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Swords for Hire
Will Allen
CenterPunch Press, 168 pages

David Michael Beck
Swords for Hire
Will Allen
Will Allen grew up in Kettering, Ohio. At Ohio University in the late 70s, he conceived Campus, a comedy radio show, and personally wrote and directed each of the 102 episodes. He was diagnosed with melanoma, a form of cancer, in the spring of 1978. He fought the disease but he died in early 1980, just a few weeks before his 23rd birthday. Swords for Hire was written as a parting gift to his family. Years later, his brother Paul took the manuscript out of hiding, sending it to the Writer's Digest National Book Competition, where it won an award in August 2002, twenty-two years later.

ISFDB Bibliography
CenterPunch Press
Interview with author's brother about Swords for Hire

OTHER REVIEWS of Swords for Hire: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

A fun-loving, family-oriented author who dies of cancer soon after writing his book, no less than 16 rave reviews online, not counting those at, a posthumous literary award: it's enough to make a cynical old curmudgeon want to expose the whole thing as some overly media-hyped mediocrity. But damn it, if Swords for Hire isn't funny, entertaining, well-written, and most thankfully of all -- for a heroic fantasy -- not published in 10 forest-depleting volumes.

Does it cover all the clichés of heroic fantasy? Sure, it has the malevolent evil bad guy with no face; the not-so-clever bad guy with some socially unacceptable habits; the young man, innocent but ready-for-adventure; the grizzled, if quirky, veteran and master of arms; and naturally, the beautiful but resourceful princess. Sure, the good guys win, the boy gets the girl, the bad guys get their comeuppance. But what pulls it out is that the author makes something new out of these standard characters, makes it funny, keeps the action moving along, and creates an altogether very entertaining work.

For the plot I refer you to the many other reviews listed above. Suffice it to say, that if you enjoyed William Goldman's The Princess Bride (1972), or Jean Ferris' recent Once Upon a Marigold, you'll enjoy this. While Swords for Hire is clearly intended for young readers, it has the grace not to dumb down the story or humour. An introduction with Nancy Cartwright, voice of Bart Simpson, and childhood friend of the late author presents the origins of the manuscript and sheds some light on the short, if productive, life of the author. And yes, even though one of the principal characters is a worm-fetishist, the book is perfectly appropriate for all ages.

Copyright © 2003 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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