Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cautiously Optimistic

About six years ago a small publisher called Wandering Star put out the first of three projected volumes collecting all the unedited Conan stories in deluxe, illustrated, slip cased, hardback books. Boy, was it nice, and at 200 bucks a pop it better have been. Keep in mind though, in 2003 the majority of Robert E. Howard's stories were out of print and all of his Conan work had never been collected in a version that hadn't been tampered with by L. Sprague de Camp or someone else, so 200 didn't sound that bad to we Conan collectors. Karl Edward Wagner had made a valiant attempt at collecting all the Conan stories in their original form under hardcovers several years earlier but things hadn't worked out. (The existing Wagner volumes are very much worth owning though for Karl's insightful introductions and notes.)
Anyway, the second volume followed pretty quickly, but then things got derailed. Wandering Star made a deal with Del Rey Books to reprint their Howard material in inexpensive trade paperbacks. This included not only Conan, but Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, etc. In some ways this was great. Suddenly Robert E. Howard was back on mainstream bookstore shelves. To this day you can walk into Barnes & Noble or Borders and buy a complete set of the original, unadulterated Conan yarns. And that is a good thing.


When the Del Rey books started coming out, the third Wandering Star Conan volume was indefinitely suspended, leaving those of us who had purchased volumes one and two in all their expensive glory with an incomplete set. The reasons were many, varied, and often unsatisfying, but others folks have gone on and on about that. Oh, I bought the Del Rey books. All three. It's great to have more or less disposable versions of the Conan stories at my finger tips. If I wear one out, I can just go buy another. And at least by getting all three, I had a matching set with all the REH stories. But not having the third deluxe hardback rankled. I mean, here was what was supposed to be the ultimate Conan collection, and it looked as if it might never be completed. I had four hundred dollars worth of an incomplete set.
Now, finally, six years later it looks as if the third deluxe volume might actually come out. I read an announcement last night stating that Wandering Star and Book Palace Books were joining forces to publish the final deluxe volume. I haven't had this confirmed from more than one source yet so I'm not holding my breath. At one point Subterranean Press was supposed to be doing volume three as well and that didn't pan out. But I' am cautiously optimistic. It certainly would be nice to finally have the complete deluxe Conan set.

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