Robert E. Howard’s Horror

I had never read any Robert E. Howard before. Why? I’d never heard anything about his work to really interest me. Granted I had more of a vague notion of what Conan was than a specific description of the work, but it wasn’t enough to push me into searching it out. Plus I don’t like short stories. I just don’t generally. There’s occasional exceptions but I usually have to like the author already. The biggest exception to the rule is Lovecraft. (And I still haven’t read everything of his.) So when I read some stuff about Howard writing Lovecraftian stories, well, that’s enough to make me give him a try. I’ve read four so far.

“The Horror From The Mound” — Weird westerns are cool. I didn’t much like this, however. Interesting idea, but I disliked the protagonist and the action felt kind of skimmed over. It was good enough to make me read another though.

“Black Canaan” — Now this is more like it. The swamps of Louisiana. Voodoo. An evil priestess. Horrifying misshapen things that grab you in the water.

“Pigeons from Hell” — Think I like “Black Canaan” slightly better, but this was still great. A decidedly gruesome fate awaits anyone stupid enough to spend the night in an abandoned plantation.

“The Black Stone” — Most Lovecraftian of the bunch. Guy goes investigating this black stone and discovers horrors, etc. but doesn’t go mad. After those last two stories, however, I wanted Howard not Lovecraft. Not enough action. I probably would have liked it better if I’d read it first.

Howard is not Lovecraft. This is a good thing. While I might read someone because of a supposed resemblance to another writer, but I don’t want him to be the same. That would be boring. If I want straight up Lovecraft, I’ll read Lovecraft.

Howard’s horror certainly has some similarities to Lovecraft and I particularly like the regional feel of the two stories set in the South. Lovecraft did this for New England. I love that feeling he puts in his stories but have a decided weakness in favor the more southern climes of the country. Howard makes me think of places that I’ve been before.

And then there’s the violence. Lovecraft uses his wonderful purple prose with lots of unspeakables and indescribables for the awful things that inhabit his world. Howard’s style is more blunt and gory. This gives a very different feel to the stories. Different and good. I wouldn’t say one style was necessarily better than the other.  Just depends on what you like.

I’ll have to try Conan soon.

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