Red Nails

Red Nails[KINDLE] ❃ Red Nails ❆ Robert E. Howard – One of the strangest stories ever written the tale of a barbarian adventurer a woman pirate and a weird roofed city inhabited by the most peculiar race of men ever spawned That was the Weird Tales edi One of the strangest stories ever written the tale of a barbarian adventurer a woman pirate and a weird roofed city inhabited by the most peculiar race of men ever spawned That was the Weird Tales editor's original terse blurb for this story's magazine publication There was another longer less coherent but it wouldn't fit here on the back cover Death Decay Red Nails really is something special It's classic Conan Conan lovers consider Red Nails to be one of the best and you know they make a point. Real solid story I appreciate the addition of the strong female co main Valeria who is on the run after killing her would be rapist Red Nails was the last Conan story Howard ever wrote Weird Tales the magazine that published most of his stuff was behind in payments to the tune of 1500 which during the Great Depression was beaucoup bucks So he moved on to Westerns which were in demand Howard's end was a terrible shame It would have been nice to see how his writing progressed if he hadn't taken his own life at a relatively young age He wrote fast to pay the bills What might he have accomplished in the fantasy genre given time to hone his craft and expand upon the wild and wonderful Hyboria? The world will never know About a year ago at a library book sale I ran across some collections of Conan stories which were edited by Karl Edward Wagner These were labeled as “Authorized” I didn’t pay much attention to that because I thought I had read pretty much all of the Conan stories back in high school And I may have but the ones I read were part of a multi volume set that was “edited” by Lin Carter August Derleth and L Sprague DeCamp The point here is that the stories I read way back when were leavened with Conan stories from other writers At the time I remember liking them for the most part but that I noticed a definite difference when reading the real Howard efforts Reading some of these stories now many years later it’s clear I haven't read them all On the downside after a life time of reading under my belt I can’t help but notice the crudity with which they are written They are obviously the product of someone writing uickly and in a white hot heat There are times when the plot moves along mechanically and when dialogue is as wooden as a forest On top of that these stories are pretty racist in their characterizations of people from other races It isn't subtle and from reading Wagner's Afterword those characterizations fit into Howard's world view such as it was at age 30 And yet despite all of that there’s this weird powerful purple languaged energy that holds it all together There are passages and scenes that show Howard as the possessor of a first class imagination After finishing a story you put the book down and realize this is the real thing This is Pulp warts and all from the Golden Age If you can deal with these warts it’s pretty obvious why Howard remains so influential A few comments on the individual stories – along with an occasional Howard nugget below“Beyond the Black River” Conan on the Pict frontier Conan and a warrior companion try to warn settlers that an attack from the united Picts is imminent And the Picts are led by an evil wizard who can command the beasts of the forest I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Western feel of this story I got all sorts of Comanche vs Texan vibes going here Or Last of the Mohicans Black magic a saber tooth tiger a fortress under siege and extreme carnage You betcha Interestingly Wagner thinks this one of the best of the Conan stories in part because it cuts against Sword and Sorcery expectations though it has plenty of that What does get lost in this story is the damsel in distress bit which when you look at the bulk of Conan stories usually make for some of Howard's most clumsy dialogue I'm inclined to agree that Beyond the Black River is one of best of the Conan stories Then Conan released him and ran into the building where the skulls hung Balthus followed him He got a glimpse of the grim stone altar faintly lighted by the glow outside; five human heads grinned on that altar and there was a grisly familiarity about the features of the freshest; it was the head of the merchant Tiberias Behind the altar was an idol dim indistinct bestial yet vaguely manlike in outline Then fresh horror choked Balthus as the shape heaved up suddenly with a rattle of chains lifting long misshapen arms in the gloomShadows in Zamboula The second story in this collection Shadows in Zamboula may be the weakest in the bunch but it's not without some punch It also of all these stories is the most racist in its characterizations In this one our mighty thug decides against the warnings of a friend to stay at an inn where travelers have been disappearing What makes this story memorable is that it has a thrilling duel to the death via strangulation Probably the only one I've run across in fiction or the only one worth remembering Conan at his badass best Conan you are of the West and know not the secrets of this ancient land But since the beginning of happenings the demon of the desert have worshipped Yog the Lord of the Empty Abodes with fire fire that devours human victimsRed Nails The third and final story in the collection is actually a novella According to Wagner this was the last Conan story that Howard would write before his suicide I'm unclear as to where his one Conan novel fits in this chronology but evidently Howard was having trouble getting paid by editors of Weird Tales it was the Depression and he was starting to look at other markets while toying with writing different types of stories Wagner is only so so with Red Nails I like it better than that but it does start out a bit slow as he engages in a back and forth conversation with a pirate lady named Valeria As I said above such scenes make for some really bad dialogue Anyway Conan and Valeria get trapped on top of a hill by a dragon They soon figure out how to deal with the Lizard King but find themselves trapped in a nearby city called Xuchotl The city is being fought over by warring clans see Yojimbo or Last Man Standing who use both sword and sorcery against each other Once the reader is in the city this is a really cool story with a racy subtext of lesbianism that must of been pretty daring for its day In the shadows beneath the balcony a ghostly light began to glow and grow a light that was not part of the fire stone gleam Valeria felt her hair stir as she watched it; for dimly visible in the throbbing radiance there floated a human skull and it was from this skull human yet appallingly misshapen that the spectral light seemed to emanateThe book concludes with Howard's essay on the Hyborean Age most Conan fans have already read this as well as an informative Afterword by Karl Edward Wagner If Howard produced a final draft this may have become his Stairway to Heaven Presumably created while he suffered from crippling depression caused by the declining health and eventual death of his Mother compounded by a time of unsatisfactory relations with women generally it's surprising that Valeria is featuredImagine relentlessly pounding this out on a typewriter with no light at the end of the causeway besides a pulp paycheck and the modest respect of your friends The author still managed to produce a competent tale but it's not my favoriteThis inspired Dwellers of the Forbidden City I listened to the audiobook twice but it didn't shed any light on that catbox of a module Instead it made me think that Zeb Cook missed an opportunity to bring the slithering book atmosphere to the module I'd rate it five stars but there isn't enough clarity to distinguish the city factions plus the story would've been better if it had stuck to Conan's point of view view spoiler I hoped for some intrigue between factions but there was only outright war and mild betrayal  hide spoiler I had the pleasure of first reading the Conan stories in the order Robert E Howard wrote them which provided a peek into the mind of a profoundly troubled man Conan was the last major character he created and towards the end of Howard's life the world of Conan became progressively bleak and barren and grim its people little than the remnants of a civilization that had raped enslaved and murdered itself into near extinction RED NAILS was the final Conan story and didn't make it to publication until after the author's suicide As such it's likely the darkest and most gruesome and best Conan taleAnd you know what? It's in the public domain Robert E Howard's last Conan story Loved the eerie setting as Conan battles foes and monsters alike in an ancient dead city where the last remnants of rival feuding clans linger among the splendor and riches of ages long past This is my 3rd Conan story to read and it is by far my favorite I’d heard of Red Nails before but didn't know anything about it What I found was an adventure that cements Howard title as a Sword Sorcery master Here we find Conan and his companion Valeria Those familiar with the 1982 movie will recognize that name as they go through a jungle They are attacked by a dragon and once that encounter is done find an abandoned and hidden city Hopeful for treasure they enter the rusted doors and discover 2 things 1 The city is in fact a single enormous 4 story building with towers crystal skylights twisting passages and deep crypts 2 They discover that the city is not abandoned but inhabited by two small clans that have been at war for over fifty yearsWhat follows is an adventure filled with magic swordplay sex betrayal and adventure In short the very nature of sword sorcery and it is awesomeThere is a faint Yojimbo feel to the story but only enough of one that you can say there’s a passing similarity If there is any common inspiration it would be with the 1929 Hammett novel Red Harvest which could arguably be the case given the similarity of titles I recommend it to anyone that wants to enjoy the classic pulp that laid the foundation for much of today’s fantasy In my opinion one of the strangest Conan stories ever written and one of the best Sure the character development is pathetic but who cares? A completely enclosed city factions of the same tribe at war with one another engaged in a violent competition gorgeous women in loin cloths a despot king monsters from below and a dinosaur They call it a dragon but it is totally a dinosaur You won't find the furthering of gender euality or even racial euality in the works of Howard Let us not forget that Conan is known as the barbarian the destroyer the conueror and only rarely the adventurer He is never called Conan the ticklish Conan the nice or Conan the fair No he is a certified thug Sometimes it is okay for the main character to be unlikable Look at Tom Ripley This was my first foray into the world of Conan and boy what a trip As I finished the story I laughed at how little there was to actually take away from it as in nothing but that's okay Comically racist and sexist the story is a great adventure all the way through Now I just have to find a reason to exclaim Sulky slut I have to say that I very much enjoyed this story There's a lot of early east Texas cultural baggage to get past Once I did I enjoyed the primal adventure sensuality and moral inhibition of of this very well put together Conan storyRobert E Howard had a complex and contradictory consciousness For example he's a lost cause on the subject of race Like his colleague HP Lovecraft he was a man whose family had fallen on hard times and aggrandized himself at the expense of other people with pseudo science and blatant misreading of history Which makes the whole premise of this story somewhat unsettling Degenerate races feature predominantly it's one of the main themes in fact which is a shameHis portrayal of women however isn't as bad as many people claim Oh by modern standards and even enlightened contemporaries such as William Moulton Marston he is a chauvinist But in our age where most people read Conan stories in collections it's hard to remember that there were other contributors to Weird Tales and Howard comes out looking slightly better in comparison In this story Valeria Conan's sidekick and love interest is a warrior in her own right She doesn't simper in the background as so often happens in these stories She fights and holds her own though her femininity is often her failing It felt to me that Howard kept trying to maker her Conan's eual and then his east Texas social learning would kick in and she would swoon in complete contradiction to her character Howard characters do not often act in such a contradictory manner I think it's a sign of conflict with regard to his view of women at least toward the end of his lifeThe setting is what redeems the story A colossal city with no windows and only two main gates The whole place from catacombs to towers is one huge maze A maze with factions warring within it The descriptions of the passages and the lights rooms stairs and the history of the place give this story a deep oppressive atmosphere It's almost a relief when the fighting starts Fortunately there's a lot of fightingI have to say I love a character like Conan I think everyone has fantasied about being someone who has shed the constraints of civilization To be someone who lives only for food sex and fighting notice I cleaned that up at the expense of alliteration It was physically painful See how constraining civilization can be? Getting inside the head of someone like Conan can be a fun vicarious experience Thus the evil sorcerer who rules not by right of arms but dark powers becomes bosses or the person who cut us off in traffic or whatever How satisfying would it be to solve our problems as easily as Conan?This is the first of my appendix n books shelf This story was recommended in Appendix N of the first Dungeon Master's Guide written by Gary Gygax This story features many elements that would become common in dungeon crawls It has a dungeon Heroes that are employed to solve a problem for non main characters common in DD less so in epic fantasy magical monsters and a story that is gradually reveled to the adventurers as the accomplish tasks The influence this story had on Dungeons and Dragons is very obviousI don't think I've written a review this long before I could write and I may elsewhere But I'll close here by saying that I think that this story despite its flaws and the author's obvious hang ups is well worth the time of someone interested not only in the early history of DD but in the general evolution of the fantasy genre Being a gigantic fan of all things fantasy I am a big fan of the sword and sorcery Never having read any of the Conan novels but being a fan of the movies I decided to read these booksThey certainly come out of a different era but the fantasy elements of the lovable swashbuckler are still awesome and wonderful This was written when you knew straight down the line who the bad guys were and who the good guys wereWhat I find especially fascinating about Conan himself is that he is not a hero in the classical sense He is an anti hero and a bad ass In fact I think he might have been one of the first dark heroes in fantasy literature If Conan wasn't the protagonist of the story he would have been the villain no uestions asked But he is the protagonist and we root for this mans man to kill people slay dragons and get the scantly clad damselReally good stuff

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  • Paperback
  • 295 pages
  • Red Nails
  • Robert E. Howard
  • English
  • 27 March 2015
  • 9780425036105