Saturday, June 23, 2012

Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard

Front Cover

Recently, my day job has not left me much time for posting, but of course Conan, REH and his works keep a heavy rotation in my reading list. A few weeks ago I made the decision to join the Robert E. Howard Foundation; at the same time, I ordered Mark Finn's Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. The following is not so much of a review as it is a capsule recommendation. I plan to share more from this book in the future.

Finn's book is one that I have wanted to read ever since it was first published, but for one reason or another, had not obtained a copy. I should not have waited so long to do so.

Back cover
Much of Finn's research comes from the letters of REH to various others (Howard's letters to H.P. Lovecraft being one source that is frequently quoted from). While L. Sprague de Camp's biography of REH is not in favor with many Howard fans (I myself have never read de Camp's book, so do not feel I can comment upon it), de Camp did do a number of interviews with people who knew REH and those interviews are utilized by Finn as well.

Finn does much in these pages to give an honest account of REH. He debunks many of the myths started by L. Sprague de Camp and others. The focus of the book is to show that REH was first and foremost a Texan story-teller of Tall Tales. Finn's  thesis is strong and well presented.

For the Conan fans, there is a chapter devoted entirely to the creation and writing of the original Conan stories. Warning, Finn admits that Conan is not his favorite character, nor group of stories; however, I would say they get fair treatment.

Blood & Thunder has many great photographs and quotations from Howard's letters and poetry. For these alone, the book was worth the price of admission. While I am at least a layman to the letters of Howard and his poetry, Finn's research has encouraged me to seek out more of the same.

I could give you a chapter blow by blow of Finn's book, but frankly, I would much rather just say that I enjoyed it and believe that all REH fans should give themselves the opportunity to enjoy it as well.

Signed and numbered


Charles R. Rutledge said...

This is a terrific book. I bought the first edition and this expanded one is even better.

Mike D. said...

I have not read ths book...I own it and have yet to read it. Thank you for reminding me of it's existance...I have moved around a lot in the past and many of my books are still in boxes in the eaves. Im'a dig it out and give it a read! Thanks Pal!

Chad Thorson said...

I've read it twice! It's a great read and probably the best bio on REH. I've got the original edition but I've heard there were some things added to this new edition.

Kilsern said...

@Atom Kid,
I have not read the original, but via the author in his notes, there is lots more information on Conan, that was one of his chief received complaints about the first edition, there is also lots more information on Howard's Breckinridge Elkins stories. Interestingly enough, Mark Finn finds some interesting insights into the psyche of REH in the Elkins stories, which are normally passed off as enjoyable humor.