Sunday, December 02, 2012


The new issue of REH: Two-Gun Raconteur has hit the streets (I got my lovely copies in the mail this week). REH: TGR No. 16 is chock full of the high quality Howard fiction, essays & artwork you can expect from the hard-working Damon Sasser.

  • Full Color Cormac Mac Art Cover by Terry Pavlet
  • Inside Front and Back Covers: Scenes from “The Footfalls Within” by Bob Covington
  • Back Cover: The Sonora Kid by Richard Pace
  • “The Diablos Trail” by Robert E. Howard, illustrated by Jim Ordolis
  • “Miss High-Hat” by Robert E. Howard, illustrated by David Burton
  • “All the Crowd” verse by Robert E. Howard, illustrated by David Houston
  • “When the Dam Breaks: Violence and Wild Water” by David Hardy, illustrated by Nathan Furman
  • “Introducing…in this Corner…Kid Socko” by Brian Leno, illustrated by Clayton Hinkle
  • “One Gent too Many on Bear Creek” by Patrice Louinet, illustrated by Joe Wehrle
  • “Rogues in the House: A Conan Portfolio” by Michael L. Peters
  • “Robert E. Howard and the Lone Scouts: The Birth of The Junto” by Rob Roehm, illustrated by Bill Cavalier
  • “Ace Jessel and the Ghost of Tom Molineaux” by Jeffrey Shanks, illustrated by Nathan Furman
  • “Victory Revisited” verse by Barbara Barrett
  • Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology: A Review” by Morgan Holmes
  • Plus additional artwork and features.
Some highlights from No. 16, are Howard's own works, "The Diablos Trail," a Pike Bearfield tall-tale Western. Patrice Louinet continues the tall-tale theme with a look at the text behind A Gent from Bear Creek, the only Howard novel published in his lifetime. I take a look at one of Howard's dramatic Westerns, "Wild Water," a tale of revenge & madness in Depression-era Texas.

Brian Leno reports on James K. McGuiness and his Kid Socko stories' influence on REH's boxing comedies. Jeff Shanks examines another aspect of Howard's fiction & boxing history analyzing Ace Jessel & Tom Molineaux.

Rob Roehm brings his remarkable research talents to bear on the Lone Scouts and Howard's circle of friends known as the Junto.

There's also a Howard short-short, "Miss High Hat," a saucy tale of spanking & sorority gals.

There is also poetry by Barbara Barrett and Morgan Holmes' review of Griots, a Sword & Soul anthology, as well as lavish illustrations by David Burton, Terry Pavlet, Michael Peters, Dave Houston, Bill Cavalier and many others. The print run is 200 numbered issues, so order your copy today.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, December 01, 2012


Dir. By Vladimir Motyl

In the late ‘60s Vladimir Posner (father of Phil Donohue’s buddy), the boss at Mosfilm Studios wanted to make a western. He gave the job to a pair of screenwriters, Valentin Yezhov and Rustem Ibragimbekov. What Posner got back was not exactly a Western, but the very first Eastern.

Yezhov and Ibragimbekov transposed the Western cliches into a distinctly Soviet setting. Instead of a cowboy, the protagonist is a Red Army soldier, instead of the War Between the States, the era is the Russian Revolution, instead of Indians or bandidos, the antagonists are basmichi, Turkmen rebels. The result is a classic adventure tale told in a distinct and refreshing style.

Sukhov (Anatoli Kusnetsov) is a Red Army soldier on his way home. In the middle of the desert he finds a man buried up to his neck. This is Sayid (played by Spartak Mishulin), who, once rescued, promptly departs vowing revenge on the outlaws that killed his pa.

No sooner does Sukhov get underway than his is diverted again. This time he must guard a group of women rescued from the harem of Abdullah (played by Kakhi Kavsadze), a basmichi chief. Sukhov’s only help comes from Petrushka, a young private and Vershchagin, a former Tsarist customs officer.

Motyl takes a light approach to White Sun of the Desert. The film is part comedy, part action movie, with as much of the feel of a Russian folk tale as of a Hollywood shoot-‘em-up. White Sun was an instant hit in the USSR (thanks to an enthusiastic review by First Secretary Brezhnev) and is the prototype of the many “Easterns” that followed. This is perhaps one of the most accessible of that genre for Western audiences. I recommend it for someone looking for a departure from the usual Hollywood fare.
-Dave Hardy

Sunday, November 25, 2012


The Ginger Star
The Hounds of Skaith
The Reavers of Skaith

By Leigh Brackett

Leigh Brackett is my favorite Sword & Planet writer. Erik John Stark is like Tarzan, on Barsoom, as re-imagined by Raymond Chandler for a John Ford Western. But like Tarzan and cowboys, planetary adventurers need space. The problem is that in her lifetime Brackett scientific exploration overtook her. Mars rovers made it all too plain that the Red Planet hosted no lost civilizations, no ruined cities on the edge of drying seas, no silver-prowed galleys sweeping through ancient canals.

So Brackett just moved her hero a little deeper into space. The early Stark stories featured colonialist earthmen with spaceships, so why not get out of the solar system altogether? Stark is sent to the planet Skaith, out where Earth’s influence is at its ragged edge. Skaith is a dying planet under a dying sun. The whole dying thing speeds up when the locals piss off Stark.

Just as Stark’s Mars is a distinct take on Barsoom, Skaith owes a certain debt to Vance’s Dying Earth and perhaps to Flash Gordon’s duel with Ming the Merciless. It is a world under a theocracy. The Lords Protector and their enforcers the Wandsmen  enforce a rigid sort of wealth transfer between the shrinking base of producers and the class of wandering parasites called the Farers. Moreover, on Skaith humanity has fragmented, morphing their forms adapted to the environment at the cost of having anything in common with their fellows. Culture is fragmented as well, consisting of isolated and backward city-states. But there are prophecies of a Dark Man who will overturn the world.

Stark does some overturning alright. He’s there to look for a friend who disappeared while helping some of the productive people escape the tyranny of the Wandsmen. The novels are a series of adventures as Stark wanders Skaith giving the Lords Protector hell. It’s a bit like a hard-boiled movie serial.

The real secret is that Skaith is Earth, specifically America c. 1970. The Farers are hippies gone feral, the Wandsmen are the PC police of a decadent welfare state. It’s an interesting take though perhaps your mileage may vary. I rather liked the Skaith novels, though I find the early Stark tales, rooted in nostalgia rather than insecurely clinging to it, better.
-Dave Hardy

Sunday, November 18, 2012


By Barrington J. Bayley.

Barington Bayley’s novels are about exploring ideas, in this case its high-stakes gambling. The stakes are high indeed for Scarne, a renegade mathematician working as an undercover agent to infiltrate the Grand Wheel. The Wheel is a consortium of gamblers, part Vegas, part Mafia. They are the alternative to the Legitimacy, the inter-stellar empire.

You’d thing the guys with blasters would have it all over the guys with cards, but the Legitimacy is engaged in a losing war with the Hadraonics. The complicating factor is they are fighting in a region where stars go super-nova without warning. Military commander Hakandra is relying on semi-mystic powers of a youth named Shane to understand when stars will explode.

 Both the Wheel and the Legitimacy seeks  to control the unpredictable, the Wheel the turn of cards in a game where the rules change from second to second, the Legitimacy the forces of nature and the course of war. Underneath the fast-paced space adventure is a meditation on powers that seek to control the uncontrollable and the manner in which they gamble with the lives of others.
-Dave Hardy

Sunday, November 11, 2012


By Cornell Woolrich

Cornell Woolrich is closely linked with the roman noir of ‘40s America. The archetypal noir takes place in a big city, a sooty Northern town, or a sun-lit California dreamscape. In Waltz into Darkness, Woolrich winds back to the South of the late 19th century. It’s a world of rigid social codes, a bit archaic, tradition-bound, and old-fashioned. Woolrich dives into it, but doesn’t shed his bleak outlook along they way.

Louis Durand is a successful man, but one who has missed the true meaning of success, love. But someone has stepped into his life, Julia, and their waltz begins. In true Woolrich style, happiness is elusive. Woolrich’s castles are all built on foundations of air. Reality is elusive too, but love and fear are mankind’s constant companions, the mainsprings of action.

Durand discovers that the love he thought he’d found is not what he had imagined. The reader follows him on a journey of self-discovery, fraught with suspense and  terror. Who is the Julia that Durand loves, and if she is not that person, does he still lover her. The reader is left guessing until the very end, just as much as Durand is.
-Dave Hardy

Sunday, November 04, 2012


By Philip José Farmer

PJ Farmer was obsessed with the history of spec-fic, his stories cheerfully plunder pulp SF, Tarzan, Alice in Wonderland, Doc Savage, and of course Oz. And by Oz, I mean the novels written by L Frank Baum at the turn of the 20th century, not the (justly famous) movie.

A Barnstormer in Oz tells of Dorothy’s son, Hank, now a grown man making a living putting on airshows in the heartland. Then he flies through a green cloud and finds himself in Oz.

Only we’re not in Oz anymore. Farmer knows Baum’s works inside and out, so for those who have read beyond The Wizard of Oz may expect to find a lot of Easter eggs.  Farmer doesn’t stop there though, he creates a mythic past for Oz involving ancient races and migrations of alien life forms from alternate dimensions. He also finds a linguistic basis for Quadling (a language related to Munchkin) in Gothic (it’s a real language, not just a subculture for kids with dyed hair and too much makeup, and in the late Roman empire a Gothic priest, Wulfila, translated the New Testament into Gothic) that would make Tolkien proud.

Not that Barnstormer is some dry academic tome. Frankly it has more sex and violence than a lot of novels, and a lot more than you might expect in a tribute to a children’s classic. The pace moves at breakneck speed as Hank helps Glinda the Good with an invasion from Earth in the form of the US Army and all-out war with the Wicked Witch of the North.

Honestly, I enjoyed the book, yet I was a bit put off at the same time. Does one really need to know the details of birth-control in Oz? Or the exact nature of the magic that animates scarecrows? Barnstormer is a gritty tale, with the horrors of war conveyed in grim detail. The quaint folk you saw cavorting on the Yellow Brick Road, are revealed as strange, pagan, and fully capable of cruelty. While Farmer fans and those looking for radical re-casting of classic tales will enjoy this, if you can only bear to see Oz through the lenses of childhood nostalgia, you may want to go cautiously.
-Dave Hardy

Sunday, October 28, 2012


By James Carlos Blake

An outlaw telling the tale of his life and how it intertwined with that of Pancho Villa, the revolutionary, bandit, & warlord of North Mexico, in the upheaval of the Mexican Revolution is apt to have more than a few cynical observations. As in, all his observations are cynical. Rudy Fierro relates his life as Pancho Villa’s right-hand man from the coming of the Revolution to Villa’s death in the 1920s (in fact Fierro is based on a historical figure, one of Villa's lieutenants). Fierro is not interested in revolution as a means for social justice, he’s interested in as a way to be utterly free of any restraints. He kills, boozes, and screws his way across Mexico with absolute abandon. There are no social bandits in Fierro’s world, except by accident. For Fierro is an unreliable narrator, filtering everything though his own self-centered world. He recognizes Villa’s charisma and appeal to the masses, yet survival means keeping to the code of the killers that overthrew the old regime. Indeed Fierro bears little ill-will for the rich and powerful as such, only contempt for their inability to hold on to what they had.

The Friends of Pancho Villa is perhaps less a novel than a running commentary on the nihilism of war. What Mexico endured was less a revolution than an unraveling of society, where violence became the norm, and those who were personally adapted to use it as the first resort were the fittest for survival. Blake views the whole from one skewed corner, yet manages to cut right to the heart of the contradiction that purging society of injustice by violence, merely creates greater scope for injustice.
-Dave Hardy


Sunday, August 26, 2012


By Howard Waldrop

Howard Waldrop is a writer that is a bit hard to define, but I’ll try anyway. If I had to pick two adjectives to describe Waldrop, they’d be playful and weird.

Night of the Cooters is a collection of Waldrop short stories. The stories in Cooters are all introduced by Waldrop and some are even annotated. It’s clear that every tale has its own story rooted in the dreams, frustrations, and pop-culture consumed by the author. And that they are all Howard’s babies.

And what babies! The title story follows the venerable tradition of re-telling H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, this time telling how the invasion ran into a bit of trouble in a small Texas town. “French Scenes” is an homage to the masters of homage, the film-makers of the nouvelle vague. “The Passing of the Western” is a retrospective on the Western genre in a world where rain-making devices really worked. “Thirty Minutes over Broadway” shows a war-weary Jetboy returning to an America he can’t quite come to terms with, except for when he’s battling bad-guys. “Wild, Wild Horses” is perhaps my favorite, recounting an epic bit of smuggling, mythic creatures, and a Roman Empire in decline. “Do Ya, Do Ya Wanna Dance” takes us to a high school reunion that relives the best of the sixties during the worst of the eighties.

To return to the task of defining Waldrop’s writing, perhaps his distinguishing characteristic is to take the collective memory and turn it around. What comes back to us is familiar, yet new, and pretty marvelous. There’s a line in this book that captures the essence of what Waldrop does so well,

Like in Riot in Cell Block 11, when Neville Brand gets shot at by the prison guard with a Thompson, he yells:
“Look out Monty! They got a chopper! Back inside!”
What the Cahiers people heard was:
“Steady mon frere! Let us leave this place of wasted dreams.”
Yup, I think that’s exactly what Mr. Waldrop hears. I try to hear it too.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, August 19, 2012


By Barrington  J. Bayley

An early classic from Bayley. Rodrone is an inter-stellar outlaw, not so much a Blackbeard of the spaceways as a ‘60s-style rebel-desperado. The galaxy is controlled by the Streall, a highly conservative alien race. But Rodrone has got his hands on something that threatens their hegemony. It’s a twisty little novel with a mcguffin at once compelling and impossible to pin down. The ultimate question is less about how to get power than asking what it means to have it.

By John Jakes

This Bayley novel was only ever published as part of an Ace Double with John Jakes’ Mask of Chaos. This too fits into the counter-culture motif of the era. Mike is a micropig, a cybernetically enhanced man, who faces prejudice and hostility because of his origins. He finds himself stranded on the planet Tome, a perfectly ordered world where people live behind masks, literally (an interesting touch, reminiscent of Moorcock’s Granbretania). Here he meets Ab, a down-at-the-heels drifter with a rebel-streak a mile wide. They find themselves recruited (rather unwillingly) for a science-fictional reality TV show even more vicious than Real Housewives of Atlanta.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, August 12, 2012


By George Allan England

If George Allan England were around today, he might find himself in the same boat as Salman Rushdie, Theo van Gogh, and the editor of the Jyllands Posten. Some sensitive folks might take offense at a story about a plan to loot Mecca of its holiest treasures. 

The Flying Legion is about a WWI ace, known only as “The Master”, he is bored by peace so he gathers a group of fellow soldiers of fortune, steals the worlds most advanced airship, and takes of to find a lost city deep in the Arabian peninsula. Along the way super-science weapons are deployed and a mysterious masked airman shakes things up. Things don’t go quite as planned, which makes it all the livelier.

I must make a few observations here. The Master is not a likeable character. Despite his reluctance to shed blood, he is still an outlaw and a rather stiff one at that. Frankly I found myself sympathizing with the Meccans as the Flying Legion descends on the holiest city of Islam. Not that I can say for certain that England didn’t intend those effects. At times he almost seems to be satirizing the conventions of pulp fiction more than playing to them.

First penned in 1919, The Flying Legion is out of print, however electronic versions are available from Project Gutenberg and other online sources.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, August 05, 2012


By Neal Barrett Jr.

Neal Barrett Jr. deserves to be in a special category of fantasist among writers like Fritz Leiber and Jack Vance. Like them, Barrett is a master of absurdist Sword & Sorcery. The protagonist of The Prophecy Machine, Finn, is s lizard maker, that is he crafts exquisite mechanical life-forms. Finn, along with his beloved is Leticia Louise (a Newbie, as humanized animals are called in Finn’s world) and Julia Jessica Slagg, the lizard to end all lizards, get stranded in Mahasar where everyone is more-or-less insane. Finn regards himself as eminently sane, and is increasingly (and comically) frustrated by the shenanigans of Mahasar.

Soon Finn is drawn into a bizarre mystery involving rival sects of madmen, his deranged host, bad food, and a machine of awesome, yet obscure power. The Prophecy Machine is rather like Skinny Annie Blues, a way of torturing the protagonist in a delightfully amusing way while putting a fresh twist on old genre standards like fantasy and mystery.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Hey is June over yet?

Well, that’s what happens when you get busy. I spent a good bit of last month writing a space-whale Planetary Romance for a Big Project ®. It needs a fair bit of editing, but that’s how it goes.

In the meanwhile I attended the Turkey City writer’s workshop on July 7th at the home of the gracious Chris Brown. There were a total of no less than eleven writers in attendance including Bruce Sterling, Jessica Reisman, Don Webb, Lawrence Person, and Elze Hamilton. (I apologize for not listing everybody with appropriate links, butthis is a qucik & dirty blog update.) I have to say I was honored and humbled to be in such talented company. I also had a very good time and learned a lot about critiquing fiction.

As it so happens on the very same day, my two-story collection, Tales of Phalerus the Achaean hit the street. Phalerus is a Bronze Age Greek warrior in a world where sorcery and the sword are powerful. In “Day of the Boar” Phalerus confronts a monster and faces the dark truth of his clan’s origin. “Killers in the House of Life” is a noir tale of Egyptian tomb robbers, corrupt priests, and haunted crypts where Phalerus finds himself caught a in murderous underworld feud. Tales of Phalerus the Achaean is available from Musa Publishing.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, June 03, 2012


By Michael Moorcock

There’s a certain revival of interest in the Sword & Planet genre. For those of you unfamiliar with the term it is the older bother of Sword & Sorcery. Instead of a magical world, the sword-swinging hero is on a planet, generally on littered with the remains of lost super-science-using civilizations. The prototype is Edgar Rice Burrough’s A Princess of Mars, recently adapted for the screen by Disney (a much better film than the moaning about money might have led one to believe). ERB laid out a program for the genre: a daring American hero (John Carter) who relates his adventures including the wooing and loss of a princess (Deja Thoris) to a pseudonymous author (Norman Bean).

Part of the revival is Michael Moorcock’s three-volume series featuring Michael Kane on Old Mars. Paizo has recently re-printed those, though the earlier paperbacks can still be found. Kane is a scientist who builds a device to transport himself to an alternate universe where Mars is verdant world of adventure filled with danger, secrets, lost cites, and beautiful women. The stories are unabashed love-letters to ERB & John Carter. Moorcock even follows the route by interposing a fictional author, Edward Powys Bradbury, as the transmitter of Kane’s derring-do. Although the stories were written in the mid-‘60s, Kane has another parallel to John Carter, they are veterans of Lost Causes. Carter is a Virginian who fought under Robert E. Lee while Kane served in Vietnam, a cause that wasn’t even officially lost. The Kane series is about naïve, romantic adventure, not the world-weary doom-journey of Elric or the philosophical abstractionism of later Moorcock Fantasy novels.

Another classic Sword & Planet hero from Moorock’s pen is Sojan the Swordsman. Sojan occupied a place somewhat in between S&P and S&S, though the distinction is often slight. Sojan is an early creation, and the work seems less a naïve, retro-fantasy than, well the work of a young writer back before that stuff was retro. Sojan has been re-printed many times. I met him in Elric at the End of Time. The title story is a wicked mash-up of  ultra-decadent and ultra-violent Elric with the ultra-decadent and ultra-bored Dancers at the End of Time. I’d advise reading An Alien Heat as well as some Elric stories before reading “Elric at the End of Time” if only to get a feel for the characters in their original state. It makes the party that much better. End of Time also has some essays by Moorcock on the artistic and business stories behind some of his better known characters. The anthology winds up with “The Stone Thing” one of the better Sword & Sorcery parodies I’ve ever read.

-Dave Hardy


Sunday, May 27, 2012


By C.S. Forester

Better known for his Horatio Hornblower tales, Forester also wrote this series of short stories about the US destroyer Boon set in the Pacific during WWII. Forester is an odd sort of adventure writer, he always seems more at home with the unassuming fellow who does his duty quietly in a very decent, English sort of way. I am particularly fascinated by Forester’s attention to the role of supply and the men who get supplies where they need to be. It’s a subject close to me, for my mother served as a supply clerk in the WAVES in 1944-45 and later worked as a civilian employee of the navy in the supply department.

Quite frankly supply departments are not terribly dramatic. Supply issues get rather more interesting when they involve unloading thousands of gallons of gasoline while being bombed by the Japanese. But that is really Forester’s drawback. While he’s excellent at depicting the quiet, unassuming fellows, who keep the machine running even in the midst of disaster, one seeks in vain for a sense that sometimes things just won’t work. I occasionally found myself yearning for a character to snap under pressure. Or a hint that landing the gasoline is not enough. That war is about pointless death and waste. But that is antithetical to the style of heroism Forester strives to depict, the quiet, unassuming execution of the plan, until the job is done. It’s not a bad sort of heroism, I think a lot of people got through the war that way. God bless ‘em.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, May 20, 2012


By Cornell Woolrich

Cornell Woolrich was the undisputed master of noir. His tales were less about crime than explorations of the human heart, the twisting byways of trust, betrayal, and the deeply irrational side of fear. Black Alibi fits squarely in that tradition. The mcguffin is an escaped black panther, a dangerous “pet” belonging to an American movie star, on the loose in a South American city. The actress’s manger is honor bound to retrieve the creature. What Woolrich tells is only partly the tale of the pursuit of the panther, but a series of sketches of prospective victims, with the reader never knowing if they will pass through safe, or die under the fangs of the beast.

It’s not your usual crime novel.

Woolrich lived for part of  his youth in Mexico City. Black Alibi is infused with the poetry and rhythm of life in Latin America, the joys and sorrows heightened. No Black Alibi isn’t a crime novel, it’s a romance, a love story, a story about life in its glory and misery. It’s a fantasy, an idyll, it’s noir.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, May 13, 2012


By Barrington J. Bayley

Another of Barrington Bayley’s swinging philosophical space operas. This is no less than the decline and fall of an empire that rules not only space, but time. Unlike H. Beam Piper’s Paratime worlds, they don’t simply observe and exploit the past, the people of Chronopolis have gone beyond Fritz Leiber’s Spiders and Snakes, they are not content to infiltrate and alter the time stream. In true imperial fashion, Chronopolis just re-makes it, with vast temporal roadblocks keeping their bubble of time pristine and free of any influence save the empire’s. Time exists in nodes, wave peaks and troughs, always marching onward serenely, never interfering with one another.

But no wave can avoid ripples. Imperial princes may form misalliances between past and future selves. The borders are under attack. Within secretive cults seek to spread chaos and fear. Against the rising tide of temporal decay, a hero arises, Aton, a disgraced time-ship commander on a deadly mission to confront the demonic forces at the heart of time.

This is classic Bayley, part science fiction, part fantasy; sharp, to the point, with a headlong pace that has room to offer wild insights into science, philosophy, and human nature.

-Dave Hardy


Sunday, May 06, 2012


By Michael Kunze

This is an extraordinary work of history. Michael Kunze is not the usual sort of historian, he is best known as a translator, but he studied history and wrote his thesis on the trial of the Papenheimer family. In due course he produced this work of one of Europe’s best-documented witch trials.

In the early 1600s Germany was spiraling toward all-out war between Protestants, Catholics, Imperial authority and independent principalities. Munich in the duchy of Bavaria was a center of the Counter Reformation, a place where Catholic intellectuals gathered at the ducal court to lay the groundwork for a new century. Into this came the Papenheimers, a family of itinerant septic-tank cleaners. An accusation by a thief they had some acquaintance with led authorities to arrest them on the charge of witchcraft. What followed was an atrocity of small-scale, yet savage, bestial cruelty. The Papenheimers became the focus of an effort to purge the troubled land of Satan’s influence. They were tortured with inhuman cruelty until they confessed a myriad of crimes. Even more unspeakable was their execution, carried out with demented brutality. Every act was meticulously documented and carefully authorized under the rule of law.

Kunze examines the world of the Papenhimers and their persecutors. His account considers the lives of beggars, thieves, travelling fold, lawyers, and nobles. Kunze does not shy away from the cruelties inflicted on the Papenheimers and others caught up in the withchunt. This is not an easy book to read, it took me well over a decade before I could bring myself to read it to the conclusion.

Kunze sticks closely to the facts, presenting them in a straightforward fashion. One almost senses a subtle message at work here. The 17th century permitted abominations like the Papenheimer trial despite the warnings of men troubled by the flawed logic and evident cruelty of witch hunting. For the most part witch-hunters were honored and rewarded. Indeed, given the seeming collective insanity that perpetrated the Thirty Years War, the witch hunters crimes are at least limited. Indeed, when Kunze wrote this in the early 1980s, the crimes of the Third Reich were living memory. There were yet men willing to shoot and kill people for the crime of crossing the Berlin Wall. Germany was still divided from the last global war and the common wisdom that the next, by no means an unthinkable occurrence, would annihilate mankind. In his own, understated way, Kunze throws a piercing light on the recurring moral questions of mankind.

-Dave Hardy

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


I'm usually the one doing the reviewing, so it's a pleasure when someone reviews one of my works. This one is courtesy of  Keith at Adventures Fantastic blog. It's a review of "The Last Rune" (online at Sorcerous Signals).  Adventures Fantastic is a great blog for fans of SF, Fantasy, and Adventure. Keith is, I should add, a Robert E Howard fan of long-standing and some distinction.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


By Robert E. Howard

While Robert E. Howard is best known as the guy that came up with Conan, the barbaric, unstoppable killing machine that changed the rules of fantasy forever, he was also the author of many tall-tale Westerns. Breck Elkins is a Conan with a Texas drawl, instead of a broadsword, he has his unstoppable fists. Too good-natured to be homicidal, Breck actually is the lunkhead so many assume Conan is. It’s not so much that Breck’s a bull in a china shop, but the world is too fragile for a lad of his strength. The fact that he doesn’t feel pain makes him a bit careless of regular folks, with their odd manner of reacting badly when a hot stove falls on them. Not that Breck would do that on purpose, but when he’s around he tends to throw stuff such as stoves, barrels of gunpowder, or mountain lions.

What might surprise you is how successful they were. REH never got Conan into a hard-cover collection in his lifetime, Breck Elkins was picked up by Herbert Jenkins, a British publisher eager to offer up Texan humor to the reading public of the UK. The resulting collection was titled A Gent from Bear Creek and fit a number of stories into a running storyline.

The Riot at Bucksnort takes a looser approach to Breck’s adventures. This set includes “Meet Cap’n Kidd,” perhaps the funniest of them all, detailing Breck’s encounter with a wild stallion, about the only creature that can match Breck in strength, and by far his superior in orneriness. The only ones that get the best of Breck and his ilk are the ladies, Glory McGraw in particular. Breck’s wooing of Glory formed the basis for A Gent from Bear Creek. Not that romance ever causes Breck to settle down.

Riot also contains a couple of tales featuring Pike Bearfield and Buckner J. Grimes, characters in a similar vein to Breck Elkins, though with their own quirks. All of the stories are mirthful yarns of Western slapstick, where gigantic hill-billies blunder their way across the landscape.

Perhaps the best way to convey what these stories are like is to give a little taste of fatherly advice on Bear Creek:

“Be keerful how you spend that dollar I give you,” he said. “Don’t gamble. Drink in Reason; half a gallon of corn juice is enough for any man. Don’t be techy—but don’t forget yore pap was once the rough-and-tumble champeen of Gonzales County. Texas. And whilst yo’re feelin’ for the other feller’s eye, don’t be keerless and let him chaw yore ear off.”

Words to live by.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, April 21, 2012


My short-story, “The Last Rune,” is online now on Sorcerous Signals. This tale features Ulf Blood-eye, meeting Starkad the Betrayer yet again in battle. For more on the bloody feud of Ulf and Starkad, check out Mystic Signals 9, for “Vikar’s Doom.”

I have been fascinated with Vikings and Norse legends since I was a kid, reading a book from the 1890s (it must have belonged to my grandmother, I can’t recall its name). But it had re-tellings of the Prose Edda and other Norse myth. My favorite was the story of the giant  Utgarth-Loki and how the Aesir slept in his glove and thought it was a house with five rooms (really long, narrow rooms). Edith Hamilton, Magnus Magnusson, Poul Anderson, and yes, Marvel Comics’ Thor played a big role in keeping me interested in the gritty and violent details of the Viking Age without losing touch with the glorious fantasy that so captured my imagination.

Also, please take a look at this lovely blog post by Alisa Carter. She is an editor with Urania, the spec-fic imprint of Musa Publishing. I worked with her on Crazy Greta, it was a privilege to work with someone who cared as much about my vision for the story as I did. I think she may be better able to explain Crazy Greta than I can, as evidenced below.

I always say, the best books are the ones that answer a question. For example, “What if vampires could actually have sex and form relationships?” How many books can you think of that answer that question? Well, Crazy Greta is the only book you will ever read that answers the question, “What if those paintings that show skeletons fighting humans in the 16th-century Netherlands depict something that really happened?”
Yep, that was a good bit of my thought process.

BTW, I will have another e-book coming from Urania this July, Tales of Phalerus the Achaean, a pair of Sword & Sorcery stories set in the mythic past of Bronze Age Greece.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, April 15, 2012


By Edgar Rice Burroughs

If there was one theme that drew Edgar Rice Burroughs in like a flame does a moth, it was the confrontation of flabby civilization with muscular primitivism. The Cave Girl explores a belated Tarzan finding his inner ape.

Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones is a stuffed-shirt’s stuffed-shirt. He’s a Bostonian (perhaps Midwesterner ERB’s dig at the Eastern elite) from a family that has raised being effete to an art form. Consequently it comes as a shock to Waldo when he’s washed ashore on a desert island. But Waldo finds just the right motivation to get primitive when he meets a comely cave-girl. Facing successive threats from panthers, cannibals, rival ape-men, and pirates, Waldo must unite the sound mind and the sound body or perish.

For readers who like the more light-hearted aspects of ERB’s tales, this is a good one. Despite the lighter moments there are plenty of ferocious battles and hair-raising peril. If you’re not an ERB fan, it may come across as unbearably corny. But if that’s the case you should try swinging on a vine sometime.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, March 31, 2012


My first novel, Crazy Greta, is on the market. It is published by Urania, an imprint of Musa as an e-book.

Crazy Greta's titular protagonist is a 16th century Netherlandish tavern-keeper, living in a time of religious and political warfare. Having rival armies rampage across your homeland is bad enough, but things get really bad when the dead rise from their graves and begin slaying the living. Greta's adventures take her to Hell and Heaven. She meets mercenaries, playwrights, widows, fools, pirates, saints, devils, and angels and generally has a brawl with all of them.

I drew my imagery from the art of Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch, along with a rather broad swath of pop culture stored up in my brain: Night of the Living Dead, Sam Peckinpah, and lots of Sword & Sorcery stories.

Here's a little excerpt:

Someone was banging at the door. Gert stopped singing and the others looked up. The banging continued and Greta hustled forward. “Come in already,” she called. The door flew open as if of its own accord. Framed in it stood a small, wizened figure. It was dressed in a yellow tabard and wore a mask, as if at some mummer’s play. But the limbs were deathly thin and the skin seemed to have rotted in a grave. It capered in and the revelers drew back. The little dancer knocked the backgammon board from the table. Then it reached for the basin with the wine jugs and tipped them over.

“You damned little fiend!” Greta shrieked “I’ll teach you to spill my …”

Then another figure appeared at the door. The pot-boy screamed from the kitchen. Greta’s eyes widened in horror and shock, for there was no mistaking the newcomer. It was a skeleton, draped in rags of withered skin. Jan drew his sword but stood as if paralyzed. More dead poured into the room.

Greta fell back, shrinking into a corner. A skeleton seized Anneke, whirling her in a dance filled with lustful kisses from dead lips. Another skeleton seized Gert’s lute and serenaded the lovers with a dirge. Greta fled to the kitchen.

The back door was open. A figure in a green fools-coat stood with its back to her. Greta said nothing, but she saw the pot-boy crumpled in a pool of blood, red as Rhenish wine. The green fool turned and presented a serving tray, its skull face grinning in triumph. The pot-boy’s head was garnished with fresh cress.

Greta screamed in abject terror. God’s judgment was upon her and all the world. The crucifix she once had was long smashed, with all the other false images. She reached for the iron skillet.
~ ~ ~ ~

That's a little taste of the novel,  hope you enjoy it!
 -Dave Hardy

Friday, March 30, 2012

Musa Publishing: Meet Crazy Greta.

My first ever use of the "blog this" feature, is quite happily, for an interview with no less than Greta van Vlissingen, Crazy Greta herself (shhhh, don't tell her I called her that), sword-swinging heroine of Crazy Greta available now from Urania, an imprint of Musa Publishing.

Musa Publishing: Meet Crazy Greta.:   Thank you for coming to chat with us today. Why do you think David Hardy choose you to represent her/him? In truth I do not know, sav...

Sunday, January 01, 2012

GLENN LORD 1931-2011

I heard the very sad news that Glenn Lord passed away yesterday, December 31, 2011. If you don't know who Glenn Lord is, he was the literary agent for the Robert E. Howard estate for many years starting back in the 1950s. Though he left that role long ago, what he did as agent had a huge and wonderful effect on REH fandom. Glenn worked hard to see all of REH's work met publication, not just Conan.

Glenn collected and published REH's poetry, his boxing stories, the tales of El Borak, REH's horror tales & Westerns, REH's tall-tale Westerns, tales of Breckenridge Elkins, Dennis Dorgan, Black Vulmea, Dark Agnes, Cormac MacArt, Kirby O'Donnell, Bran Mak Morn, Skull-Face, Black Turlough, Steve Allison, and more. Some of the stories Glenn shepherded to publication are among REH's bes: "Worms of the Earth," "Pigeons from Hell," "Marchers of Valhalla," "Gods of Bal-Sagoth," and the controversial "Black Canaan." Glenn edited the long-running 'zine The Howard Collector. Some of the best (only some, for "best" is relative amid such an opulence of riches as was assembled in the Collector) was collected in paperbacks such as The Book of Robert E. Howard and the The Second Book of Robert E. Howard.

This was the lifeblood of REH fandom. Robert E. Howard is a major inspiration for my writing, and Glenn enriched my enjoyment and understanding of REH's achievements incalculably. He was gracious and helpful to fans and researchers.

I was fortunate enough to meet Glenn at Howard Days in Cross Plains years ago. I was a gushing fan. He was courteous and kind. Later that same weekend we chatted a bit, we didn't talk about Conan or De Camp or the history of REH publishing, but East Texas towns and Houston traffic. Glenn had a life outside of fandom. He served his country in the Korean War, as other generations of the Lord family have served in more recent conflicts.  He was a quiet man, given to brief and occasionally blunt statements, but with warm, good humor.

I count myself lucky to have been able to thank Glenn for all he did for REH fandom. I last saw him at his eightieth birthday party in November, surrounded by generations of his loving family.

Thanks Glenn. I'll miss you.

-Dave Hardy