Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Still Conan After All These Years

Cliff emailed me yesterday to let me know that the third and final volume in the Wandering Star Deluxe Conan series had finally arrived. It was supposed to have been available in 2005, so it's been quite a wait. The reasons are may and various and Jeffrey Shanks, over at The Cimmerian, does a far better job of explaining what happened than I ever could. Check out the link to his excellent article at the bottom of this post.
The big thing is, these books are $200 a pop, and for a long time it looked as if only two of the three would ever be published. Needless to say, I'm very happy not to have purchased two of a three volume set that was never finished.
A lot of collectors were upset that the Wandering Star books were reprinted in far cheaper trade paperbacks by Del Rey. That didn't bother me at all. Quite the opposite in fact. I smile every time I go to the Fantasy section of the bookstore and see Robert E. Howard prominently displayed. I want everyone to be able to purchase the unedited Conan, Solomon Kane, Kull, etc.
No, my only concern was having a very expensive incomplete set and I really had begun to think Wandering Star would never get the third Conan book out, especially since it had already been put out as a Del Rey trade and more especially since so much time had passed. When they announced late last year that the third volume was actually coming out, I was skeptical, and I continued to say that I wouldn't believe it until I actually held the book in my hands. When Cliff emailed yesterday I phoned him and asked. "You've actually touched the book?" He laughed and assured me that he had. I didn't even wait until my usual Wednesday night visit to Cliff's store, Dr. No's, but instead stopped on the way home from work and picked up the book.
When I got home I very carefully removed it from the shrink wrap and flipped through it. Then I compared it to the other two Wandering Star volumes. The new one is every bit as nice as the other two. After that I went and prepared a space on the bookshelf and finally placed Volume Three by it's older brothers. Then, seriously, I let out a big sigh of relief.
If you know how fond I am of the writing of Robert E. Howard in general and of Conan in particular (and if you don't you obviously haven't been paying attention) then you possibly understand why I wanted all of REH's unedited Conan stories in a super nice set. It's not that I wanted them purely as a collector. Before the Del Rey's were available I took these expensive volumes down and read them many times. I don't care a bit that they remain pristine collectibles. I just wanted all of the real Conan in one place. And now I have it. So whatever Wandering Star's issues were, thanks to then for finally coming through. And thanks to Cliff for letting me know the book was here pretty much the second it reached the store.

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