Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Good Books to Read

The Savage Tales of Solomon KaneRead anything notable lately? I finished a couple titles this week that might interest fantasy and ghost story readers.

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, by Robert E. Howard (of Conan fame), collects all the tales, poems, and fragments relating to the Puritan adventurer. If you've never encountered Solomon Kane, he's a landless wanderer who travels Europe and Africa, destroying evil wherever he finds it. His favorite weapons are a sword and a pair of pistols combined with incredible strength and quickness. He battles both human and supernatural foes.

From the Amazon page:
Collected in this volume, lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist Gary Gianni, are all of the stories and poems that make up the thrilling saga of the dour and deadly Puritan, Solomon Kane. Together they constitute a sprawling epic of weird fantasy adventure that stretches from sixteenth-century England to remote African jungles where no white man has set foot. Here are shudder-inducing tales of vengeful ghosts and bloodthirsty demons, of dark sorceries wielded by evil men and women, all opposed by a grim avenger armed with a fanatic’s faith and a warrior’s savage heart.

This edition also features exclusive story fragments, a biography of Howard by scholar Rusty Burke, and “In Memoriam,” H. P. Lovecraft’s moving tribute to his friend and fellow literary genius.
I very much enjoyed these stories. Kane is not as well developed as Conan. Whereas Conan had a clear purpose behind his actions, Kane happens on his adventures at random most of the time. He appears to believe he is carrying out God's will to stamp out evil wherever he finds it. In the last few stories, he's journeying across Africa because he feels some vague compulsion to do so. In "The Footfalls Within," for example, he comes across a dead girl from a slave caravan. Kane is opposed to slavery of any kind. He tracks down the especially cruel slavers and attacks them.

If you're familiar with the Conan cannon, you may find the Kane stories, especially the short tales, a bit slight and disappointing, but keep reading. The longer stories are the best ones and Kane improves with familiarity. My favorites are "The Moon of Skulls," in which Kane journeys deep into Africa to rescue a girl kidnapped from England, "The Blue Flame of Vengeance," in which Kane battles some pirates, "The Hills of the Dead," in which Kane fights an army of vampires, and "Wings in the Night," in which Kane confronts a flock of vicious harpies.

As with much literature from this period, there's an undercurrent of racism, especially against black Africans. Howard portrays them as less technologically developed but no less brave and worthy of fair treatment. For instance, whenever Kane comes across a city or monument in Africa, he always assumes some other race built it. However, Kane will risk his life to free a slave or avenge cruel treatment of any race.

Printer's Devil CourtPrinter's Devil Court is a short tale from Susan Hill (of The Woman in Black fame) and part of the Kindle Singles collection. Some medical students in London are attempting to capture the "spark of life" and use it to reanimate a corpse. In this case, they take the spark from an old man and introduce it into a young woman. As you might expect, the results are not quite what the students expected. The story is as much about the students as the ghost of the reanimated young woman.

From the Amazon page:
A mysterious manuscript lands on the desk of the step-son of the late Dr Hugh Meredith, a country doctor with a prosperous and peaceful practice in a small English town. From the written account he has left behind, however, we learn that Meredith was haunted by events that took place years before, during his training as a junior doctor near London’s Fleet Street, in a neighbourhood virtually unchanged since Dickens’s times.

Living then in rented digs, Meredith gets to know two other young medics, who have been carrying out audacious and terrifying research and experiments. Now they need the help of another who must be a doctor capable of total discretion and strong nerves.

‘Remember that what you know you can never un-know. If you are afraid, then...’

A gripping and suspenseful mystery by one of the masters of the genre…
Printer's Devil Court has much in common with Frankenstein but lacks the horror of that tale, nor is it as frightening as Hill's The Woman in Black or The Small Hand. Printer's Devil Court is pleasingly creepy rather than terrifying. If you like Hill's writing and story-telling style, you will likely get some warm fuzzies from Printer's Devil Court.


  1. I'm familiar with Kane and have read some of the stories. Have you seen the movie?

  2. Sounds like you've done some interesting reading lately. :)