ROBERT E. HOWARD, L. SPRAGUE de CAMP & LIN CARTER – Conan. Lancer, paperback, 1967. Cover: Frank Frazetta. Chronologically the first in the series.

   My first exposure to the saga of Conan. I found him as exciting a character as his fans have been saying for years. The writing can be uneven, but Conan in combat is never dull. There were many points of similarity between story plots in this volume; Conan probably had his fill of kiling evil magicians. The quality of the pastiches is generally good – note that the highest rated story is by de Camp and Carter. It is also the shortest, however, which may imply something.    Overall rating: ****

“The Hyborean Age, Part I” – Howard. Originally published in The Fantagraph, Feb, Aug, Oct-Nov 1936. The fictional background for the series, telling of events up to the time of Conan (not rated).

“The Thing in the Crypt” – Carter & de Camp. Fifteen-year-old Conan discovers a sword guarded by one of the undying dead. Skillful blend of horror and swords and sorcery. (5)

“The Tower of the Elephant” – Howard. Originally published in Weird Tales, March 1933. Conan undertakes the theft of a well-guarded jewel in an evil priest’s tower and frees the captive alien from whom the priest received his powers. (4)

“The Hall of the Dead” – Howard & de Camp. Originally published in F&SF, February 1967. Conan and Nestor risk the unknown dangers of the ruined city of Larsha for the treasures rumored there, but their net gain is two gold coins. Nothing terribly remarkable this time. (3)

“The God in the Bowl” – Howard. Originally published in Space SF, September 1952. A museum owner is killed under strange circumstances, and Conan is accused, A bit slow at times, but it is made up for as Conan escapes and discovers the real murderer. (4)

“Rogues in the House” – Howard. Originally published in Weird Tales, January 1934. In return for help in escaping imprisonment, Conan helps a nobleman against an evil priest, then saves them both from an ape-man who has taken over the priest’s home. Fun. (4)

“The Hand of Nergal” – Howard & Carter. Conan, the sole survivor of a battle against Yaralet, is brought secretly to that city to destroy its ruler, who possesses a talisman giving him magical powers. The weakest story; Conan needs the counter-talisman to succeed. (3)

“The City of Skulls” – Carter & de Camp. Conan is captured and made a galley slave. When he escapes, a living stone god must be destroyed. Slow in the middle; ending saves story. (4)

– January 1968