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The Lord of Samarcand
Robert E. Howard
Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press, 462 pages

The Lord of Samarcand
Robert E. Howard
Robert Ervin Howard (1906-1936) is best remembered for his classic sword and sorcery tales of the brawny Cimmerian swordsman Conan, though he wrote stories in a number of genres: horror (Pigeons from Hell, Worms of the Earth), oriental adventure (The Lost Valley of Iskander, Swords of Shahrazar), westerns both humorous (A Gent from Bear Creek) and conventional (The Last Ride, The Vultures of Whapeton), boxing (The Iron Man), and others. Howard's tales of Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Turlogh O'Brien and Solomon Kane created and defined the sword and sorcery genre, leading to innumerable pastiches and outright ripoffs of Howard's characters.

ISFDB Bibliography
R.E. Howard Site: 1, 2, 3 (in French)
Robert E. Howard Museum, Cross Plains, TX
Conan the Barbarian movie fan site: 1, 2, 3
Conan fan site: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
SWORD a Conan fan magazine
Red Sonja fan site
Books available: 1, 2
The Whole Wide World biographical movie on R.E.H.
Review of The Whole Wide World

A review by Georges T. Dodds

[Editor's Note: Here you will find the other collections of Robert E. Howard stories].

In The Lord of Samarcand we are presented with all of Robert E. Howard's historical tales of the Orient. Howard was drawn to this form by his interest in history, but also through his admiration for the historical and adventure works of Harold Lamb (1892-1962), an author who, unlike Howard, had been widely published in the prestigious pulp magazine Adventure. The Lord of Samarcand includes Howard's short summary of Lamb's The Wolf Chaser. As with the other volumes of this series the editor has, whenever possible returned to the original typescripts to obtain the texts presented here.

The tales in The Lord of Samarcand are perhaps what Howard was working towards in terms of being a "serious" (i.e. non-pulp) writer. Certainly Lamb managed to expand beyond his pulp origins, and crank out exciting, well researched and well received biographies of great Asian leaders from Genghis Khan to Cyrus the Great. However, the stories presented here are probably amongst Howard's darkest and most cynical stories. The heroes are generally great big, frequently outlawed, Celtic fighters, worn out emotionally by years as a mercenary or crusader, with a past full of disappointment: loss of birthright, of military/social status, with love affairs gone bad through women and friend's treachery. These are almost what one might term noir crusader adventures... What Cornell Woolrich might have done for the crusader adventure story. Between the lack of wizardry, the historical exposition, the lack of Howard's usual full-throttle beginning-to-end action sequences, these stories, particularly all collected together and read one after the other, can lose their charm. As literature that would be taken seriously by mainstream readers and critics, they're probably better than most of his other output, allowing him to develop his character's emotional baggage to a much greater extent than in a Conan or Kull. However, well portrayed powerful, conniving, mysterious eastern leaders are best left to the likes of Talbot Mundy and Rudyard Kipling -- portraying true intrigue was never one of Howard's fortés.

The Lord of Samarcand
Title Some Other Appearances
Introduction (Patrice Louinet)  
Red Blades of Black Cathay (with Travis clyde Smith) Oriental Stories, Feb.-Mar. 1931
Hawks of Outremer Oriental Stories Apr.-June 1931
The Blood of Belshazzar Oriental Stories, Autumn 1931
The Sowers of the Thunder Oriental Stories, Winter 1932
Lord of Samarcand Oriental Stories, Spring 1932
Timur-Lang The Howard Collector, Sept. 1964
The Lion of Tiberias The Magic Carpet Magazine, July, 1933
The Shadow of the Vulture in The Magic Carpet Magazine Jan. 1934
Gates of Empire Golden Fleece, Jan. 1939
The Road of the Eagles in different form as "The Way of the Swords" in The Road of Azrael, West Kingston, RI: Donald M. Grant, 1979
Hawks Over Egypt in The Road of Azrael, West Kingston, RI: Donald M. Grant, 1979
Various drafts and fragments many from typescripts held by Glenn Lord, some completed by others and previously published

Copyright © 2005 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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