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.

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6 comments:

  1. I've never read any REH stories of Solomon Kane and I only know the character from the Marvel comics version - he was a back-up strip in the UK reprint of Savage Sword of Conan for a while and I remember quite enjoying the stories but it's so long ago that I can't recall much about them. In 2010 there was a movie version of Solomon Kane which I thought was quite good but there was no sequel so I assume it performed poorly at the box office.

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    1. The stories are better than most of the adaptations in my opinion. Some of the original stories, like the one which pits Solomon against Dracula are great on their own.

      The Solomon Kane movie was very very good, but for whatever reason was not released over here in the theaters. It did finally come out on DVD last year and I snapped up a copy. Watched it again just last week and it holds up quite well.

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  2. I got the Centaur Books series, which had Jones art on the three covers, presumably from the limited Don Grant book, where Jones was first noticed by the somewhat dim mainstream. When Wandering Star came out with the limited edition of Gianni's Kane I ended up having to buy a little promotional pamphlet, the Solomon Kane Sketchbook, because the hardcover was so steep. It was great when Del Ray finally released mass-market editions of all the Howard books. Gianni was excellent on Conan, too, but he really made Solomon Kane his own.

    To someone who has only experienced Howard through comics or film adaptations, I'd say the one big thing you're missing is the sheer emotional intensity of his writing. The best of his work, which I think includes Solomon Kane, will reach deep inside you for a stranglehold, because that's what Howard did with himself. I'd also add that he was a feverishly visual writer, who could create a rich and nightmarish landscape between your ears that is hard for even the most accomplished artist to achieve. Frazetta comes closest.

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    1. I agree with you on all counts. And Kane even more than Conan depended on atmosphere.

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  3. Have had a Jeff Jones print of Kane on my living room wall for over 20 years

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    1. Sounds like a lovely item. Jones really got the Puritan.

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