Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
Robert E. Howard
Del Rey, 560 pages

The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
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
SF Site Review: The Complete Chronicles of Conan
SF Site Review: The Riot at Bucksnort
SF Site Review: The Lord of Samarcand
SF Site Review: The Black Stranger
SF Site Review: Boxing Stories
SF Site Review: The People of the Black Circle
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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, Solomon Kane and other memorable characters, has such a reputation as a master of heroic fantasy that it's easy to forget that his huge production (over a hundred stories within the space of only 12 years) includes a number of strong, colourful horror pieces. Never a refined stylist, Howard displayed an energetic and vivid type of storytelling also in his horror fiction which tends to feature brave, strong-willed men fearlessly facing alien forces and evil creatures.

The power of Howard's imagination is astounding ,covering a variety of themes (from horror standards such as vampires and werewolves to sea monsters and Lovecraftian terrors), a wide range of subgenres (western, weird menace, historical fantasy) and of ages (from BC times, to the Roman empire to contemporary settings).

The present, massive collection includes 36 stories plus a bunch of poems (the merits of which I don't feel qualified to discuss) selected by Rusty Burke and marvellously illustrated in black and white by Greg Staples. Some pieces are quite short, but extremely effective such as the chilling "In the Forest of Villefere," one of the most terrifying werewolves tales I have ever read and its sequel, the more complex "Wolfhead," a naive but excellent piece with an exotic taste.

A couple of tales are centered on sea life as "Sea Curse," a brutal story of murder and revenge, and the gloomy "Out of the Deep," describing the lethal deeds of a sea monster taking human shape.

Solomon Kane makes his appearance both in "Rattle of Bones," a very dark, atmospheric piece set in a deserted tavern, featuring a murderer, a thief and a vengeful skeleton, and in "The Hills of the Dead," a graphic tale of voodoo and vampirism.

Lovecraftian atmospheres permeate "The Black Stone," "The Thing on the Roof" and the excellent "The Hoofed Thing," all powerful tales revolving around blaspheme cults, evil gods and alien creatures bringing death and terror into our world.

Fine examples of western horror are the superb "The Valley of the Lost" where ancient powers sleeping in a deserted cave return to reveal the forbidden secrets of the universe, "The Horror from the Mound," a solid vampire story set in a desolate piece of land in west Texas, the vivid "The Man on the Ground," depicting the final duel between two men fighting their perpetual feud and "Old Garfield's Heart" featuring a man who lives longer than a person should, thanks to a heart which is not human.

The book includes some quite enjoyable pieces of historical horror set in pagan times ("Worms of the Earth," "The Cairn on the Headland") as well as private, modern horrors. Among the latter, the most accomplished are "The Spirit of Tom Molyneaux," the breathtaking account of a violent boxing match decided by the intervention of a ghostly fighter, "The Dweller in Dark Valley," where the personal hate between two twin brothers blends nicely with cosmic evil lurking in the depth of the Earth, and "The Haunter of the Ring" a pulp fiction piece in which a woman tries to kill her husband under the influence of an evil spirit summoned by a former lover.

Needless to say, The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard also includes famous stories such as the thrilling "Black Canaan," a terrifying voodoo tale, and Howard's masterpiece "Pigeons from Hell," an unforgettable piece disclosing the terrible, unholy secrets hidden in a mansion in southern USA and providing an exciting mix of voodoo, vengeance and killing.

While some reviewers lament the omission of other classic stories such as "Skullface," "Valley of the Worm," "Cobra in the Dream" and "Queen of the Black Coast," it must be acknowledged that this already hefty book does provide an excellent overview of the extraordinary talent of Howard as an eclectic, captivating horror writer.

Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2009 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide