Literary Study and Criticism
is essential to understanding the greater significance and meaning of
Howard's work. Below are volumes that contradict with eloquent and concise
writing the corporate party-line that Howard's work has no other significance
than entertainment and adventurous fun. Howard's work is steeped with
meaning and depth in the guise of adventure. The author's great skill
as a storyteller and poet, his stunning ability to convey emotion and
excitement, his inventive uses of the past to illustrate his insights
into human nature, and many other aspects of his work, all may be found
discussed in the pages of these critical works. The following list of
books is not the sum total of literary criticism on Howard's work. There
have been numerous chapbooks and fanzines that have published important
criticism, but they are rare enough to warrent exclusion from this list
(for now). Besides, this list is meant for individuals who are just
begining to explore Howard's literature and life.
For those who need a bit more prodding
to become interested in literary criticism... By reading these volumes
you take a short-cut to understanding Howard's work. If you have ever
wondered what REH meant by "barbarism", why Solomon Kane continued to
hunt evil, why Conan came from a land called "Cimmeria," and how Howard
wrote with such passion and ability, drawing his readers inexorably
into his fictional world, then these are the books for you! Here you
have scholars and fans who have already gone through the difficult task
of beginning to grasp Howard's work, and they are generous enough to
spell their thoughts out for all to read! Most of these books are highly
recommended for anyone interested in trying to understand and grasp
|| Robert E. Howard: Starmont Reader's
Guide 35 by Marc A. Cerasini and
Charles E. Hoffman gives the reader an excellent overall
understanding of Howard's work. The book first presents an acceptable
biography on Howard's life, and then examines his stories by character
and genre. The Bran Mak Morn stories come first, followed by the
Solomon Kane, King Kull, and Conan stories. After these, Cerasini
and Hoffman examine Howard's other fantasies, horror stories, and
remaining prose and poetry. An excellent annotated bibliography
is also presented.
Published in 1987, the information in
the book is a slightly outdated. Since that time, new discoveries
have been made that further our understanding and appreciation
of Howard's work. Even though everything in the book should
not be taken as gospel, it is far more accurate than not. Simply
put, it is the best work of criticism yet written that attempts
to examine the entire breadth of Howard's work, and is an invaluable
resource for the Howard and Conan enthusiast. The book is currently
out of print.
|| The Dark Barbarian: The Writings of
Robert E. Howard, A Critical Anthology
edited and compiled by Don Herron has been quoted and re-quoted
by REH fans since its publication in 1984. This work was the first
book of literary criticism to seriously examine the work
of Robert E. Howard (REH). It features essays and articles on Howard's
writing style, profession, and literature. The famous essay, "Howard's
Fantasy" by renowned fantasy author, Fritz Lieber, is contained
within this book, as well as Don Herron's excellent summary of Howard's
literature titled, "The Dark Barbarian." Steve Eng's brilliant essay,
"Barbarian Bard: The poetry of REH," may well be the finest ever
written on REH, certainly the best thing on his poetry. Other essays
include, "REH: Frontiersman of Letters" by Donald Sidney-Fryer,
"Through Black Boughs: The Supernatural in Howard's Fiction" by
Dennis Rickard, "The Western Fiction of REH" by Ben P. Indick, "REH:
Hard-boiled Heroic Fantasist" by George Knight, and "REH: Professional
Writer" by Glenn Lord. The Dark Barbarian also contains an
invaluable catalogue of books that were in Robert E. Howard's personal
library, a short note on REH's suicide, and a short bibliography
All in all, The Dark Barbarian is an excellent anthology,
and well worth whatever toils and price to hunt it down. The book
has been long out of print but is finally back in print and published
by the Wildside Press
in trade paperback.
Highly recommended! A+
The Barbaric Triumph: A critical Anthology
on the Writings of Robert E. Howard
edited and compiled by Don Herron, published in June 2004 by Wildside
Press, is a long awaited sequel to Herron's first, groundbreaking
book, The Dark Barbarian. This new book examines aspects
of the life and work of Robert E. Howard -- from the phantoms
of Hate simmering beneath Howard's blood-drenched prose to Howard's
personal philosophy -- and from Howard's visionary use of the
American Frontier Myth to his rambunctious tales of boxing.
The book features 11 essays including the
prophetic 1943 fan article "A Voice from the Past" by
Paul Spencer; a reprint of one of the first essays that unveiled
the profound thought that is found in Howard's work, "Conan
the Existential" by Charles Hoffman; an excellent article
on Howard's love of boxing and its manifestation within his work
in "Fists of Robert E. Howard" by Mark Finn; "The
Shadow of a Soul on Fire" is a wide ranging examination of
Howard's philosophy and trend of thought stemming from the Romantic
Age by Edward A. Waterman; "Heritage of Steel" by Steven
R. Trout on Howard's use of the frontier myth; the insightful
"Barbarism and Decadence" by renowned French scholar
Lauric Guillaud; "Twilight of the Gods" by Scott Connors
on Howard and fascism; a cosmic exploration of "Gigantic
Gulfs of Time" in Howard's Conan and Kull stories by Steven
Tompkins; "Lands of Darkness and Nightmares" by George
Knight; "The Reign of Blood" by Leo Grin on Howard's
use of hate in his work; and culminating with a survey of the
current state of affairs in the Howard literary field, "The
Barbaric Triumph" by Don Herron.
This book represents the cutting edge of
today's critical thought about Robert E. Howard and his work.
It is currently in print and available through Wildside
Press and Amazon.com
Highly recommended. A
||The Fantastic Worlds of Robert E. Howard
edited, compiled, and published by James Van Hise is another excellent
anthology of literary criticism and study. Most of the articles
featured in this soft-bound book are the best articles and essays
recently published in the Robert E. Howard United Press Association
(REHUPA). Essays on Conan, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, King Kull,
and Howard's life and writing style make their way into the book.
Of particular note is Rusty Burke's "Purist Manifesto" which spells
out the "REH Purist" position, and stands as a bastion around which
REH fans muster to uphold the integrity and respectability of Howard's
Published in 1997, The Fantastic Worlds of REH contains
some of the most recent literary analysis and breakthroughs regarding
Howard's life and work. Having sold out the first print run, a
second printing has been made to keep the book in print. It is
available through most comic book stores or ordered directly by
contacting James Van Hise. It is an
excellent addition to any library.
Highly recommended! A
Click on this link
for more information...
||The Hyborian Heresies
is an excellent soft-bound book that features articles by Dale
Ripkke. Inventive, creative and insightful, these articles closely
and meticulously examine Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age of Conan.
Gleaning from the Conan stories small details that have tremendous
implications for the saga, Ripkke concocts fascinating theories
and draws intriguing conclusions about Conan's world, history, and
the stories themselves. Although much of the book is conjecture
and speculation, Ripkke's insighful exploration unveils background
material that Howard included in the stories that no one had noticed
before -- making Howard's Conan stories a deeper and even richer
literary tapestry than has been previously considered.
Published in 2004 by Wild
Cat Books, The Hyborian Heresies contains some of the
most intriguing recent analyses of the Conan saga and is a must
for any Conan fan.
Highly recommended! A
on this link for more information...
||The Dark Man: The Journal
of Robert E. Howard Studies is
a small magazine that features non-fiction articles by respected
writers and scholars, as well as rare Robert E. Howard (REH) material.
The Dark Man consistently features articles that break new ground,
and further our understanding of REH and his work. This journal
represents the "state of the art" in REH studies and criticism.
The first four issues of this journal were published by Necronomicon
Press and edited by Rusty Burke, the next two issuus were
published by Iron
Harp Publications and edited by Associate Professor Frank
Coffman. Currently, the journal is published by Seele
Brennt Publications and is edited by Professor of History
Mark Hall. This chapbook contains information absolutely essential
for anyone interested in Conan and other REH stories.
Highly recommended! A+
For more information
about The Dark Man, click on this link...
|| The Annotated Guide to Robert E. Howard's
Sword and Sorcery, by Robert Weinberg.
Copyright 1976 by Starmont house. Paper, 152 pp + vii. Out of print.
This author, the present owner of all that remains of the classic
pulp magazine Weird Tales, has written a comprehensive guide to
the Conan, Kull, and Kane stories. He says in his introduction
that the guide is intended to serve new readers of Howard's work
and of the genre, and to provide some critical commentary in a
area of fiction not often examined. The book does this, and more.
Weinberg's insights into the meaning, tone, and technique of Howard's
work are the opinions of an acute professional writer, who has
both the acquired understanding of the genre that a writer in
it must have, and the instinctive understanding and affection
of one who enjoys the field for its own sake. From his familiarity
with the subject matter, Weinberg also provides history and background
on the author and his work.
Weinberg's format for the examination of each story consists
of a character list, followed by an accurate and thoughtful plot
summary, followed by comments. This does provide useful information
for all new readers of Howard, but Weinberg's comments would be
valuable even to readers who knew the stories by heart. Weinberg
recognizes and articulates the important underlying mood of epic
grimness that plays the light and shadow of fate upon the subject
matter of Howard's stories. He calmly identifies what he finds
admirable and what he finds predictable or trivial in these pulp
adventure stories. And it clearly would please him to find his
readers disagreeing with him and thinking for themselves, for
part of his purpose is to provoke thought. Weinberg's commentary
is confident and competent. He is especially successful in recognizing
quotes that illuminate Howard's intent, and that show the nature
of his characters.
Very good! B+
|| The Blade of Conan
and The Spell of Conan edited by L. Sprague de Camp are paperback
volumes that feature articles from the famous Conan fanzine, Amra,
which was the magazine for the very first Conan fan club, The Hyborian
Legion. These books are actually a slightly re-organized reprint
of most of the articles from three earlier hardback editions: The
Conan Reader (Mirage Press, 1968), The Conan Swordbook
(Mirage Press, 1969), and The Conan Grimoire (Mirage Press,
The Blade of Conan and The Spell
of Conan are a fascinating compendium of articles on Robert
E. Howard's Conan stories and other fiction. Too numerous to list
here, the book contains essays on Hyborian technology, the editing
of the Conan stories, REH's orientation toward races, Howard's
Solomon Kane stories, and much more. They are excellent anthologies,
and though some information contained within the volumes is out
of date, the two books are more than worth seeking out.
Published by Ace Books in 1979 and 1980
respectively, these two paperbacks are an invaluable resource
for any Conan or REH fan. Both books are currently out of print
and only available through used book dealers.
Highly recommended! A
|| The Gazeteer of the Hyborian World of
Conan compiled by Lee N. Falconer
is a travel guide of Howard's fictional Hyborian world. It describes
and lists all the kingdoms, provinces, cities, and geographical
formations of Conan's Hyboria and cross-references them with the
Conan stories. Also included in this book is a similiar gazeteer
of the world of Howard's other barbarian, King Kull; and "An Ethnogeographical
Dictionary of the Principal Peoples of the Era".
This book is the most accurate travel guide of Howard's Hyborian
world that we have yet seen. However, because Ms. Falconer used
the Lancer/Ace edition of Conan books as the basis of her gazeteer,
and included the pastiches, the work is flawed. Still, it is obvious
that a lot of effort went into writing this book, and it is a
somewhat useful reference tool.
First published in 1977, the book is currently out of print.
|| Conan the Swordsman
is a Conan pastiche written by L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, and
Björn Nyberg. It is included in this list only because the
book contains an excellent list of proper names found in Howard's
Conan stories, with their definitions, and cross-referenced with
the stories. This list titled, "Hyborian Names," was compiled by
L. Sprague de Camp, with a contributing article from George H. Scithers.
The work was originally published as an ongoing work in progress
in the fanzine, Amra. At that time the article was titled,
"An Exegesis of Howard's Hyborian Tales." The essay was revised
and reprinted in The Conan Reader (Mirage Press, 1968). Later,
another article written by de Camp and published in Amra
(1969) titled, "An Exegesis of Names Discarded by REH," was added
to the essay which was eventually expanded into its current form
now known as "Hyborian Names".
Flawed by the inclusion of proper names from the Conan pastiches
and bowdlerized Howard stories found in the Lancer/Ace edition
of Conan books, "Hyborian Names" is never-the-less a very valuable
reference guide. Published in 1978 by Bantam Books, Conan the
Swordsman has been long out of print, but can now be found
in the anthology titled the Sagas of Conan published
in 2004 by Tor Books that also includes the article "Hyborian
|| Conan's World and Robert E. Howard
by Darrell Schweitzer is Volume seventeen of the Milford Series:
Popular Writers of Today, and was first published in 1978. The
book attempts to examine, critique, and evaluate Howard's Conan
Obviously prefering less adventurous fiction that is "...clever,
scholarly, frequently very witty, [and] a good observer of human
foibles..." Mr. Schweitzer unjustly saddles Howard's fiction with
a biased and nearsighted evaluation. It is not the fact that Mr.
Schweitzer gives a poor review of Howard's Conan tales that is
disconcerting, but rather the complete lack of originality and
the seemingly mindless reiteration of the corporate party-line,
coupled with inacurate facts about Howard's life and work, that
makes this book worth less than the paper it is printed on. For
example, on page 6, we find that Schweitzer adheres to the erroneous
belief that Howard "...wrote only for money." On page 58, Schweitzer
falsely writes, "His stories contain thrilling action, vivid description,
and sometimes first-rate fantastic invention, but not much else."
An attribution for Mr. Schweitzer's failure to discern the deeper,
artistic, sometimes symbolic meaning of Howard's Conan stories
escapes me. However, it is interesting to note that Mr. Schweitzer's
and L. Sprague de Camp's opinion of the Conan tales, and the stories'
author, coincide almost perfectly.
Currently out of print, Conan's World and Robert E. Howard
has the dubious honor of being the worst work of literary criticism
ever written about Howard's literature.
Avoid at all costs! F