Thursday, October 23, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 53 -- The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard

by Robert E. Howard

Started: Oct. 10
Finished: Oct. 23

Notes: Halloween is here, so it's time for some horror, and I'm in the mood to read some Howard, thus I get the best of both worlds in this collection. Some of these tales I've read before, even multiple times, such as the famous "Pigeons From Hell," but others are new to me. Sometimes I almost forget Howard penned horror, as I think of him as a fantasy writer first and a historical fiction writer second, then I think of him as a boxing writer; this book should set me upon a straighter path, I think.

Mini review: Much of this material might not be considered horror by today's reading audiences, more of action-adventure tales with horrific elements, though there is a strong Lovecraftian bent to a lot of these stories (obviously so, in a number of cases, which makes sense since Howard and Lovecraft were pen pals and friends of sorts). Also, I made the mistake of reading this collection straight through, and I believe the stories would serve the reader better by being read individually with some time and space between; Howard's themes, and sometimes even his characters and plots, are often similar enough to be downright boring when all engulfed in a relatively short period. That does not mean the writing was not strong. In fact, while much of the writing held Howard's typical flair for words, there were enough lesser-known and partial pieces here which showed Howard knew how to expand beyond the expected. I appreciate that. Is this worth reading? For the Howard fan, yes? Even the Lovecraft fan would be well served to drum through these pages. Fans of pulp fiction in general will find material here to enjoy. But the average modern reader? Probably not, which is a shame but a likely reality.


Charles Gramlich said...

I liked it a lot but of course I'm a big Howard Head. Definitely some lesser pieces there but I thought it was arranged pretty well so that you moved between stronger stuff and lesser stuff. I like reading that kind of thing from authors.

The Wasp said...

When I first read REH's horror I disliked it for what I considered a lack of subtlety. Revisiting it years later I came to appreciate it exactly for its pulpy, adventure plots.

Ty said...

That's a good point, about the "lack of subtlety." Howard has to be one of the least subtle writers of all time, and personally I think that's a big reason he was such a great short story writer. His rare longer works don't do as much for me, though I've still enjoyed them to some extent.