As I prepare next week to teach Robert E. Howard’s fabulous short story, “Pigeons From Hell,” I see that the Howard journal, Two Gun Raconteur has a Time Line for my favorite of Howard’s creations, Solomon Kane.
Conan was the first Howard I was exposed to, my mother handing me a weathered book of his short stories (probably bought at a rummage sale). I spent hours out in the fields, cutting down weeds with sticks and pretending to be the barbarian.
Yet, Kane was some of the first literature I sought out on my own. Knowing from the back of the Conan paperback that Howard had other characters, I was drawn to the Puritan Swordsman right away. I don’t know if it was in the 5 & 6 grade library (A place where I met many of my future literary heroes) or somewhere else, but I finally got a hold of another tattered paperback and devoured it.
When I was in grad school I was asked to read an excerpt from a story I loved at a poetry/short story event at a bar in town. Much to the confusion of the audience, I chose to read from the Kane story, “Rattle of Bones.” I had an amazing time trying to capture the tension and terror of the piece.
I think there were a few in the audience that actually enjoyed it, but most clapped politely for me to sit down more than for the prose I delivered. My wife pulled me in as I sat back down and whispered, “I think they were confused.”
I didn’t care, I was happy to bring Kane into the scene and even if my audience was me, I loved every second of it.
One of my students stopped by yesterday to talk about Howard and she stated that she had picked up The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane at the local used book store. I smiled knowingly. She is about to go on a bold adventure. I hope she comes back and lets me know how she fared.