Sunday, September 7, 2014
The Savage Tales Of Solomon Kane!
Relentless! That's the word I associate with Robert E. Howard's first great hero. The dour Puritan, hawk faced with steely blue eyes dressed in black save for a green sash is at once a dashing and gloomy figure. He travels the globe, from England across Europe and into Africa and South America on his seemingly neverending quest to right wrongs and bring vengeance to those folks who are God's helpless many. Kane never stops, ever. Not until he's found the rogue he searches for and not before he brings them to rough justice on the end of his rapier.
The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane from Ballantine brings together all of the Solomon Kane stories from Weird Tales as well as those published later in the 60's, including a number of fragments, when Howard's works were getting some well-deserved attention.
The early tales of Solomon Kane such as "Skull in the Stars" and "Rattle of Bones" are pure weird pulp, solid adventure with scary backdrops. With "Moon of Skulls" and even more in "Red Shadows" we get Kane traveling to Africa where the stalwart Puritan finds his true element. The Kane stories really pick up steam with "The Hills of the Dead" which brings Kane back to Africa and where he "partners" with the witchdoctor N'longa, who gives him an ancient carved staff, which completes Kane's armory of dagger, rapier, musket and pistols. The staff turns out to be far more ancient than Kane imagines and give the warrior a magical character he somewhat lacked before. His journey in Africa which has a real sense of continuity, continues in "Hawk of Basti" (fragment), "Wings in the Night", "The Footfalls Within", and "The Children of Asshur" (another fragment). This quest across Africa is properly weird and Solomon Kane finds himself in a world more complex than his philosophy heretofore contained, a world full of vampires, zombies, harpies, and even some startlingly depraved humans even.
I first read these Solomon Kane stories many years ago in the Bantam paperbacks, where Ramsey Campbell completed several of the stories which REH never finished.
Gary Gianni supplies some outstanding artwork for the Ballantine trade volume. His work is ideally suited to the historical pulp flavor of the stories.