Book Review (Anthology): The Best of Robert E. Howard: Crimson Shadows (4 Stars)

The Best of Robert E. Howard:
Crimson Shadows
(Volume 1)

Edited by Rusty Burke
Illustrated by Jim and Ruth Keegan

4 out of 5 stars

Read in November/December 2008

I was impressed with Robert E. Howard’s ability to captivate my interest and thrill me with his adventures. I especially liked his heroic battles (large and small-scale); they were some of the best and most riveting reading I’ve experienced in ages. He not only invented the sword and sorcery genre, he was the definitive master of it.

Some of my favorites include “The People of the Black Circle” (one of only two Conan stories included in this first volume of short stories); “The Fighten’st Pair” (the funniest tale I’ve read in years involving a boxer and his kidnapped dog); “The Worms of the Earth” (epic battle and struggle between Rome and the Picts); and, “The Grey God Passes.” “Sharp’s Gun Serenade” was also a hilarious romp through the Old West.

Howard’s poetry is dark and primeval most of the time, but a few poignant gems can be found like “The Song of the Last Briton”; “An Echo from the Iron Harp” and ending with the last poem, printed posthumously, the name of which escapes me.

I recommend this anthology to any fan of action adventure, sword and sorcery or pre-World War II pulp fiction that rises above the stigma that name implies.

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