Monday, November 03, 2008

Reading Report

Having finally satiated myself with stories of goulies and ghosties and long leggedy beasties, I switched to reading crime fiction this weekend for a bit, doing a re-read of Robert B. Parker's 1975 Spenser novel, Mortal Stakes. It's interesting to see how much more verbose Parker was back in the early days of his long running series. He's gotten his minimalist approach to writing so finely tuned now that he almost appears to be writing Haiku. I think Parker's work has come to resemble that of Ernest Hemingway over the years as he has pared description and dialogue down to an absolute minimum, and yet he still manages to tell an entertaining story.
I made something of a jump back to horror by reading 'The Castle of the Devil', a Solomon Kane fragment by Robert E. Howard that was completed by Ramsey Campbell. I've waxed enthusiastic here before about Campbell's horror fiction and his own sword & sorcery hero Ryre. Though I'm not usually fond of "posthumous collaborations" Campbell was possibly the best choice for an author to finish off REH's Kane fragments. (There are three in the Baen Books collection Solomon Kane.) Since I've mentioned before that I think sword & sorcery was created from a mix of historical fiction and horror fiction, it seems that a writer of horror is perhaps a better choice to complete a REH story than a fantasy writer, especially in the tales of Kane, which tended to be dark and filled with horrors anyway. And Campbell's Ryre is much closer in temperament to Solomon Kane that to Conan.
I won't say that Campbell writes anything like Howard. In fact I think he did the right thing by not even trying. What you get in Castle of the Devil isn't pure Howard or pure Campbell, but rather a synthesis that works. The finished writing doesn't feel exactly like Campbell's other work either. It does make me wonder how Campbell might have completed one of Howard's Conan fragments. I'm thinking specifically of the one which has become known as The Hand of Nergal. It starts off with quite a bit of horrific imagery and I think Campbell could have done a good job with it. Fond though I am of the late Lin Carter, I don't think he really grasped what REH was going for when Lin did his own completion of Nergal. Recently Tim Truman has done a more Howardesque version in the Dark Horse Comics adaptation of the fragment. Dark Horse is currently publishing a Solomon Kane comic book adaptation and completion of Castle of the Devil. Read the second issue this week and it's pretty good so far. Come to think of it, I think Don Glut (writer creator of Dagar the Invincible) did an adaptation of 'Castle' as a back up in Savage Sword of Conan many years ago. Might have to look that up, since as we know, I own a full run of the magazine.


Darci said...

You're correct, Don Glut's version was in SSOC #19 (June 1977). It was also reprinted in Conan Saga #30 (Oct 1989). I'd be interested in your opinion once you've reviewed it.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I'll look it up this weekend, Darci.