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