Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Black Stranger
Robert E. Howard
Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press, 351 pages

The Black Stranger
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 Black Stranger editor Steven Tompkins collects a number of Robert E. Howard's tales set in the United States, albeit some occurring in far remote times. In his informative introduction, he introduces the works selected and how they relate to Howard's development as a writer. As with the other books in this series (e.g., Boxing Stories). A little over half the book collects what are largely sword and sorcery tales in what is only geographically America, while the remainder, beginning with "The Strange Case of Josiah Wilbarger" occur in recent historical times and are graced with a great deal of local colour provided by Howard's hands-on knowledge of south-western American history and culture. In this sense there is quite a contrast in what makes the latter and the former stories as good as they are.

The stories like "The God of Bal-Sagoth" and "Black Vulmea's Vengeance" are full of the lost races, exotic women, and nefarious characters of the Conan and Kull tales. Indeed "The Black Stranger" is a rarely seen Conan tale, which as the editor Steven Tompkins points out has a number of parallels with the story of the first European settlers in what is now the United States (see for example William T. Vollmann's Argall). Still, whatever sources it may draw upon, it remains pure pulp fiction at its best. The later "local" tales while they have elements of the supernatural -- voodoo in "Kelly the Conjure Man" and "Pigeons from Hell" and persons best not unburied in "The Horror from the Mound" -- are most interesting because Howard weaves local history into his tales. His description of people and particularly places clearly is one informed from having been there or of knowing and caring about local legends. These stories also follow Howard's trend towards writing more western and historical stories and fewer sword and sorcery stories as time went on.

The Black Stranger
Title Some Other Appearances
Introduction (Steven Tompkins)  
The Black Stranger in Echoes of Valor, New York: Tor, 1987
Marchers of Valhalla in Marchers of Valhalla West Kingston, RI: Donald M. Grant, 1972
The Gods of Bal-Sagoth Weird Tales, Oct. 1931
Nekht Semerkeht composite story by Andrew J. Offutt in Swords Against Darkness, New York: Zebra, 1977, this version direct from Howard's typescripts
Black Vulmea's Vengeance Golden Fleece, Nov. 1938
The Strange Case of Josiah Wilbarger The West, Sept. 1967
The Valley of the Lost as "Secret of Lost Valley" in Startling Mystery Stories, Spring 1967
Kelly the Conjure Man The Howard Collector No. 5, Summer 1964
Black Canaan Weird Tales, Jun. 1936
Pigeons from Hell Weird Tales, May 1938
Old Garfield's Heart Weird Tales, Dec. 1933
The Horror from the Mound Weird Tales, May 1932
The Thunder-Rider in Marchers of Valhalla West Kingston, RI: Donald M. Grant, 1972
Excerpts incl. 'The Classic Tale of the Southwest' letters to August Derleth and H.P. Lovecraft
The Grim Land (poem) in The Grim Land and Others, Lamoni, IA: Stygian Isle Press, 1976

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.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

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