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