If you love rip-roaring adventure, historical fiction, great storytelling, swordfighting, the Middle Ages, and/or all of the above, then Harold Lamb is the writer for you! At the risk of overstating his virtues and sliding into hyperbole, I can only say that, for me, discovering Harold Lamb has been like finding a lost world that I've been searching for my entire life. He really is the Godfather of all manner of 20th Century adventure fiction: Conan, Lord of the Rings, even Star Wars, none of these would be the same, or perhaps even exist as we know them, without someone like Lamb to lay the groundwork. In Swords from the West, he gives us a number of noble, heroic, intelligent protagonists who succeed in their various quests and endeavors by their wits as often as by their brawn. Perhaps, in this day and age, it's asking too much of a post-modern, attention-deficit, irony-drenched reading public to embrace a simpler era of clearcut heroes and villains. If so, then how sad for those who pass up the opportunity to discover a whole world of intrigue, betrayals, exotic lands, rich characters, thrilling battle scenes, revenge and rescue, all set in detailed, historically accurate settings ranging from Venice to the Holy Land, Persia, the Caucusus, the Caspian Sea, and many, many more.
Swords from the West contains a dozen or so short stories and three short novels (approx. 100 to 130 pages), most of them featuring knights or men of arms involved in some way with the Crusades. Some of them are en route to the Holy Land, some have made it there, others are returning. Most of them are, in some way, flawed and imperfect but admirable men of honor, true to their word, loyal to a fault, and often betrayed and searching for vengeance. The stories are tightly wound, well plotted, fast-paced with surprises and plot twists abounding. Lamb's powers of physical description are seemingly limitless. With just a few sentences he conjures up an entire setting that you can see, hear and smell, sets the story in motion and the reader is left hanging on to every word until it reaches its inevitable, satisfying conclusion.
I particularly loved the longer stories in this volume, The Grand Cham and The Making of the Morning Star, but many of the shortes stories are just as rich and powerful. If you buy this book, and I certainly recommend you do so, also check out his other collections, especially the Khlit the Cossack stories found in Wolf of the Steppes. Great adventures await you!