Solomon Kane Paperback – Nov 1995
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Although posthumously famous for the bloody barbarians Kull and Conan, many critics feel that Howard's most memorable hero was this dour Puritan adventurer. Solomon Kane was in fact one of the first series characters created by the prolific pulp writer, who virtually single-handedly created the subgenre of heroic fantasy. Set in the 1600s, these tales are a striking combination of horror and fantastic adventure that remain among Howard's most intense. A lone swordsman on a mission to rid the world of evil, Kane wanders across Europe and Africa, endlessly fighting mad villains, winged vampires, and black magic. Originally published in the legendary pulp magazine "Weird Tales," the stories have been collected in several variant editions. More recent editions have striven to publish the tales as the author originally composed them--utterly merciless and without any hint of light reaching into Howard's unique vision of darkness. --Stanley Wiater
Top Customer Reviews
The original stories, as done by Howard are classic and they hold up well today. One should keep in mind when Howard was writing about the past, his narritive voice slipped back in time as well. He approximates how people really thought back then. Also, consider that this was long before political correctness, and there was no such thing as "African-American" as a term. Howard tended to use the expression "black" which was thankfully better than a lot of writers and pulp-writers of that day.Read more ›
Armed with a sword, musket, and pistols, Kane is the single most obsessive character Howard created. A man of Puritan ideals who has no qualm about dealing out God's justice. He tracks pirates from Europe to Africa to avenge crimes they committed.
Great stories here, although a few were finished long after Howard's death. Among my favorites are "Wings in the Night" about a race of winged demon-like creatures attacking an African Village.
Howard was a racist, no doubt about it so you need to know this and not be offended and remember that these stories were written back in the 1930's.
Several years back, Marvel Comics produced a fine limited series on the character, called The Sword Of Solomon Kane. Still, it will be nice to see Van Helsing, as I've never known of any work as such to feature the pugnacious Puritan. And if Van Helsing _is_ in fact a "steal" on Kane, let's look at it as flattering and be mindful also of the steals concerning Dracula, Frankenstein and the WolfMan. Simply sit back and enjoy the show...if only for the hypnotic Kate Beckinsale, of course.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
My thanks to the publishers, who have assembled EVERYTHING, including unpublished material (not completed upon Howard's death) fleshed out by Ramsey Campbell, who did a good job. Campbell's introduction spells out, for each such story, who wrote which bits.
"Skulls in the Stars" - On the road to Torkertown, Kane is warned off the shortest route across the moors; a fiend has slain every traveler to pass that way for the last year. Kane takes this as a sign that another task has come his way.
"The Right Hand of Doom" - The necromancer may have deserved death, but Kane had only contempt for his betrayer, the magician's only 'friend' who sold him to the law. Not a good idea to cross a magician who has courage and nothing left to lose, waiting in the condemned cell at Torkertown.
"Red Shadows" - After comforting a dying rape victim, Kane commits himself to tracking down Le Loup and his men. The trail leads from France to Africa, ending with Kane's first meeting and alliance with N'Longa (in case you wondered how they became blood brothers). Don't be put off by N'Longa's poor command of English; when he puts aside his pride in his knowledge of the alien tongue and drops into river dialect, that should clear up any misconceptions about Howard's treatment of his character.
"Rattle of Bones" - Kane, passing through the Black Forest, stays the night at the Cleft Skull Tavern (English translation), meeting Gaston, a flamboyant fellow traveler who seems familiar.
"The Castle of the Devil" (Campbell collaboration) - John Silent, an English mercenary moving on to his next job, meets with Kane in the Black Forest, to learn that Kane cut down a boy from the local Baron's gibbet. As his castle - the Castle of the Devil - is nearby, Kane has a feeling that he will be called upon to ease another evil man of his life...
"Death's Black Riders" - A fragment, concerning a mysterious apparition encountered by Kane in his travels.
"The Moon of Skulls" - Sir John Taferal, upon his death in a duel with Kane, confessed that he had sold his young cousin Marylin to a Barbary rover, faking her death, in an attempt to become the heir of Lord Hildred Taferal. Kane, having rid the world of one Taferal, took on the job of restoring another, tracing her to Negari, ancient city of evil repute, lost colony of Atlantis.
"The One Black Stain: Sir Thomas Doughty, executed at St. Julian's Bay, 1578" - Poem. Solomon Kane, alone of all Francis Drake's men, has the courage to say, "Worthy of death he well may be, but the court ye held was a mockery..."
"Blades of the Brotherhood" - The Fishhawk and his fellow pirates set upon a ship in the Caribbean carrying the daughter of one of Kane's old friends. The trail has led him to an English manor, whose master respects no one and nothing, not even the victor in his latest duel, Jack Hollinster, who stopped at first blood only at a magistrate's orders.
"The Hills of the Dead" - N'Longa's initial gift to Kane - the cat-headed staff - ever afterwards travels with him.
"Hawk of Basti" (Campbell collaboration) - Jeremy Hawk, an old acquaintance from Kane's seafaring days with Grenville, survived shipwreck on the African coast only to stumble across the unknown civilization of Basti. Having set himself up as a god-king, he has been overthrown, and seeks a return to power.
"The Return of Sir Richard Grenville" - Poem. Upon being wakened in the middle of a jungle night by a ghostly warning, Kane isn't one to let wonder get in the way of survival.
"Wings in the Night" - Coming upon the ruins of an African village, Kane learns the truth behind the ancient legends of harpies. He's actually at a serious disadvantage against his winged enemies here.
"The Footfalls Within" - As part of this story, we learn much more about the cat-headed staff and its history, courtesy of one of a party of slavers who capture Kane. That was their first mistake - the second was to open up a sealed tomb deep in the wilderness. (No chance to make a third mistake after that.)
"The Children of Asshur" (Campbell collaboration) - Kane stumbles across a lost civilization (Assyrian, this time). Compare with Howard's "The Voice of El-Lil" if the culture interests you.
"Solomon Kane's Homecoming" - Short poem, relating Kane's return to his hometown after many years' absence.
It is a mistake to write off the character of Solomon Kane as simply being a Puritan fanatic. It is inaccurate and an injustice. It is a strange sort of fanatic that hates the inquisition and the witch hunters, as much as, he does necromancers and murderers. Kane is in the ancient British and Irish tradition of a man who goes forth to wander the world after he receives the call- guided solely by his deep inner trust in his God. That is why he can walk the dark and wild places of the earth unscathed. That is why monsters and devils hold no terror for him. He simply trusts in the Lord to guide him to where he can do the most good. Kane is a Puritan in the original sense of the word, a single individual that has no tolerance for corruption whether it exists in the World- or the Church. He doesn't preach, for he doesn't need to- his actions, and his sword, speak for him. He needs no priest to mediate between himself and his Creator. Kane has gone beyond faith, for his is the sure and implacable knowledge that God exists. This is what makes him such a dangerous foe- you can't scare him and you can't make a deal with him. He obeys only the inner voice that guides him. I can see why the weak and corrupt would paint such a man as a fanatic.
Solomon Kane was Howard's first creation. In my opinion, he was also his best. There is an element present here that is missing from the later characters- something higher.
This book collects all of Howard's Kane writings, including even a poem that amounts to Kane's farewell appearance. It's a worthwhile addition to the library of any lover of fantasy and horror fiction... more modern writers in both genres owe more to Howard than most of them realize.
On a final note, the 'fanboy' in me was particularly excited by the Kull cross-over in one of Kane's African adventures... when our hero stumbles into the final vestiges of the Alantean civilization!