Until my good friend Charles Rutledge reminded me, I had forgotten that today is the centennial of the birth of Robert E. Howard. My first introduction to Howard's visceral prose came via the book pictured at left: Conan the Adventurer, a Lancer paperback that featured a stunning cover by Frank Frazetta. I had become a fan of Frazetta's work thanks to the ERB Ace editions, had begun picking up and CreepyEerie because of his cover art there, and was keeping an eye open for other Frazetta art--and there it was, a stunning image of a muscular, barbaric Conan in his prime. Thanks to that cover, I picked the book up and was immediately drawn into Howard's dark, savage world. I was captivated and began searching out every other Lancer Conan book I could find; I still have all those well-worn paperbacks, although I have many other editions of REH's work that I am more likely to read.
Like many others, I stayed with Conan through the non-REH tales; I expanded my reading to encompass virtually every sword-and-sorcery pastiche I could find (and in the process discovered such works of distinction as Fritz Lieber's Fafhrd & Grey Mouser, C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry, Michael Moorcock's Elric, and even the more derivative Kothar by Gardner Fox--one of my favorite comic book writers--and Thongor by Lin Carter).
From Conan, my appetite for REH's prose led me to Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane, and eventually to the many other types of weird and adventure fiction that Howard wrote during his all-too-short lifetime. Howard never failed to transport me into a lush, colorful world far removed from anything I had found in any other writer's works.
Happy birthday, Bob! Your life should have been much, much longer...