throne. In his sixties, Conan leaves his country—never to return—to seek new battles in the uncharted west, leaving Conan II, his son by Queen Zenobia (a former Nemedian slave girl), to rule Aquilonia in his stead. Although Conan’s adventures often result in him performing heroic feats, his motive is more than often his own survival, enrichment or rise to power and he thus displays many of the characteristics of an anti-hero.

Yeah, I’d like to write that…

challengers-kirbyI was able to write one of my all-time favorite pulp heroes — The Avenger — for Moonstone. Twice!

I’ve also written The Green Hornet, G-8 and His Battle Aces, The Black Bat, The Black Terror and lots more. I’ve written sourcebooks that were all about Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers and a lot more…

But there are still some dream projects out there that I’d like to tackle:

Batman. I’ve read some good Batman prose novels but I’d love to handle Bruce Wayne and company just once. I think it would be a blast.

The Shadow. Taking on Walter Gibson’s signature character would be intimidating as hell but I’d jump at the opportunity.

Conan. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to live up to the passion of Robert E. Howard’s writing but I’d give it my best shot.

Airboy. I’m not too big on aerial pulp, despite having written both Richard Knight and G-8… but Airboy’s appearances in the Chuck Dixon comic book series made me a fan.

Challengers of the Unknown. I didn’t much care for the Ron Goulart novel that came out way back when… I like to think I could do better. The themes and characters are right up my alley.

Seekay. One of the greatest obscure pulp characters ever!

Norgil the Magician. Walter Gibson’s *other* great hero. I have a ton of ideas for this crime-solving magician.

The Phantom. Lee Falk’s classic hero would be a blast to write!

There are other projects that I’d love to tackle, too, but those are the ones that keep popping up in my heart and mind. Someday, maybe…

BARRY HERE: I don’t agree with everything that’s said in this essay but it’s definitely worth a read. I’m a longtime lover of sword & sorcery and Robert E. Howard’s contributions but this is an interesting take on the genre and Howard’s place in it.

While I don’t quite buy John Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces theory, I do think that there are certain basic frameworks that stories can (but never must) follow, and which can yield a nigh-infinite variety of different permutations of the same basic ideas whilst leaving room for the author’s own themes and personality to […]

via Offutt’s First Effort As Editor — The Thoughts and Fancies of a Fake Geek Boy

Yeah, it’s time for an update

27858577_10155082550917181_8118617840494930262_nHello, one and all – work continues on the Liberty Guard novel. I’m over 28,000 words into it right now and have reached that point where I’m wondering why I started on it in the first place. It’s not a reflection of the work or subject matter — I do this around this mark on every novel I write. You get hungry for something different and the knowledge that you’re only halfway through makes it worse. I’ll keep pushing through it. Once I hit the 40k mark, it’s usually a sprint to the end.

Still waiting on Babylon to arrive from Pro Se…

Had a few ideas for Lazarus Gray Volume 11 but I refuse to work on it until Volume 8 is published. I’m not going to be four novels ahead!

Currently reading THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE. The Puritan avenger has always been a character I liked but he’s no Conan. Still, I love these stories.

Been in a bit of a writing snit overall lately – no new reviews, no new books being published, feels like I’m sending these books out into the void. There are definitely days when I want to delete the blog and just vanish into the ether – not sure anybody would really miss me in what passes for the New Pulp scene. Is there even such a thing anymore?

Ah, well – I’m gonna go spend some more time with Solomon Kane. See you soon!

Robert E. Howard’s Conan

Red-NailsI grew up devouring the Conan novels, both those written by his creator and the many pastiches that followed. Indeed, it was really Conan that inspired my lifelong love the pulps — which is kind of strange, when you think about how my writing career has been devoted almost entirely to the ‘hero pulps’ and not the sword & sorcery genre that Conan belongs to.

Over the years I’ve dived back in here and there to re-read my favorite Conan tales but recently I set out to make my way through the entire REH canon and it’s reminded me of which tales are my absolute favorites.

Topping the list is “Red Nails” (1936). This story has so much great action, a wonderful female foil for Conan and is just a wonderful ‘meat and potatoes’ adventure story. Coming in close behind, though are several others that deserve special mention: “The Tower of the Elephant” (1933), “Black Colossus” (1933), “The Slithering Shadow” (1933) and “Queen of the Black Coast” (1934). Really, there’s not a bad one in the whole bunch but my least favorite tales are probably the ‘King Conan’ era stories… something just doesn’t feel as lusty and bold in those tales. “The Slithering Shadow” isn’t one that I see pop up on many ‘best of’ lists but I quite enjoyed it – not one but two sexy females in the tale, a ‘lost city’ setting that is slightly reminiscent of the one in “Red Nails” and some terrific descriptive writing from REH.

The only downside to reading so much REH? Realizing how badly my own writing stacks up against his! The man was a master when it comes to adventure, suspense and on-the-fly characterization. He could make you feel like you understood a character in just a few lines. Yes, they tended to be rather simplistic characters but you still felt like there were depths to them that you just weren’t seeing.

Great stuff.

Yeah, I’d Like to Write That…

challengers-kirbyI was able to write one of my all-time favorite pulp heroes — The Avenger — for Moonstone. Twice!

I’ve also written The Green Hornet, G-8 and His Battle Aces, The Black Bat, The Black Terror and lots more. I’ve written sourcebooks that were all about Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers and a lot more…

But there are still some dream projects out there that I’d like to tackle:

Batman. I’ve read some good Batman prose novels but I’d love to handle Bruce Wayne and company just once. I think it would be a blast.

The Shadow. Taking on Walter Gibson’s signature character would be intimidating as hell but I’d jump at the opportunity.

Conan. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to live up to the passion of Robert E. Howard’s writing but I’d give it my best shot.

Airboy. I’m not too big on aerial pulp, despite having written both Richard Knight and G-8… but Airboy’s appearances in the Chuck Dixon comic book series made me a fan.

Challengers of the Unknown. I didn’t much care for the Ron Goulart novel that came out way back when… I like to think I could do better. The themes and characters are right up my alley.

Seekay. One of the greatest obscure pulp characters ever!

Norgil the Magician. Walter Gibson’s *other* great hero. I have a ton of ideas for this crime-solving magician.

The Phantom. Lee Falk’s classic hero would be a blast to write!

There are other projects that I’d love to tackle, too, but those are the ones that keep popping up in my heart and mind. Someday, maybe…

Robert E. Howard’s Conan

Red-NailsI grew up devouring the Conan novels, both those written by his creator and the many pastiches that followed. Indeed, it was really Conan that inspired my lifelong love the pulps — which is kind of strange, when you think about how my writing career has been devoted almost entirely to the ‘hero pulps’ and not the sword & sorcery genre that Conan belongs to.

Over the years I’ve dived back in here and there to re-read my favorite Conan tales but recently I set out to make my way through the entire REH canon and it’s reminded me of which tales are my absolute favorites.

Topping the list is “Red Nails” (1936). This story has so much great action, a wonderful female foil for Conan and is just a wonderful ‘meat and potatoes’ adventure story. Coming in close behind, though are several others that deserve special mention: “The Tower of the Elephant” (1933), “Black Colossus” (1933), “The Slithering Shadow” (1933) and “Queen of the Black Coast” (1934). Really, there’s not a bad one in the whole bunch but my least favorite tales are probably the ‘King Conan’ era stories… something just doesn’t feel as lusty and bold in those tales. “The Slithering Shadow” isn’t one that I see pop up on many ‘best of’ lists but I quite enjoyed it – not one but two sexy females in the tale, a ‘lost city’ setting that is slightly reminiscent of the one in “Red Nails” and some terrific descriptive writing from REH.

The only downside to reading so much REH? Realizing how badly my own writing stacks up against his! The man was a master when it comes to adventure, suspense and on-the-fly characterization. He could make you feel like you understood a character in just a few lines. Yes, they tended to be rather simplistic characters but you still felt like there were depths to them that you just weren’t seeing.

Great stuff.

From the Vault: Sex In the Pulps

mellisa_clark_unmaskedYep. Today we’re talking about S-E-X and, by extension, loving relationships.

In the classic hero pulps, there wasn’t a whole lot of sex. You’d have the occasional lurid cover, with some scantily clad woman (usually with stockings showing) in distress while our hero moved to protect her but for the most part, guys like Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger were not very interested in knocking boots. Doc occasionally in later years would display a kind of boyish interest in the fairer sex and The Avenger’s love for his wife was constantly being referenced but even in the first book where you see The Avenger alongside his wife and daughter, you didn’t exactly get the image that they were passionate lovers. They were partners, friends and spouses, yes, but there was no sign of “heat” in the relationship.

There were some exceptions, of course. Jim Anthony was basically Doc Savage with a sex drive but by today’s standards, he was still a bit tame. In fact, the idea of Anthony was racier than the truth — he liked to lounge around at home in a speedo while working in the lab. Hell, what guy doesn’t? And then there was The Spider, who was very clearly a passionate lover of Nita Van Sloane. But most of the romance that was depicted between them were of steamy kisses and verbal flirtations.

The fantasy pulps (like Conan) got a lot of mileage out of ladies whipping one another and there was no doubt that Conan and others got into lusty embraces. But I’m focusing on the hero pulps because those were my favorites and that’s where most of the New Pulp writings out today fall into place.

So…

Now we’re in the age of New Pulp. Writers are now bringing in more modern ideas about race, gender relations, etc. into their pulp-inspired writings.

But we still don’t have much in the way of S-E-X. I’m not saying we *need* it, I’m just surprised there’s not more variety out there.

When I wrote Rabbit Heart, I deliberately made it dirty. Foul language, lots of explicit sex and gory violence. It was my Anti-Pulp pulp book. When I did The Damned Thing, I didn’t go quite as far but it was still a pulp novel, only with explicit oral sex scenes and rape. The reviews I got for Rabbit Heart all made direct mention of the dirty stuff because I think it’s hard to discuss the novel without it — and it was out of place in the pulp world. The Damned Thing, though, got high praise but few people mentioned the sexy stuff — maybe after Rabbit Heart, they weren’t as surprised?

We have guys and gals in the pulp field who can cover all sorts of things and do it well. I’d like to see more variety in relationships on display in New Pulp stories. No, we don’t have to go into the boudoir with the Moon Man and his long-suffering girlfriend, but if a writer could do it well, why not? Hell, just some acknowledgement that these heroes are human beings and are sexual creatures would be welcome sometimes, just for the sake of something different.

The number of unfeeling automatons I’ve met in real life are relatively few in number… so why do I see so many in pulp? Look, I have one hero (Lazarus Gray) who kind of fits that bill, too — but in his series, there’s also plenty of sexual beings who surround him. Hell, I make it quite clear in Die Glocke that Lazarus had a “steamy” romance with the daughter of the local museum curator so even he’s not as stoic as he first appears.

Yes, I enjoy pulp that features heroic figures, over-the-top villains and happy endings. I make no apologies for that. But I also like to have my heroes fall in love, make babies and grow old.

I had The Peregrine fall in love, get married, become a father, etc. His wife is his partner and his lover, equal in both regards.

I did this because I think of Max Davies as a man — and most men want those things.They want love, they want sex, they want a family.

So, New Pulp writers, don’t be afraid to bring the sexy back!

My Favorite Pulp Comics – Of All Time!

shadowdocsavageToday I’m listing out my Top 10 Favorite Pulp Comics of all time.

The rules are simple: it has to be a comic book based upon an actual pulp character. So The Rocketeer doesn’t count and neither does Will Eisner’s Spirit. Both may be pulp in “spirit” (Hah!) but they’re not based on actual classic pulp heroes.

So let’s get started, shall we?

10. John Carter, Warlord of Mars (1977, Marvel)
9. Tarzan (1972, DC)
8. Doc Savage Magazine (1975, Marvel)
7. Conan the Barbarian (1970, Marvel)
6. Savage Sword of Conan (1974, Marvel)
5. The Shadow (1973, DC)
4. The Shadow: Blood and Judgment (DC, 1986)
3. The Shadow Strikes! (1989, DC)
2. The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights (2013, Dynamite)
1. The Shadow: Year One (2013, Dynamite)

As you can see, my love of The Shadow may have tainted the list somewhat 😉

What are some of your favorites, folks?