Lord of Samarcand and Other Adventure Tales of the Old Orient

Written by Robert E. Howard
Review by Steve Lewis

Most people who have heard of Robert E. Howard know of him only as the creator of Conan the Barbarian; others perhaps also that of King Kull. The fantasy adventures of both appeared first in the pulp magazines of the 1930s, heroes who were larger than life, kept alive in the hearts and minds of a cult following that rivals that of Tarzan for sheer adventure.

Both Conan and Kull were pure fantasy. Before Howard created either, he was writing historical fiction, tales comprised almost entirely of bloody battles taking place in the Middle East during the Crusades. Names such as Nur-al-din faced and conquered the Christians; Saladin, Baibars, Ghengis Khan, Talaman, and Suleiman the Great. Facing these emperors and warlords in Howard’s tales are heroes of his creation, often lone men, Godric de Villehard, Cormac FitzGeoffrey, and Cahal Ruadh O’Donnel, once king of Ireland. Often wronged by both sides and seeking revenge, they worked for the highest bidder or whoever suited them.

These stories are not for the faint-hearted. Bodies pile up like kindling. Limbs are lopped off, skulls crushed in, heads chopped from bodies. These should not be read one after the other, but spaced out to leave time for breathing.