Conan, by Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, and Lin Carter

Conan, by Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, and Lin Carter book imageGenre:  Sword and Sorcery
Publisher:  Ace
Published: 1977
Reviewer Rating:  five stars
Reviewer:  David L. Felts

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I was in my closet the other day when, out of the corner of my eye, I spied a stack of my old D&D books, and by old, I mean old, as in Advanced-Edition-1980’s-high-school-Dungeons-and-Dragons-club old. Out of curiosity and nostalgia (mainly nostalgia) I pulled them out and have been glancing through them occasionally over the last few weeks.

Perusing my venerable Dungeon Master’s Guide, Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Deities and Demigods tomes awakened a bittersweet longing for those long ago and (from my 52 year-old perspective) simpler times. This led to a (re) investigation of a bookcase that occupies the same closet, a bookcase that contains books I’ve deemed worthy of keeping. Most of these are old as well, and among them are the 12 Conan books published by Ace back in the 1970’s (which are re-releases of the same books published by Lancer in the 1960s).  This particular volume is the Ace 1977 release.

I first discovered Conan at the age of 12, when a friendly middle school teacher (whose name I can no longer recall) let me borrow this very same book from the personal collection he kept in his classroom to loan out to students. It was my introduction to the world of speculative fiction. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Conan, by Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague De Camp, and Lin Carter, is the first volume in the Lancer/Ace original series. It contains an introduction by L. Sprague de Camp, a letter written by Robert E. Howard to P. Schuyler Miller, The Hyborian Age Part 1 (part 1 of an essay Howard wrote about the fictional setting of his Conan stories), and seven short stories about Howard’s barbarian hero, Conan. Howard wrote some of these in their entirely; others were assembled from Howard’s notes and/or outlines, adapted from other stories, or written outright (as in the case of The Thing ins The Crypt) by de Camp and Carter.

  • The Thing in the Crypt, by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter
  • The Tower of the Elephant, by Robert E. Howard
  • The Hall of the Dead, by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp
  • The God in the Bowl, by Robert E. Howard
  • Rogues in the Hall, by Robert E. Howard
  • The Hand of Nergal, Robert E. Howard and Lin Carter
  • The City of Skulls, by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

One of the things I enjoy about these original 12 editions is that they present the Conan saga in chronological order. This first volume, Conan, gives us stories of the erstwhile barbarian from ages around 16 until 18, relaying his adventures as he journeys from his far north homeland to the more “civilized” cities of the south. There, he gets by mainly as a thief, one who is more daring than skilled, or as a sell sword, which he happens to be pretty good at.

For life-long science fiction and fantasy fans, at least those from my generation, there are some characters that still stride large and distinct in our imaginations. Elric, John Carter, Tarzan, Dorian Hawkmoon, Thomas Covenant, Prince Corwin, Kane… and Conan.

Howard is one of the founders of adventure fantasy. His prose and stories has an undeniable energy and vitality. If you haven’t read any of his work, you ought to. And if you have read it, it’s well worth a revisit.

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