I’m currently reading this second edition of Mark Finn’s biography of pulp writer Robert E Howard, Blood & Thunder. The first edition was published several years back in paperback- this updated edition is in a handsome hardback edition from the wonderful Robert E Howard Foundation Press. The REHFP is a dream come true to REH fans like me who have been reading the great Texans work over the years- the REHFP editions of Howard’s work are frankly extraordinary after decades of buying soon-worn out paperbacks, and have a wealth of previously hard to find material, particularly their Collected Letters volumes and the Collected Poetry book (okay, okay, this means nothing to anyone unfamiliar with Howard’s work, but Howard fans will know what I’m going on about).
But anyway, back to Blood & Thunder– I read the earlier (2006, I think) edition and found it a very worthwhile book, albeit with a few reservations. The second major biography of Howard, it follows L Sprague DeCamp’ s rather universally derided Dark Valley Destiny of 1983. REH fans quite rightly howled at the psychosexual innuendo and other problems with that work. To that end, Blood & Thunder balances the scales somewhat by defending Howard and correcting DeCamp’s wild assertions and theories.
This second, updated edition of Blood & Thunder is a much-improved piece of work compared to the earlier version, being rather expanded. I’m only a few chapters into it so far, so it’s perhaps unfair for me to go too far here. I still have problems with the prose pieces that serve as fictional intros to each of the fours sections of the book, in which Finn portrays Howard at distinct moments in his life. I didn’t like them in the earlier edition and I still don’t like them here. I can understand why Finn wrote them, but I think the emotional connection might have been as well-established had Finn simply written the sections about himself, say, standing in the Howard home present-day, or in the streets Howard walked in Cross Plains. Or at Howard Days in June, describing other fans there, their thoughts and feelings, before jumping back into the biography. I guess that’s a personal artistic feeling I have regards the structure of the book.
Anyway, a proper summation forthcoming when I’ve read it all, but looking pretty good so far.