Clifford Beal

historical fiction with a twist of lime

Tag: fantasy (page 1 of 3)

Writing Historical Fiction

Dan Beazley is an author and the originator of the groundbreaking “Remastered Words” short story competition that offers new writers of fantasy and horror the opportunity to have their story turned into a proper audio work. This is the competition’s second year running and I was honoured to have been asked to serve as a judge in last year’s.  Dan has put together a great competition with some wonderful published authors on board to help discover the best rising talent in genre fiction. It’s worth checking out his site here .

Dan recently interviewed me about my experiences of writing historical fiction and how I dipped a toe into “historical fantasy”.  It’s over on his website but he’s allowed me to reproduce here on my blog. 

 

Writing Historical Fiction with Clifford Beal

Prior to writing novels what did you do for a living and has it helped your author career in any way?

I worked as a journalist for around 20 years, writing and editing for aviation and military publications. Apart from teaching one how to string together a few words, the real value of this was learning the craft of editing and more importantly, of being edited. For a writer, finding a good editor is like finding buried treasure and taking good criticism from one pays dividends in the long term.

 

Tell us about your second novel (a particular favourite of mine), Gideon’s Angel, where did the idea come from and what is the general premise?

I love writing historical fiction and the 17th century is a fascinating period for me. I was always struck by how that century sits on the cusp of the medieval world and the modern one. Science and rationality were making huge strides while at the same time witches were being hanged or burned and people believed in goblins and faeries. It was an age of transition. My original thought was to write a Cromwellian spy thriller but knowing how magic was still surviving in a new age science and discovery I thought, what about making that magic real? So a royalist plot to assassinate Oliver Cromwell finds itself trumped by a plot to kill Cromwell by the deluded followers of a prophet guided by very real demons.

 

Your following novel, The Raven’s Banquet, featured the hero from Gideon’s Angel again, why did you want to delve deeper into Treadwell’s past?

I really fell in love with the character of Richard Treadwell and all is conflicted personal baggage. Gideon’s Angel shows how he has always had a “second sight” so I wanted to explore how that began. The story is set 20 years before the action of Gideon’s Angel and in Germany where he first began his career as a soldier. His high hopes for fame and military fortune are dashed by the reality of the war he finds himself in and the horrible things he bears witness to. The supernatural aspect comes to the fore as he has an unfortunate knack for running into people he has recently killed, among other scares. As a prequel, it is a retelling by Treadwell in his own words and ends directly where Gideon’s Angel begins. For that reason people might want to pick up Raven’s first and ride the roller coaster into Gideon’s. Between the two books the reader discovers a brash and callous youth who grows into a jaded but wiser man for all his fantastical experiences.

 

 Although fictional, there is also a lot of historical truth to the tales, how tough can it be to balance the two and what methods did you employ to assist you?

I consider my Treadwell adventures not to be “alternate history” but rather “secret history”. There is a difference. The events as depicted in the books could have actually happened and been recorded– had people then known about them. Real-life characters such as Cromwell and John Milton essentially keep the “truth” to themselves. In so doing the reader becomes complicit in the intrigue along with Treadwell and just a handful of characters while the rest of London in 1656 is oblivious to the infernal dangers that are bubbling up around them. Real life events inform the plot and the characters but I infuse the fantastical and weave this into the mix. It’s important to get the history correct to add authenticity and indeed some characters doubt while others come to believe. Like many things it’s a question of balance but I strive for a believable suspension of disbelief (if that makes sense!)

 

There are some legendary characters in the stories, like Cromwell and d’Artagnan, what sort of things do you need to be wary of when writing already well-established characters?

Not to make them cardboard cut-outs from the pages of a history book. I try to instill humanity into the real-life characters by giving them emotions, motives, weaknesses and strengths as they appear alongside the fictional characters. My d’Artagnan is nothing like Dumas’s version. I based him on the real person, Charles de Batz Castelmore, who was a master spy and military commander who worked for Cardinal Mazarin. Dumas placed him in the 1620s when d’Artagnan would have been a teenager at most, and made him an implacable enemy of Cardinal Richelieu instead.

 

Do you think that writing about locations and people that are real can make the author’s job easier and why?

That all depends on the writer I think. Having written epic fantasy as well as historical fiction and non-fiction, I can say that it helps to be able to borrow a historical framework to hang plot and character on. It can be daunting when one has to encompass world building on top of that too when writing fantasy. But even though you have to make everything up, it is your world and one doesn’t have to worry about getting the real history right, only about being consistent within the world you’ve created.

 

As a writer of historical fiction do you believe that it’s important to read plenty of the same and why?

It is important to see what’s been done before and how themes and plots have been tackled by authors. This applies to any genre that you’re writing in. If you are going to reinvent the wheel it had better be a far better one than what’s out there. From a purely commercial standpoint, it’s also good to know what has done well and what hasn’t.

 

How much research is there to do when writing historical fiction, how do you collate and quickly refer to it, and at what point do you say enough is enough and begin writing?

I think many historical novelists live in fear of the great anachronistic cock-up they’ve missed, the one always spotted by an eager reader. I have a notebook for very critical items and I also highlight text in some of my sources for highly relevant things like currency, medicine, social mores, and so forth. One does have to put the time into research and make notes that can be referred to but this should not hold one back from delving into the writing. I find it a constant (and sometimes repetitive) process of researching, digesting, and writing the novel. You can never do enough period research but equally you can’t hold yourself hostage to it either. Don’t ruin your creative flow agonizing over whether nails were square or round in 1622 when you can fact-check once you’re into your second draft.

 

How tempting is it to start trying to cram bits of that research into your story and why can this be dangerous?

You can kill your prose by trying to show you’re a good historian: “By God,” he said as he watched the blood pour from where the rapier pierced his arm, “I heard Doctor Harvey who lives down the lane has just discovered that blood circulates inside the body. Fetch him to me!” Or maybe not. I try and use what research can be integrated into the storyline to improve it, not just to prove I did my homework. For instance, It’s a fact that stone towers on either side of a narrow harbor mouth were used to prevent attacking ships from entering. A huge iron chain suspended between them along the sea bottom could then be winched up to the surface. I’ve even seen their remains in Fowey down in Cornwall. In The Guns of Ivrea, I used that knowledge for a dramatic fight scene as a ship tries to escape a harbour before the chain can be raised to stop it.

 

What other historical fiction authors have been an inspiration to you and why?

Patrick O’Brian for his beautiful prose and period empathy. Bernard Cornwell for his compelling plotlines, narrative, and depictions of battle. So many others including Robert Graves but those spring first to mind.

 

Please give us three top tips for writing historical fiction?

Good plot and characters will always trump period and setting, no matter how imaginatively described. Balance any “authentic” voice and dialogue with an appreciation for readability. Be diligent in your research but not a slave to it.

 

Finally can you give us an insight into your current WIP or what you have planned for the future? 

 The Witch of Torinia, the sequel to Guns of Ivrea, is just out by Solaris Books and I’m now working on a novel which is not fantasy but instead straight-up historical fiction. It’s set in 1485 in the aftermath of the Battle of Bosworth and the death of Richard III. Those familiar with my Treadwell adventures will know I like writing about life’s losers and this new work follows three of Richard’s less noble knights who make common cause as fugitives from the victorious Henry Tudor. Fleeing abroad, each carries a secret that could spell ruin for the Tudors and cost them their lives. But do they even trust one another? On the short story front—and returning to a fantasy vibe—I have one coming out later this year in Weirdbook magazine in the US (issue #37). Weirdbook is the successor to Weird Tales that published Lovecraft, Howard, and Bloch, among others. It’s called “War is Grimm” and reboots a classic tale about a soldier and a tinderbox but is set in early 1946 in the ruins of Germany. Sometimes even I need a break from the Middle Ages!

 

Witch of Torinia: draft completed (now comes the fun bit)

witch2

My three finalists in The Witch of Torinia auditions

Happy to report the delivery of a bouncing, boisterous new novel, weighing in at 136,000 words. The sequel to The Guns of Ivrea is tentatively titled The Witch of Torinia and I’m hopeful that Solaris Books will launch it shortly after the New Year. Yet it wasn’t an easy birth by any means. Apart from the self-imposed pressure of avoiding dreaded “sequelitis”, writing a follow-on book (whether for a duology or a longer series) contains some particular pitfalls for authors. First, you’ve created a range of characters and like wayward teenage children, they stopped listening to you probably before Book One ended and now do what they like. With umpteen plot threads spraying out like a spider on crystal meth, the chief danger is a sequel that begins to run away from the author. Character arcs need to be tended to and assessed, plots and sub-plots prioritized and deconflicted, and with just the right narrative voice for  each scene. All the while never losing sight of the bigger picture for the secondary world you’ve created.

So, after a few bottles of wine and a couple of cigars, now comes the really important part: the edit. It requires a different part of your brain from the bit that gushed out the words to begin with. The more calculating, ruthless part of the grey matter to be exact. And it’s indispensable to the final product as is the work-over my editor at Solaris will be giving it in a few weeks. As a former journalist, I’m used to having my work ripped apart by editors and as an editor myself I learned how to dish it out too. Invariably, an honest copy-edit always means a better book. And that usually means rewrites.

Without giving too much away, this second book in the Valdur world dealsMorning_of_the_Battle_of_Agincourt,_25th_October_1415 with the consequences of actions taken by the major characters: a religious schism and the launch of a war among the duchies. Whereas Guns of Ivrea dealt primarily with actions on the high seas, for Witch of Torinia, the focus moves to war on land with the scope for some tremendous set-piece medieval battles. To be sure, Captain Danamis will have his fair share of naval derring-do as well as some important secret-squirrel work for the Queen, but this novel really centres on Strykar, my jaded, slightly creaking mercenary and the tough choices he is forced to make. And of course, Brother Acquel’s personal burdens continue to grow as he faces the looming threat posed by Lucinda della Rovera, the titular witch. But an unlikely ally is on the way….

Hmm…better get out my blue editing pen…again.

 

A Fantastic Legacy: SF, Fantasy and London’s Savile Club

savile talk Apr16Many thanks to those who came to hear my talk last week on a few past members of The Savile Club in London, members who just happen to be among the most famous authors of science fiction, fantasy and horror literature.

The Savile Club, which was founded in 1868, quickly established itself as a meeting place and convivial watering hole for authors, artists, musicians, and scientists in the Victorian world and it is still going strong as it approaches its 150th anniversary.  With the help of my editor at Rebellion Publishing,  the talented and knowledgeable Jonathan Oliver, I had the pleasure of addressing a cross-section of the current membership last week in the ballroom where I attempted to put “speculative fiction” into perspective. My message: it’s not all about spaceships, ray guns, and bogeymen. Genre fiction actually often puts contemporary society and its concerns into sharper focus by injecting elements of the fantastic. In other words, the future is now.

The Savile boasted writers from every subject, but in what is now termed speculative fiction the club was particularly fortunate. Members here included HG Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James, H Rider-Haggard, MR James, Rudyard Kipling (yes, he did write some SF and fantasy),  and Algernon Blackwood.

Can a club take credit for their genius? No, but as a meeting place it had a definite role to play as a point for the free exchange of ideas and conversation. One member, a newspaper editor who had one leg and a fondness for rum, once insulted Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson turned him into Long John Silver. And in a case of what you might call “cross-fertilization”, Algernon Blackwood wrote a story that was adapted for a West End musical that Savile member Sir Edward Elgar wrote the music for. A few decades later, in 1936, HG Wells’s “The Shape of Things to Come” was turned into a film with a score by his fellow Savilian, Sir Arthur Bliss and starring yet another Savilian, Sir Ralph Richardson. Ah, serendipity indeed.

photo: Markus Lind

www.savileclub.co.uk

 

 

“Them’s fighting words!”

swordbook

British Fantasy Con is almost upon us (23-25 October) and the organizers have just released this year’s programme which looks exciting, jam-packed, and wonderfully eclectic with a cast of thousands (well nearly).  This year we’re in Nottingham and I’ll be participating on a panel session looking at crafting the perfect fight scene and hopefully later that weekend also reading from my forthcoming novel, The Guns of Ivrea, launching next February. Here’s the skinny:

British Fantasy Society

 

 

Blades, Wands & Lasers: Fighting the Good Fight-Scene

Whether melee, missile or magic, combat scenes can make for some of the most compelling in genre fiction or film. But what are the essentials for creating telling your story through action?

  • the mechanics of fighting: how much do you need to know?
  • from one vs. one to massive scale battles
  • making sense of mayhem: choreography, pacing, tension, tone & sensory overload
  • tips for showing character through action
  • weapons of mass destruction: when is too powerful, too much?

There’s only one way to settle it…FIIIIIGHT!!!

Moderator: James Barclay
Panelists: Clifford Beal, Juliet E. McKenna, Brandon Sanderson, Jo Thomas, Danie Ware

I’ll be in some great company and though I believe most of us are leaving our swords at home this time, should still be informative and fun if slightly less physical than Fantasy Con 2014.

It’s Christmas come early!

books

Oliver Cromwell may have outlawed Christmas but Rebellion Publishing is giving it back. Get your fix of 17th century historical fiction and fantasy at practically a giveaway price. Beginning on 11 November, you can pick up Gideon’s Angel and The Raven’s Banquet for Kindle over at Amazon and make some substantial savings–better than half price on each title. It’s only until Friday, mind you, so grab your device or head over to the Amazon US or UK websites. 

 

Crossing swords at Fantasy Con 2014

This year’s British Fantasy Con at York was a veritable cavalcade of good clean fun: great panels, old friends, new friends, and evening sophistication (carousing), all necessitating several additional days of recuperation afterwards. I had the pleasure of being on a panel that took a critical look at swordplay in fantasy and film. This led afterwards to a very impromptu demo of sword skills and myth-busting in the bar next door featuring fellow scribes Adrian Tchaikovsky, Juliet McKenna, Fran Terminiello, and David Moore. Thanks to Annie Catling we’ve got a video. (I’m assured no bar-flies were harmed in the making of this film)

Baron Munchhausen moment

Fell in love with this 1760 longcase clock at Croft Castle outside Hereford. There’s a delightful creepiness to it and reminded me very much of a Munchhausen style Man in the Moon

And for those fantasy lovers who haven’t heard of the  famous 18th century “lying” Baron, here are a few links to get you started.

A short history over at wikipedia

You can even download a free copy of the book here at Project Gutenberg

And of course, there’s the quirky Terry Gilliam film that is well worth a viewing.

baron

I’m headed to Loncon3

OK, folks, it’s bearing down on us like a runaway double-decker on Hampstead Hill. It’s Loncon3:LONCON3_logo_270w the 72 World Science Fiction Convention held at the London ExCel Centre from 14-18 August. This one looks set to be huge with a packed programme and many multi-media events in addition to the usual literary discussions and panels.

I’ll be taking a seat alongside Anne Lyle, Elizabeth Hand, Laura Goodin and John Clute for a panel session on the Sunday (1500-1630) called:

Imagining London: History and Fantasy

 

And here’s how the organizers bill it:

London has long been a rich venue for fantastical storytelling. But  how has the image of fantastic London changed over time? How was fantastic London created in the work of writers like Dickens, Stoker  and Doyle, and how does that vision differ from the historical-fantasy  London’s writers are creating today? Which aspects of London have  consistently attracted writers, and which aspects have been unjustly neglected?

I’m dusting off my 19th century fantasy tomes and revising to prepare for what should be a fascinating discussion come the day.

SF Chronicles interview

chronicles-logo-3Last week, Brian Turner over at SF Chronicles kindly asked me for an interview about writing historical fiction and he’s graciously allowed me to share it with you here. So, read on, or better yet, go check out the SF Chronicles site itself: http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/548768-interview-with-clifford-beal.html

 

Many thanks for talking with chronicles. 🙂

Very happy for the opportunity!

First things first – The Raven’s Banquet is a cracking book, but only appears as an eBook on Amazon at present. Are there any plans for Solaris to launch a paperback as yet?

Actually, Solaris has published a special limited edition paperback, initially available only through ForbiddenPlanet.com so readers can grab a copy via their shops or the internet. Solaris may offer it on their website at some point and there will be copies at upcoming cons this summer and autumn. It’s a beautiful edition with an exciting cover and endpaper illustrations.Raven's Banquet

One immediate problem I can see with the novel is where to place it, in terms of genre – on the one hand, it’s potentially ‘historical fiction’, but on the other, could be ‘flintlock fantasy’. I think I’ve seen you describe yourself as an “historical fantasy writer”. Do you see yourself as a cross-over writer, or do you prefer one pigeonhole over another? And did you have any problems getting Gideon’s Angel accepted for publishing because of that?

I do see myself as a historical fantasy writer but I hate to have my work pigeon-holed into neat little categories. Genre fiction has exploded in the last 20 years into so many sub-categories that it’s all become a bit muddled if you feel the compulsion to put fantasy into neat little boxes. Historical fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, alternate history, all of these could describe Raven’s Banquet and Gideon’s Angel but my aim was to just write historical adventure with a fantastical twist. Certainly, with “crossover” works you run the risk of falling between two stools. With marketeers running the major publishing houses these days at the expense of editors, if you can’t shove a book into a clearly definable category (and a ready existing market) it risks rejection. Shame really.  I’m pleased that Solaris champions works that are chimeras and I think genre readers benefit from it.

 

One of the more interesting things about your writing is the use of inflected language to create something of a period feel. Did you ever worry that this might be a risk, and alienate some potential readers? Or did you always see it as an essential part of the setting and atmosphere itself?

This is always a tough call when you write historical fiction. Too much modern slang and you can destroy the spell you’re trying to create. And on the other side, if you strive to accurately recreate period language and cadence you run the risk of readers not having a clue what your characters are saying. But I agree that some form of period speech is essential in creating that realistic setting and conveying the atmosphere of a time gone by. I sought to achieve a balance in the language by providing enough cues and archaic phrasing to make the reader understand this is set in the 17th century but not to make it obscure and a turn-off. I’d like to think I got this balance right and luckily most readers seem to agree.

 

Historical research obviously plays a role in your writing, and there’s a long debate on how much fact can be dispensed with by fiction in fantasy writing. How do you personally balance the demands of the story vs the demands of the historical record, and do you find it difficult?

To paraphrase an expression, “History: you really could not make this s**t up.” So many amazing and interesting things have happened in any given time period that for me it’s more a case of grafting on the fantastical to what really transpired. I’d like to think I was fairly meticulous in researching time and place in both the Treadwell novels. But I included only what was absolutely necessary for the reader to know about the politics or intrigues at the time to build the plot and atmosphere and one certainly doesn’t have to understand the English Civil War or the court of young Louis XIV to follow the story in my novels. It’s all about the characters and the plotlines and I have avoided throwing in lumps of exposition to set the scenes. Hard to do that anyway when you write first-person narrative. And I’ve never intentionally changed events, customs or places to fit a storyline which is something often seen in cinematic treatments of history. I find Braveheart toe-curlingly awful. Speaking for myself, I haven’t had trouble squaring the circle between accuracy and storytelling. I just try and let the reader absorb the atmosphere of the 17th century without giving an overt history lesson and let the plot drive things along.

 

FC-BC (GIDEON'S ANGEL) US smallYou now have two Richard Treadwell stories out, but what plans do you have for the future? Do you plan to keep with him as a serial character, or do you have different projects bursting to get out that you hope to share with us son?

I absolutely love Colonel Treadwell in all his shades of moral greyness. I have an outline for another Treadwell adventure, this time set in Massachusetts in the 1650s. Think Puritan ayatollahs, unhappy Indians, and a Lovecraftian horror based on an actual native legend. But that’s on hold for the moment as I’ve begun an epic fantasy series for Solaris set in a secondary world very much like renaissance Europe—only with mermen. And manticores.  I suppose you’d call it a traditional epic fantasy but I see it as historical too. Sort of as if someone from 1490 was penning a  “contemporary” fantasy using the mythological.  It’s called Valdur and should be out next summer.

 

One of the problems with writing about war is that inevitably its unpleasant nature will have to be described. You give us a glimpse of the horrors in The Raven’s Banquet, but you don’t flood the reader with it. Do you find it a challenge to determine how much violence to show, and how concerned are you about pushing a reader’s boundaries of comfort?

For me, the subliminal is usually preferable to an outright gore-fest. Not because it is necessarily bloody but because it can get very boring.  Having severed limbs and spilled entrails every few pages quickly desensitises you—or puts you to sleep.  The build-up and suspense leading to the violence of murder or battle can lend itself to providing character insight while the brutality itself becomes a graphic depiction of those drives and motives. If writing fiction is painting in words, sometimes not showing something allows the reader’s own imagination to take over. That said, I haven’t shied away from bloodletting in my novels and it’s difficult to write about a soldier’s life without describing violence. Again, it’s a question of balance. I found it difficult to write a scene in Raven’s where torture is inflicted on a hapless merchant. But it had to be described to show the immensity of what was happening to the main character and his slow slide into depravity.

 

Now that you’re establishing yourself as a fiction writer, which other books would you cite as particular influences? And are there any fantasy authors currently being published that you especially keep an eye out for?

Michael Moorcock has always been a great influence on me as a writer and I’ve been reading him since the early 70s. He seamlessly blends good history and high fantasy in many of his works and as a storyteller he is second to none. The Warhound and the World’s Pain is a particular favourite of mine, as it’s set in the 17th century. But all of his novels have brought me immense pleasure over the years. I’m looking forward to his “White Friars” series which is out in November. And although it’s not fantasy,  I have greatly admired the scope and prose of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin books. Now that is true literary historical fiction. Readers today are spoilt for choice in fantasy with so many great voices out there. I’ve got a copy of Mark Alder’s Son of the Morning on my desk and I’m looking forward to diving in soon. If you haven’t heard, it’s the Hundred Years War but this time God and Lucifer pick sides to actively support!

 

The inevitable writer’s advice question! Are there any particular tips or recommendations you would pass on to aspiring writers, to help them on their journey?

It may sound trite, but nevertheless it’s as true today as it has always been: Don’t give up. Keep scribbling, keep reading others, and never be afraid to rip up your prose and rewrite it. I’ve never regretted a single rewrite I’ve done and invariably your work will always benefit.

 

Many thanks for speaking with us – it’s been a pleasure, Cliff. 🙂

 

 

Robert E Howard’s “Solomon Kane” revisited

Wrote a retro review for the July issue of SFX Magazine which the editors have graciously allowed me to reproduce here. It was a very different experience reading R.E. Howard again after so many years–and not an altogether pleasant one. Have a read and let me know what you think.

 

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
Robert E Howard, (Del Rey, 1998)
Writer Clifford Beal considers Conan’s Puritan stablemate

Robert E Howard, who took his own life at the age of 30, was the father of kane
that
 subgenre of fantasy that would become known as “sword and sorcery”. Best known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Howard’s writings influenced a generation of fantasy authors, including Fritz Leiber and David Gemmell.

But before Conan, Howard had created a very different character in Solomon Kane, a mysterious Puritan loner who roams the darker corners of the world, fighting ancient and nameless evil in the early 17th century. Bursting from the pages of Weird Tales in 1928, Solomon Kane fought Lovecraft-inspired deities, demons, pirates and scores of hostile natives to rescue the helpless and right wrong wherever he saw it. Kane is far more conflicted and layered a character than Conan, and Howard portrays him as driven, if not downright psychopathic. In “The Blue Flame Of Vengeance” Kane remarks to a man he is helping: “It hath been my duty in times past to ease various evil men of their lives…” Which is an understatement.

To be sure, this is pulp fiction. You won’t find subplots or shades of grey here, and since these are largely short stories there is a definite headlong rush to get down to the business at hand, usually involving a good amount of swordplay and spilt blood. Anachronisms and cod “olde world” dialogue sometimes sound a sour note, but at its best, Howard’s writing is dazzlingly energetic, vivid and not without poetry. His descriptions of hand-to-hand fighting are compelling as they are brutal but even here there is a mastery of mood and intensity. In one scene, Howard’s imagery is chilling: an avenging Kane overpowers a murderous pirate in a knife fight and intentionally kills him by degrees, plunging in the tip of his dagger, one inch at a time.

kane2Yet there’s a darker side to the swashbuckling. Racial stereotyping was always present in pulp fiction and Asian or African physical features were often used as shorthand for moral turpitude and inferiority. Sadly, much of the writing in Solomon Kane follows this path. A few of the better-known tales such as “The Moon Of Skulls” are set in central Africa, where Kane encounters the remnants of an ancient civilisation ruled over by brutish savages. And here, black skin colour is equated with degenerate evil, with Kane portrayed as a white saviour intent on toppling the evil African queen Nekari. Even the last survivor of Atlantis, whom Kane tries to free from bondage, is worried about his ethnic purity: “I, the last son of Atlantis, bear in my veins the taint of Negro blood.”

But Howard and his characters are full of contradictions. Solomon Kane’s self-professed “blood brother” is a black African wizard and the only real friend that Kane has in any of the stories. And in “The Footfalls Within” Kane risks his life to free African villagers from Arab slavers and then guides them to safety. Solomon Kane’s tales are, like those of Conan, rousing epics, and as part of our pulp-era inheritance they deserve to be read. But like much of our past, it’s not all good. Today Howard’s writing, imaginative as it is, leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste.

 

 

Older posts

© 2017 Clifford Beal

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑