Saturday, December 12, 2009


By Chester Himes

Cotton Come to Harlem is another off-kilter detective tale from Chester Himes. This is about rival back-to-the-land scams operating in Harlem. Rev. Deke O’Malley is leading the back-to-Africa movement, a mysterious Southern colonel is recruiting for a back-to-the-South movement. A heist of Rev. O’Malley’s money turns violent. The only clue is a bale of cotton that mysteriously appears and disappears throughout the story.

Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed do not so much unravel the mystery as they unravel O’Malley’s duplicitous life. In particular, his multiple lady friends and their mutual antipathy provide a reminder that a man who can’t keep his hand out of the cookie jar risks a great deal.

-Dave Hardy

Friday, November 20, 2009


By Howard Waldrop

Howard Waldrop seems to be an expert on everything just so he can write about it. It’s a bit like encountering a strange eclectic encyclopedia where the entries come to life and hold a booze party in the subconscious.

In this case the entries include Monster movies as seen from the point of view of the last survivor of humanity. A pair of travelers journey through a landscape created by Heironymous Bosch. There’s a loving tribute to the publishing empires of Onitsha, Nigeria (I’m not making that up either). The icing on this cake is “A Dozen Tough Jobs” detailing Hercules’ adventures in rural Mississippi. Strange Monsters is about as weird and weird fiction can get and highly enjoyable.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, November 07, 2009


It has been a while since I mentioned the talented GW Thomas. Here's a few links to his fiction & poetry online: Mr. Thomas is definitely worth spending some quality time with.

Don't forget that you can still get Dark Worlds #4 not to mention #1, #2, & #3. And of course Dark Worlds Adventures and much more.

Over on Kings of the Night there is a crop of new stories: "The Obsidian City" by James Lecky, "THWACK, the Last Arrow's Tale" by Peter J. Welmerink, "Brock Strangebeard and the Towers of Matterkill" by Robert E. Keller, and "The Crypt of the Cobra" by CL Werner.

Finally Swords of Fire will be coming soon! In the tradition of Lin Carter's Flashing Swords anthologies, Swords of Fire is a quadruple dose of Sword & Sorcery fiction, novellas of heroes and magic, featuring: "The Temple of Rakshasa" by David A. Hardy,"The Deathmaster's Folly" by G. W. Thomas, "Two Fools for The Price of One" by C. J. Burch, "Pieces in the Game" by Jack Mackenzie, and cover art by MD Jackson.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, October 17, 2009


My latest story is now online in the October 2009 edition of Static Movement, it is "Dies Ater Draconis." It's a short-short story in the steampunk manner, but using the Late Roman Empire instead of the Victorian era. I wrote it after seeing a documentary about the rediscovery of a lost work by Aristotle. The story is less about Aristotle than about a world where Hero of Alexandria's steam powered inventions became a force to be reckoned with.

In other news I've been a topic of interest in the British fanzine Ansible. David A. Hardy the space artist is a bit non-plussed to find that I write under the name David A. Hard. From the September Ansible:

Outraged Letters. THE David A. Hardy dissociates himself from a David A Hardy who writes stories for Dark World magazine. 'A fake David A. Hardy? I've had this name for 73 years; who is this pretender? Can any of your readers throw any light upon this travesty?' (Your editor's Cosmic Mind is quite able to imagine a real David A. Hardy II. The net is littered with other David Langfords.)

My reply in the October Ansible:

David A(llen) Hardy assures us his name is authentic. 'It is true that I've only had it for 42 years (one less than David A. Hardy has been doing freelance art), but I've gotten attached to it in the interval. [...] If it will help prevent confusion, I am prepared to swear that I, the David A. Hardy who writes for Dark Worlds, can't draw anything more complex than stick-figures.'

Good thing my parents didn't name me Harlan Ellison.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, September 27, 2009


By William Hope Hodgson

The third of Hodgson’s trilogy of weird tales (Boats of the Glen Carrig and House on the Borderland were the first two), The Ghost Pirates is also about survival when the very boundaries of reality are under attack.

If you are expecting a stoned, metrosexual freebooter, be warned. Hodgson’s Ghost Pirates is more like H.P. Lovecraft as re-written by Joseph Conrad than Keith Richards meets Blackbeard. The narrator tells of how he shipped aboard the Mortzestus, trying to get back home from ‘Frisco to England. The Mortzestus is a Jonah, an unlucky ship that few man sail in twice. The narrator soon learns why. Shadow-men climb from the sea aboard the ship at night. Sailors report unexplainable and deadly happenings in the rigging. Soon the vessel is under siege.

Hodgson gives way to far more technical sea-jargon (perhaps necessarily) than in previous stories. However that artlessness gives the story a bit more verisimilitude: it is told as a sailor would tell it. The Mortzestus is essentially a haunted house at sea. The “ghosts” are no more explicable than the creatures that beset Hodgson’s other narrators. They come from somewhere else, wreak havoc and vanish.

While the story is slow paced, it does have much of Hodgson’s strange and creepy imagery. Perhaps the best image I retain is the glimpse of shadowy masts and a hull, seen backlit by a sinking sun at sea, slowly turning to stalk the doomed ship. Read this one when the lights are dim and the wind is howling off the sea.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, September 26, 2009


By William Hope Hodgson

Nowadays critics like to talk about the “New Weird”. Me, I’m still getting a handle on the Old Weird. A good place to grab it seems to be at The House on the Borderland.

The book is the second of William Hope Hodgson’s trilogy of dislocation, survival, and doom. The first was The Boats of the Glen Carrig. Like its predecessor, House on the Borderland also employs a first person narrator. But instead of being castaway in a boat at sea, the narrator is trapped in his own home adrift in time itself.

The nameless narrator tells how he came tot he house to live with sister in a remote part of Ireland. He soon finds that he has terrifying experiences. Whether they are dreams, insane delusions, or real journeys is never quite clear, but the narrator finds himself hurled through space and time to an amphitheater under the last dying sun. Giant forms of animal headed gods watch as the narrator battles hideous pig-beings, the last human fighting for survival in front of his home which has traveled too.

Just as quickly the narrator is whirled back to his own time where the pig-beings have broken through to besiege his home. While his sister is mysteriously absent, the narrator and his faithful dog Pepper battle the pig-beings on our own plane. Then things get really weird.

The narrator explores the cellars of his home and a strange pit on his property, all the while he is subject to attacks of time-slippage where he lives millions of years seemingly in a moment. The end of the Earth becomes a familiar sight.

House on the Borderland is a very strange story. Often Hodgson’s love of bizarre imagery overwhelms the pace of the narrative. Critics will find a cornucopia of material for Freudian, Jungian or other forms of analysis. But readers do get to some memorably weird places, which is the point after all.

-Dave Hardy

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


By William Hope Hodgson

William Hope Hodgson was a sailor who left the sea to run a physical fitness and health food store before he took up writing. His stories are filled with deeds of action, physical courage, and adventures at sea.

Boats of the Glen Carrig tells the adventures of a boat of castaway sailors shipwrecked near the Sargasso Sea in 1757. The narrator is a passenger of the Glen Carrig. He gives a dead-pan recitation of the strange events that befell the unfortunate seafarers. They find a rotting hulk in a creek on a nameless island where strange and unnatural things roam at night. It’s a place to make a ship-wrecked sailor long for the sea.

The castaways escape only to find themselves trapped in a continent of floating seaweed locked tight about another island. They battle monsters that creep about the forests of fungi at night. Around the island are more hulks of vessels entombed in the seaweed. Led by the clever and courageous boatswain, sailors fight tooth and nail to survive the horrors the encounter.

Boats of the Glen Carrig is a unique sort of book. It is crammed with Hodgson’s deep nautical lore and told in an Eighteenth-century style. The result is sometimes awkward and sometimes a bit overloaded with nautical terms. But for all that it may work a bit better, for it avoids the contrived style of a professional writer making up a crazy story and sounds like an old sailor telling a crazy story. At times I felt like I was hearing an echo of a Ray Harryhausen script channeled by an old salt. At other times I thought of the wildly improbably D&D scenarios of teenagers whose imaginations were fired with Coke and Doritos. The story has a naïve love of wonder and action that ranges from Lovecraftian horror to Howardian blood-lust.

Hodgson was a favorite of H.P. Lovecraft, I expect that Robert E. Howard would have liked his work too. Myself I truly enjoyed it. The story has a freshness that overcomes the occasional amateurishness. It is also part of a trilogy of sorts that includes The House on the Borderland and The Ghost Pirates. Boats of the Glen Carrig is a delightful, creepy, action-packed monster-story of a kind that you just don’t see anymore.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, August 30, 2009


There's a new webzine dedicated to Sword & Sorcery in town. It's Kings of the Night, a mix of fiction, art, and genre history from the talented G.W. Thomas.

There's this marvelous cover art by M.D. Jackson:

To go along with the Frazetta-worthy art is superb Sword & Sorcery action:

Jack Mackenzie's Mark of Gennesh. Sirtago & the Poet undertake a dangerous mission that must balance the driving urge to save a loved one with a red-lust for revenge!

G.W Thomas' The Fount. Torel the Hunter finds a lost baby in this mythic quest for treasure.

An my own The Huntsman's Pack. Varronia and Morvran Tegd flee the fury of Saxon pirates only to find more deadly dangers lurk in Britain's haunted forests.

Take a look and let me know what you think!

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, August 22, 2009


By Jack Williamson

After the monumental scope of The Humanoids what more could be said about the star-spanning empire of robotic benevolence? Quite a bit actually. In The Humanoid Touch the focus is less on the Humanoids than their looming threat.

If the original novel was a parable of ‘50s America under the cloud of Nuclear Armageddon, then the sequel takes a hard look at the world of the ‘80s. The protagonist lives in a society founded on equality yet riven by class. They proclaim freedom, yet ruthlessly exploit their less-developed neighboring planet. Williamson tackles the Reagan era, neo-colonialism, and environmental degradation. While Williamson wears his New Deal liberalism on his sleeve, he avoids being overly preachy. Like the original, there is no easy escape from the trap humanity finds itself in. man may aspire to free his society, but freeing himself is much harder.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Directed by Ulu Gosbard

Back in the ‘70s, before his apotheosis, Dustin Hoffman was just a damn good actor. In Straight Time he plays the lead role of Max Dembo, an ex-con just out of prison. He tries to obey the rules, but he’s a stiff-necked and proud man. The bureaucratically bland arrogance of his parole officer (M. Emmet Walsh) leads him straight into a violent explosion and the life of crime he thought he could leave behind.

The film is based on No Beast So Fierce, by Eddie Bunker, an ex-con who took to writing to get out of his life as a criminal and ward of the state. Bunker also co-wrote the screenplay and tutored Hoffman in the life of parolees. It’s a gritty film, with taut and suspenseful robberies that have the feel of something you might see on a security camera, not Hollywood’s lens. Viewers of Reservoir Dogs will remember Bunker as Mr. Blue (he has a part in Straight Time as well). Quentin Tarantino has made no secret of his admiration of Bunker’s work and many little touches in Straight Time are echoed in Reservoir Dogs.

Ultimately viewers will have to decide to what degree they sympathize with Max Dembo. It would be easy to see him as just a victim. But that is to entirely miss the point. Dembo’s character creates his surroundings as much as his surroundings create him. Bunker’s and Hoffman’s genius was to show Dembo from both angles.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, July 26, 2009


My latest story "The Grey Div" is online at Abandoned Towers Magazine. It's a Sword & Sorcery tale that takes its cue from Persian legend. Just go to the menu for "Fantasy" and click on the link!

Also online is my Western "Jayhawker Ague, Bushwhacker Fever" online at Pulp Spirit, an e-zine associated with Planetary Stories. It's about a cattle drive to Sedalia, Missouri in the days of the Border Ruffians.

And finally, you can still see my tale "The Bunyip Sea" at Static Movement. Its a story of exploration and mayhem in the Australian Outback.

Feel free to drop me a comment here about any of the stories and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Dark Worlds #4 is out!


The feature tale is Derrick Ferguson's "The Tale of Baron's Tribute" -a Fantasy novella - (cover and illos by M. D. Jackson). Also in this ish are " A Little Nest Egg" by Ken Goldman - a creepy horror tale - (illos by Sam deGraff), "Ma Ca Rong" by Jack Mackenzie, an occult investigation by Harlan daVinci set in Viet Nam (illos by G. W. Thomas), "One Last Run, Among the Stars" by Michael Ehart - a space opera with plenty of heart (illos by M. D. Jackson), "Redneck Meatwagon" by Skadi meic Beorh - a futuristic horror tale (illos by Sam deGraff), "Midnight in the Wax Museum" by Orrin Grey is a comedic fantasy (cartoon illos by G. W. Thomas), "Black Sun", a Mythos SF tale by G. W. Thomas (illos by M. D. Jackson) and a Sword & Sorcery novella "Sometimes Death Gods are Merciful" by the master, C. J. Burch.

Also a review of Terror Time by William P. Robertson (Pennsylvania's poet laureate) with an interview.


By Jack Williamson

Clay Forester is a research scientist in a society poised for apocalyptic war with a totalitarian neighbor. Once he learned for the sake of learning, now defense work is his lifeblood, the essence of a society with a single-minded focus on war. Then the Humanoids show up.

In this tale of ‘50s America transported to outer-space Jack Williamson spins one of his most dystopian of utopias. The Humanoids are graceful, indestructible, black-plastic coated robots. Their single imperative is to serve and protect mankind, and especially to protect him from himself. The result is a surrealist tale of war between a galactic empire of robots and a tiny band of refugees waged on a level far beyond the merely physical.

Williamson’s mastery of pace and characterization match his grasp of the philosophical and moral complexities of his cybernetic proposition. The direst consequences proceed from a will to do what is best for mankind. Good and evil are sharply defined only to become confused again in an instant. The Humanoids is one of SF’s most challenging and rewarding novels.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I have a new story on Pulp Spirit #6. It is Jayhawker Ague, Bushwhacker Fever. The story is a Western albeit not the usual. In the 1850s, one of the main markets for Texas cattle was Sedalia, Missouri. That was where the railroad to the Northern states ended, thus it was where ranchers could drive cattle to sell to beef-hungry markets.

Of course Missouri in the 1850s was in the throes of a war between anti-slavery settlers in Kansas and pro-slavery settlers from the South known as "Bleeding Kansas." The rival factions were known as Jayhawkers (anti-slavery) and Border Ruffians or Bushwhackers (pro-slavery). Years ago I read R.H. Wilson's memoir With the Border Ruffians. Wilson was an Englishman who came to America and lived in the mountains of Virginia, tried settling in Kansas, and was a rancher in Texas during the 1850s and '60s. It gave me my first idea that the West was a good deal different from movie-Westerns.

Incidentally, I have long believed that the bitterness of "Bleeding Kansas" lingers on. I vividly recall Attorney General Ashcroft, a Missourian, announcing after 9/11, "We've secured the border with Kansas. I mean Canada."

Well of course. In their day men like James Lane, John Brown, and William Quantrill were regarded much as Osama bin Laden, George Bush and other GWOT luminaries: heroes dedicated to a principal to some, blood-thirsty fanatics to others. Though lacking the scope of our modern GWOT-warriors, they left a trail of death and destruction.

In this story, I have focused less on the politics than the economics of slavery, specifically the monetarization of people.

Pulp Spirit is a companion to Planetary Stories, their homepage is

-Dave Hardy

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


My short story, "The Bunyip Sea" is online now at Static Movement. It's a sort of Australian Outback-Western about the search for mysteries in the hearts of continents or of men.

An Australian Western may seem like an odd combination, but it seems natural to me. I grew up watching Westerns and reading Western history (from "Roughing It" to "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" to "I'll Die Before I Run" etc). When I encountered the history of other frontier lands of the Victorian era: Australia, South Africa, the Argentine pampas, & more, I realized the patterns I had of the Western: cowboys, Indians, outlaws, lawmen, etc repeated in strange ways across the world. However exception America is, it is the product of the forces of colonialism, the conquest of lands, the destruction of the natives and the construction of new communities from disparate elements.

This particualr piece owes a fair bit the Alan Moorehead's account of the Burke & Wills expedition, Cooper's Creek, though Graeme Clifford's film (starring Jack Thompson) and an ancient Smithsonian article on Burke & Wills shaped my imagination as it relates to those gallant, doomed explorers.

Speaking of cimantic Aussie Westerns, by all means check out The Proposition, directed by John Hillcoat & written by Nick Cave. Excellent perfomrances by Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson & Danny Huston to name a few.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, June 28, 2009


By Cornell Woolrich

When you think of dark, Urban Fantasy, you might think of China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, or Charles de Lint. I would chose Cornell Woolrich as the creator of a unique form that blended elements of crime fiction, horror, noir, and fantasy. H.P. Lovecraft might not have known it, but Woolrich wove tales of cosmic horror.

The premise to Night Has a Thousand Eyes is pure Woolrich: the race to save a doomed man. A policeman hears a young woman’s story. To save this woman, he must save her father from certain doom. Only the doom is not so much physical, as spiritual. A psychic has predicted a wealthy industrialist will die. The psychic’s astonishing record of true predictions seems to confirm his powers of prophecy. But the NYPD doesn’t believe in ESP. As the protagonist’s colleagues race to prove the psychic to be false, the protagonist must battle the malignant forces of the unknown that are driving the marked man into lethal despair. Night is Woolrich at his best, creepy, suspenseful, and utterly unpredictable.

-Dave Hardy

Monday, June 08, 2009


By Fritz Leiber

If there’s any creature that could break down the mental barriers of a repressed, death-oriented, and relentlessly conformist society, I suppose it would be cats. That seems to be Fritz Leiber’s opinion anyway.

The Green Millennium is about Phil Gish and his America. The Bureau of Loyalty keeps the population on the straight and narrow under its dimwitted, bible-spouting president. Fun Incorporated makes sure the citizens have funless fun. America’s real business is the permanent war against its enemies.

So far you may be wondering where exactly the SF comes in since that describes the current world. When Phil meets a friendly green cat called Lucky, all of the sudden his wretched life is full of joy. All his difficulties disappear, that is until the cat scampers away. Phil is not alone in his pursuit of the cat. Lucky is being chased by a shady scientist called Dr. Romadka, a group of wrestlers, Dr. Romadka’s daughter, and the Bureau of Loyalty. There’s also the question of whether Phil’s neighbor is human from the waist down.

The opposition of an anarchic love of life to oppressive conformism is one of Leiber’s favorite motifs. The Green Millennium has that opposition in its most anarchic form. The revolution isn’t brought about by conspirators or even beatniks, but adorable space-cats. One would be forgiven for finding it all a bit too cute. The hard edges have rubber bumpers. Not that this is all bad. Sometimes a little untrammeled optimism in the face of bad news is called for.

If only we had some green cats…

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, May 30, 2009


By Jim Thompson

Deputy Lou Ford is the kind of man who exemplifies the best in small town law enforcement. He doesn’t carry a gun. He prefers to reason with people. He prefers to keep the peace. Except that inside Lou Ford is a raging nut case, a time bomb whose first person narration ticks off the seconds to a horrific explosion.

Jim Thompson’s novel is perhaps slow, not unlike Lou, but it builds steam. The idyllic world of small town life is riven by hidden currents, secret hates that fester until they break into the open. Lou is simply the corruption and madness of his surroundings embodied.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, May 16, 2009


By Robert van Gulik

Robert van Gulik is the translator of Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee. He found such a warm reception for a two-hundred year-old Chinese detective novel that he began to write new tales of Judge Dee.

The Chinese Gold Murders is situated in the early days of Dee’s service as a magistrate (c AD 690). The good judge takes up a post in a provincial town. The judge’s predecessor is literally a predecessor. The judge has to get to the bottom of the last judge’s death before he joins him. Along the way there are encounters with highwaymen, smugglers, Korean exiles, ghosts, and mysterious priests.

The Emperor’s Pearl is similarly fast-paced fare. At the height of the Dragon Boat races, a drummer drops dead. Dee is plunged into an investigation of the man’s death. It is somehow linked to a centuries-old theft from the imperial household itself. There is also a marvelous supporting character in the form of a Mongolian lady-wrestler (I am not making this up).

Van Gulik was an expert on Chinese culture. His books are a marvelous exploration of Medieval China without any tedious lecturing. Van Gulik also has an eye for fantasy. While there are no flying swordsman action-heroes in the Judge Dee mysteries, the supernatural is never far away. Van Gulik’s Judge Dee mysteries are highly entertaining, with superb settings and engaging characters.

-Dave Hardy

Monday, May 11, 2009

REH Audio

In a hunt for something totally unrelated, I ran across these various older REH audio projects.

The first two are apparently from a 1975 radio drama series that was planned, but only these two ever got produced.

These are hosted on mediafire and you may need to register to download, but registration is free.

THE FROST GIANT'S DAUGHTER has eight Howard works recorded for free download, including Bear Creek.


Winner of the Howard Widow Lifetime Achievement Award

Sunday, May 10, 2009


By Poul Anderson

Doom, that is the word to describe Poul Anderson’s 1954 fantasy novel The Broken Sword. The tale marvelously evokes the Dark Ages and the world of Faerie as neither has been before or since. It is a fast paced tale of action and adventure suffused with tragedy, betrayal, cruelty, loss, and inexorable doom.

Like all good Viking tales, The Broken Sword is about family. Orm the Strong is a Viking chief who settles down in England. But his bloody rise to power has earned him an enemy who causes his first-born to be replaced with a changeling from the world of Faerie. The doppelgangers are sent separate ways, one to be a prince among the elves, the other to become an outcast among men until he realizes his destiny lies among the trolls. They come together when their tribes wage an all out war for control of the hidden world of Faerie.

The Broken Sword is almost too dark for mainstream tastes. That is what makes it so perfectly suited for the grim 21st century.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, May 02, 2009


By Sebastien Japrisot

Despite the cumbersome title, this is a taut little Euro-thriller. Dany Longo is a self-contained urban isolate. She is the child of WWII-era misery, hiding behind a cool exterior and sexy-librarian glasses. When her boss asks her to do a bit of overtime work at his luxurious Paris home, Dany finds it opportune to borrow his car and take a joyride to the coast.

The trip gets bizarre when people begin to recognize Dany even though she has never met them. A fling with a drifter complicates Dany’s road trip. Soon things occur without rational explanation. Suddenly she finds herself lost in a mental maze where reality has become unreal.

Japisrot is part fantastist (much as Cornell Woolrich, spinning a plot so intricate that it creates its own reality), there is a compelling realism to Dany. She’s a marvelous serie noir heroine.

-Dave Hardy

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009


By Barrington Bayley

Every time I read a Barrington Bayley novel I am more astounded. While serving up the most thrilling of Space Opera, Bayley never swerves from exploring the world of ideas with rigor and honesty.

In this case Bayley begins with the old saw that clothes make the man and develops it into an exploration of the role of external image in creating one’s internal identity.

A tailor named Peder Forbarth joins a group of gangsters in salvaging a wrecked spaceship. Part of the loot is a suit of Prossim, a special fabric that creates a unique psychic bond with its wearer. The question is open as to whether the man wears the suit of the suit the man. Forbarth’s new togs involve him in the galactic rivalry of Ziode—a culture indifferent to sartorial elegance—and Caean where fashion is the drug of choice.

Meanwhile a scientific expedition has discovered two rival cultures. Both live in the airless space between planets. A group of Soviets have encapsulated themselves in robot “bodies” while their Japanese rivals are deep-space yakuza pirates flying naked between the stars.

The novel takes a wild ride through the world of spies, conspirators, prison breaks, and galactic intrigue to get to the secret of Caean and Prossim. It’s a wild ride indeed.

-Dave Hardy

Thursday, April 23, 2009


By Harold Lamb

The final volume of Harold Lamb’s Cossack adventures takes Lamb’s work from his heyday in the pages of Adventure during the late 1920s to work done for Colliers to the last Cossack-themed tales that appeared in Argosy and even The Saturday Evening Post. One senses that Lamb was aware that his era had in some manner passed. There is an increased interest in lost cities and folkloric beliefs in witches and vampires, though never to the point of out-an-out fantasy. By the latter days of Lamb’s career he was no longer writing head-long adventure for the pulps, but had fitted himself a new role as biographer of famous conquerors and an interpreter of Eastern civilization in the nervous early days of the Cold War.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, April 18, 2009


By Karl Edward Wagner

Kane is the most unlikely of fantasy heroes, or indeed of any kind of hero. He is an educated gentleman with the appearance of a hulking, homicidal maniac. In fact, he IS a homicidal maniac, the first and greatest. What makes him so appealing is not that Kane is less of a SOB than the others he interacts with but that he is such a superb survivor, always staying a half-step ahead of the grisly end that invariably lurks.

Darkness Weaves was Kane's first outing. Avoid the first edition at all costs as it was very badly edited. In fact it was mauled. Subsequent editions show KEW's brilliance to full effect. Kane is recruited by a mad sorceress to overthrow an island empire. Kane, the sorceress, and a sub-aquatic horde of super-science using aliens form a trio of bad pennies , returning to wreak havoc.

Wagner was a master of pace, plotting, characterization and mood. The reader hangs on the edge of his seat, awaiting the next twist, the next betrayal in this slam-bang Sword & Sorcery novel. The macho-stylistics of revenge and ambition suffuse Darkness Weaves. One might say that KEW was the Quentin Tarantino of Sword & Sorcery. Or perhaps, Tarantino is the Karl Edward Wagner of crime movies.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, April 12, 2009


It has been just over a week since I learned of the deaths of Jon McCowan and Steve Tompkins. It is bitter news and still hard to understand. I offer my depest condolences to their families.

Joan McCowan was one of the great ladies of Cross Plains. Her kindly smile was one of the special pleasures of a visit to that town. She gave so much in kindness and support to the fans who traveled to Cross Plains on their pilgrimages to the hometown of Robert E. Howard. Journeys that were about a writer, who is long-gone though his writing is with us still, became about the town, a living place filled with the resilient people of rural Texas.

Joan's passing was not unexpected. The gathering in her honor in December last year was something in the nature of a farewell. I only hope that Joan knew how much she meant to us.

The loss of Steve Tompkins was an unexpected shock. We only met once at World Fantasy Con 2006. How I wish we had more chances to talk. Steve was well-known as a critic of great talent and breadth of learning in the field of REH fandom (dare I say studies, for if anyone gave that high-sounding epithet to the readers of old-time pulp fantasy, it was Steve with his scholarly grasp of literature). He introductions to Kull: Exile of Atlantis and The Black Stranger honor the author and his creations with lively, insightful commentary. Steve's essays were a delight, something I eagerly scanned The Cimmerian blog for. They were lively excursions into the hidden connections of pop-culture, history, myth, books, film, and anything else. They made me run eagerly to the library to study up on Steve's latest topic. That is what Steve did for me, he gave a sense of adventure and excitement in scholarship. Sgteve's own words will show that far better than I can. A small sample follows below.

Bicentennial Bash at the Dank Tarn of Auber!

Sticking to the Poe-Boy Diet

The Conscience, and the Kisses, of a King

What a Mummer Wild, What an Insane Child

Something to Do With Deathlessness, Part One: Violence Reigns

Something to Do with Deathlessness, Part Two: Eyes We Dare Not Meet in Dreams

Something to Do with Deathlessness, Part Three: Splintered Shards of Time’s Reflection

Grinning, Unappeased Aboriginal Demons

The Chants of Old Heroes, Singing in Our Ears

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


I've got a new post up at Last Free Voice. It's a little piece on censorship, travel and free speech. And Spaghetti Westerns (mmm... spaghetti...) titled Too Dangerous for Canada! Yes, the title has an exclamation point. You got a problem with that? -Dave

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


By Harold Lamb

The final volume of Harold Lamb’s Cossack adventures takes Lamb’s work from his heyday in the pages of Adventure during the late 1920s to work done for Colliers to the last Cossack-themed tales that appeared in Argosy and The Saturday Evening Post. One senses that Lamb was aware that his era had in some manner passed. There is an increased interest on lost cities and folkloric beliefs in witches and vampires, though never to the point of out-an-out fantasy. By the latter days of Lamb’s career he was no longer writing head-long adventure for the pulps, but had fitted himself a new role as biographer of famous conquerors and an interpreter of Eastern civilization in the nervous early days of the Cold War.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, March 28, 2009


By Karl Edward Wagner

Kane, the original killer, undertakes his most audacious exploit as he manipulates tow warlike kingdoms while dallying with an alien force of awesome power. The stakes are no less than world domination. Yet Karl Edward Wagner never loses sight of the human dimension, balancing Kane with Teres, and outrageous lesbian Amazon-warrior princess who grows in a way few cliché Sword & Sorcery characters are ever allowed to. This classic fantasy adventure novel deserves to be back in print along with KEW’s other Kane stories.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, March 21, 2009


By Harold Lamb

Volume Three of Harold Lamb’s Cossack adventures shows Lamb at the height of his powers. His stories are more taught than ever. This collection brings back Khlit the old Cossack ataman along with his grandson Kirdy, uniting them with Ayub and Demid, heroes from an earlier series of Cossack tales. Lamb’s plotting is at its most feverish, with action coming faster than in his pervious works.

Lamb should be a perennial favorite of all fans of high-quality historical adventure tales.

-Dave Hardy

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


By Charles R. Saunders

Charles Saunders
has a knack for creating unusual Sword & Sorcery heroes. How many African Amazons who are simultaneously sword-swinging brawlers and spiritual warriors are there?

Collected for the first time Dossouye brings together all the adventures of this unlikely heroine. We first meet her in an epic battle to save both her nation and her soul from demonic forces. It’s a classic good v. evil tale with lots of action. But from there Dossouye’s style takes a sharp turn.

Most of the Dossouye stories are set in an African-Gothic jungle. Dossouye battles not so much demons, but the part of the human heart that craves them. She does not engage in the wild-and-wooly intrigues of mercenaries and wizards among the mighty. Saunders even alludes to his unusual choice of setting and its effect on the hero he has created:

Her initial intention to sell the services of her sword in the other kingdoms that ringed the Gulf of Ubengi after she had departed Abomey had proved short-lived; it was as though the forest had entangled her like a spider’s web refusing to let her go.

Dossouye might easily be read as feminist-fantasy, throwing off the shackles of oppressive tradition. What gives these stories a depth that sets them apart from simplistic PC moralizing. Tradition exists for a reason Saunders reminds us and do-gooders must be sure they are truly doing good. If you like Sword & Sorcery, you may want to try out Saunders’ unique Sword & Soul.

-Dave Hardy

Monday, March 16, 2009


By Elmer Kelton

To my eye, Elemer Kelton never seemed fully comfortable with the traditional Western. His work is always deeply enmeshed in the complex and contradictory history of Texas. Kelton never tries to deconstruct the Western in the post-modern sense, but he never lets go of an often-deflating realism.

So, perhaps it should be no surprise that one of Kelton’s best Westerns ever is set in the 1950s. Charlie Flagg is an old-style cattleman who finds times changing too fast for him. Government regulations are encroaching, not only on illegal immigrants from Mexico and their employers, but more insidiously in the form of handouts and price supports. Relations between Anglos and Latinos are changing, for the better in some ways, but often painfully for all. Most painful for Flagg, his son is more interested in rodeo (and rodeo-bunnies), an ersatz dime-store version of the West, to take much interest in the work-a-day world of actual livestock raising. Above all an unending drought is killing land and livestock and driving the inhabitants to the wall.

Charlie Flagg stands through it all, perhaps the most heroic of Kelton’s characters, unyielding in his belief in right and wrong. This is no shoot-‘em-up, black-hat/white-hat Western. Rather it is the portrait of the closing of one era of the West and opening of another by a writer who knows the people, their times and their land intimately.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, March 14, 2009


By Robert E. Howard

This is the one and only true collection of Robert E. Howard’s “spicy” tales. Spices were risqué stories of the pulp era. They would generally fall into some recognizable genre, adventure, detective, zeppelin, etc. but with some semi-explicit sex.

The stories in this set oscillate between jolly ribaldry and sadistic cruelty. I’d recommend against reading too much into the latter. There was a strong tendency in the pulps to demand more sexually-oriented cruelty. After WWII the men’s adventure pulps became more-or-less entirely devoted to tales of torture practiced on helpless females by Nazis, Commies, hoodlums and horny rhinoceroses (Weasels Ripped my Flesh!). REH simply diagnosed the trend early. Though not averse to making a buck off of it (bucks not being easy to come by in the Great Depression) REH did write his spicies pseudonymously.

Once you can take a step back from the political incorrectness of the whole, one can read these tales for what they are: ludicrously over-the-top stories written in a not-so-innocent era before celebrity sex tapes and internet porn.

-Dave Hardy

Monday, March 09, 2009




By Wade Davis

Zombies are all the rage these days. Heck, there are even warnings about them on the trafic signs. If you need a fix of zombie but a re getting a bit tired of the cliches, here are two classics that look at zombies in the context of West Indian legend. Wade Davis got interested in zombies via the case of Clairvius Narcisse, a Haitian man pronounced dead, buried, yet who rose again as a true survivor of zombiesm. Davis’s explorations found startling evidence about how poisons could manipulate the appearance of life and death to create the “living dead” as part of an elaborate means of social control.

The Serpent and the Rainbow is Davis’s account of his adventures among dark wizards, secret societies, voodoo priests, and other folk in the latter days of the Duvalier regime in Haiti. Critics may note that Davis doesn’t much downplay the fedora & bullwhip aspects of his exploits. Not have scholars ever forgiven Davis for lending his book’s title to a horror movie. For myself, Serpent raises more questions than it answers about the relation between Haitian secret societies, the Duvalier dictatorship, and the role of zombies.

Passage of Darkness is a more scholarly book, but no less fascinating. It is also where Davis actually provides the recipe to turn a foe into a mindless living-dead slave. Good times.

-Dave Hardy

Thursday, February 26, 2009


By Billy Jaynes Chandler

The Old West of gunslingers, outlaws, scheming politicos, and ruthless land barons was not confined to the 19th century, nor was it confined to the West or even the USA. One of the most fearsome backwoods outlaws of the Western Hemisphere flourished in 20th century Brazil.

Chandler recounts the life and times of Virgulino Ferreira (1897-1938), better known as Lampião. Ferreira was an ordinary young man, a cowboy on his father’s ranch in Alagoas, Brazil. This was the sertão, the arid backlands of Northeast Brazil. If you didn’t want to join the impoverished masses you guarded your rights zealously. Moreover society was formed into webs of alliance and hostility between political rivals and their clients. The Ferreiras got mixed up in a feud with a neighboring clan. While the elder Ferreira tried to make peace, his sons were more mettlesome. They joined the cangaçeiros, freebooting outlaw gangs that acted as enforcers for politicians who weren’t successful enough to get their gunmen appointed to the police. Virgulino, now known as Lampião, “the lamp”, became the most feared of these outlaws. His father was unceremoniously gunned down by the police.

For over a decade Lampião rampaged across the backlands. He became powerful enough to make the politicians dance to his tune. At one point Lampião’s men were deputized to battle marauding communist rebels. At other times he held cites and even whole states to ransom. Eventually a new regime seized power in Brazil. The dictator Getulio Vargas gave special impetus to the hunt for the outlaw. Lampião came to a grisly end in an ambush at Angicos, an end not only for Lampião, but for the free-wheeling days of the cangaçeiro lifestyle.

Bandit King is an absolutely fascinating account of a savage frontier in its last days and the outlaw of epic proportions who dominated it.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I have recently learned that Leo Grin’s The Cimmerian, the premier journal of Robert E. Howard fandom, is ceasing publication. While The Cimmerian blog is still going strong under the direction of Steve Tompkins, the print journal’s last issue was December 2008, volume 5 number 6. The sad news was so low-key that I missed it until last week (though rumor had reached me a while back).

That’s maybe my biggest regret. Had I taken more time to engage in TC I would have known sooner. The past year has seen me put my efforts elsewhere, all to often saying to myself that the moment’s indulgence in sloth would not prejudice future good intentions. Well, the future, as they say, is now.

Editor Leo Grin published my first efforts at writing commentary and criticism on REH’s works. Leo is great to work with, he is the kind of editor who shows an author how to be his best, and demands it too. He demanded it of himself too. Leo pulled off a stunning achievement in producing a full twelve issues during the REH centenary of 2006.

The Cimmerian was always a pleasure. From its Gothic covers to the parchment pages it had a unique style that set it apart from other fanzines. I make the comparison to fanzines a bit deliberately. Leo was the driving will, the fantastic visionary of The Cimmerian. He had a vision of how good a home-made magazine could be and he lived up to that vision and beyond. The Cimmerian is not a slick, mass-produced article, but a remarkable series of little books that have a hand-made feel as if the monks of some Irish Abbey had become Conan fans. They are truly one-of-a-kind artifacts.

Farewell Cimmerian!

-Dave Hardy

Friday, February 13, 2009


From over at Dark Worlds HQ, word comes of issue number 3 of the acclaimed anything-goes-fantasy-sci-fi-mystery-adventure mag.

The third issue of the Pulp-Descended magazine of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery and other genres. This issue features the Fantasy "The Tomb of the Amazon Queen" by Michael Ehart. Also included are "Roadblock", a space opera adventure by Jack Mackenzie, "The Storming of Big Spree" an historical adventure by David A. Hardy, "Bayou Mirage" a Dark Fantasy by E. P. Berglund, "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie", a detective Mystery by Nick Andreychuk, "Laocoon" a Weird Western by G. W. Thomas, "Communications Delay, SF by Lee Beavington, and a Pirate Fantasy "Immortals of the Cannibal Coast" by Joel Jenkins and Martin Edward Stephenson. Our review/Interview is for BURY ME DEEP by Joshua Reynolds. Also includes a Dark Worlds Club section. Cover by Aaron Siddall. Illustrations by M. D. Jackson, Aaron Siddall, Sam deGraff and G. W. Thomas.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


By Edgar Rice Burroughs

When he wanted to take a break from Tarzan and Barsoom, ERB would occasionally try a Western. The Bandit of Hell’s Bend is one such. The theme is the classic one of stuffed shirt Easterners vs. Robust Westerners (a theme that I daresay underlies much if not most of ERB’s fiction). The foreman of the Slash Y ranch is Bull, a laconic and steady cowpoke in the traditional mode. But the Slash Y and its heiress, Diana Henders, must endure quite a bit before Bull’s finer characteristics are fully manifest. The dashing young cowpoke Colby seems to be the kind of vigorous man to save the ranch as outlaws and Apaches besiege it. Waiting in the wings to take over the Slash Y are a bumptious Yankee industrialist and Diana’s Eastern relations.

Hell’s Bend falls into the typical ERB silent hero, sterling heroine, & big misunderstanding plot category. While nowhere near as innovative as the pair of Apache Westerns ERB wrote (Apache Devil and The War Chief), Hell’s Bend is a decent old-school horse opera.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, February 01, 2009


By Maurice Shadbolt

Novels about the Maori Wars are perhaps uncommon, but the ones I’ve read are uncommon good. Season of the Jew is part farce, part Western shoot-‘em-up, and part Journey to Hell. The Maori Wars were an odd kind of conflict. They were essentially an Indian war, but fought in the temperate rain forests of New Zealand. They involved as much trench warfare as they did guerrilla warfare, for the Maori were advanced practitioners of both.

George Fairweather is a British officer who survives enough war to claim a homestead at Poverty Bay. He befriends Coats, a Maori who served on the side of the “pakeha”, as the natives call the whites. But persecution, exile, escape, and pursuit transforms Coates from a genially atheistic rum—runner into Kooti, a prophet of war seeking to purge his Zion of the gentiles. Fairweather pays dearly for lost friendship, and pays even dearer for simple humanity. Season of the Jew builds to one of the grimmest denouements I have ever read.

Shadbolt is an unusual writer, at times he is more at home with a sort of 19th century banter that seems to some by way of a 1940s Hollywood movie. At other times he depicts waking nightmares of wanton cruelty. It never comes across as mere shock either, man’s best is never far from his worst. While not a great stylist, Shadbolt was unflinching in his indictment of baseness and created memorable work from it.

-Dave Hardy

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


By Diana & Michael Preston

This is a biography of William Dampier the 17th century explorer and naturalist. He also happened to be a buccaneer and pirate.

Dampier was a typical English lad, if a bit precocious and pompous in his youth. Yearning to get on in the world, he went to the West Indies in 1674. But a life playing second fiddle to a Jamaican planter did not suit Dampier. He soon drifted into the company of lumberjacks. In the West Indies, logwood men were a tough bunch. Like the boucaniers of Hispaniola, the logwood cutters were frontiersmen living on the fringes of the Spanish colonies. And like the boucan-hunters, the logwood men liked a bit of piracy.

Dampier joined in the freebooting about the time that the raiders were moving into Pacific waters. Dampier accompanied them as medic on pillaging expeditions about the Spanish Main as well as in the Pacific. He was an unusual sort of pirate, as interested in carrying off scientific observations as loot (though he did pretty well in the matter of plunder).

A Pirate of Exquisite Mind follows Dampier on his many voyages and offers a wealth of detail thanks to Dampier’s own extensive memoirs. The Prestons examine not only the world that Dampier moved through, but also the man and his reaction to it. Anyone interested in the history of pirates and pillagers as well as those interested in exploration and science will find this book quite readable and informative.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, January 25, 2009


By Karl Edward Wagner

True confession, when the first Kane novel I read, Dark Crusade, did not impress me all that much. But I kept hearing from others just how good a writer Karl Edward Wagner was. So I gave it another try. I am glad I did!

Death Angel’s Shadow is some of the most hard-boiled Sword & Sorcery (KEW preferred to call it Epic Fantasy) that I have read. Kane is part Conan, part Elric, and I think part Charles Manson. Death Angel is a collection of three novellas where Kane tangles with cursed families, werewolves, dying cities, and the restless, hungry dead. Kane comes out on top, but only just.

The finest story here is “Cold Light”. A stalwart crusader pursues Kane into a remote wasteland. Kane’s multiple iniquities are never in doubt, but the hunter of monsters have an uncanny resemblance to their prey. KEW may not be a great stylist. I find his prose a bit too close to late-20th c. vernacular, it calls attention to itself when it should be silent and timeless. However, KEW manages a superb exploration of the razor thin line between good and evil that practically grabs the reader and slaps him across the face. I’m going to give Karl Edward Wagner’s stories more attention.

-Dave Hardy

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Also of note this week is the 103 anniversary o f the birth of Robert E. Howard, the fantastist, adventure writer, and poet of Cross Plains, Texas. For those of you who might be in that neck of the woods, there will be a birthday gathering at the Howard House and Museum this Saturday, the 24th.

Happy birthday, REH!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy 200th EAP!

Thanks to Steve Tompkins over at The Cimmerian I was notified that today is the 200th birthday of Edgar Allen Poe. We can all marvel at the longevity of Poe's works, as well as his amazing influence on children's television.

Pictured left to right, Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Poe.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Dir. by Larry Blamire

Larry Blamire is some kind of genius. Do you remember all those monster movies you watched on Saturday afternoons when you were a kid? The ones that later got the Mystery Science Theater 3,000 treatment? Well, Larry Blamire sure does, and I guess he misses ‘em ‘cause he done went and wrote his own.

Paul (Larry Blamire) is a Scientist who does Science about Meteors. Paul and Betty (Fay Masterson) head off to the cabin in the woods to find a meteor composed of Atmospherium! Alas, Dr. Roger Fleming (Brian Howe) is looking for the Lost Skeleton of Cadavara in order to help it take over the world! Meanwhile, a pair of aliens, Kro-bar (Andrew Parks) and Lattis (Susan McConnell), crash-land. Wouldn’t you know it but the mutant cage that holds their mutant breaks. Millions will die! Oh well…

The assorted loose cannons go about their merry way scheming to get a hold of the Atmospherium (a rare radioactive substance that emits radioactivity) in that Meteor! Dr. Fleming also has a date with Animala (Jennifer Blaire); a beautiful woman made from several woodland creatures. The lot of them have about the funniest dinner scene on film since The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, her Lover (I have a very inappropriate sense of humor). In the end Earthmen find that aliens aren’t so bad, and aliens discover that Earthmen aren’t just filthy monkey-people.

Anyway, Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is a spot on spoof of Z-movies that left me gasping for breath I was laughing so hard. Watch it Earthling.

-Dave Hardy

JoygirlCommando here- I just wanted to add, this movie is wholesome enough to let the kids watch, but don't let that deter you!!! Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is to B SciFi what This Is Spinal Tap is to the Rockumentary.

Friday, January 16, 2009


By James Hynes

The Lecturer’s Tale is a satire on academia’s culture wars dressed up in the Horror Genre’s kit. Nelson Humbolt is a lowly lecturer in the literature department at a prestigious university. When he loses his job and his index finger on the same day, he seems to have hit rock bottom. But mysterious forces swirl about Nelson’s re-attached digit. He gains the power to control minds.

Nelson’s new found powers take him on an unlikely bulldozer ride through campus politics. Nelson’s principal object of interest, other than his own, is helping his office-mate Vita Deonne advance her career. But nice-guy Nelson has a running battle with angry son-of-a-bitch Nelson. Meanwhile, Vita’s dark secrets threaten to undo any altruistic good Nelson’s evil sorcery might provide.

I rather liked The Lecturer’s Tale, but I freely admit I find French Theory a lot funnier than many other folks. The comedy is broad, at times a bit much. But the spirit of satire and the demolition of pomposity and folly works in any setting, even one as odd as the ‘90s Culture Wars. A special treat is the synopsis of Elvis Presley’s lost cinematic masterpiece Viva Vietnam!

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, January 10, 2009


By Benjamin Wooley

An account of the life and times of Elizabethan England’s foremost philosophical occultist. John Dee was a scholar so cutting edge that he went a bit over the edge. A brilliant man who boldly followed his curiosity wherever it led, Dee explored mapmaking, calendar reform, and astronomy. He also investigated alchemy and astrology, two subjects that Dee’s contemporaries believed to be as scientific, if not more so, than odd notions like Copernicus’s belief that the Earth orbited the Sun. It was spiritual communications and glass gazing that proved to be Dee’s downfall.

Dee came under the influence of one Edward Kelley. This young man was a skryer, one who gazed into a crystal ball and revealed hidden secrets, in this case messages from angels and spirits on how to translate the language of Adam and to find hidden treasure. Wooley meticulously documents just how much of a fraud Kelley was, for Kelley was definitely a fraud who took Dee for just about everything he had including his good name. The tale is s sordid one involving greedy kings, religious zealots, spies and con-men of every sort. The Queen’s Conjurer is a fascinating look at the occult underworld in Elizabethan times.

-Dave Hardy