Thursday, November 23, 2006

Blood and Thunder -- Mark Finn

Robert E. Howard fans have waited nearly a quarter century for this book. Why? Well, not for John Picacio's great cover. That's just a bonus. What they've waited for is a book that serves as a counterpoint to L. Sprague de Camp's Dark Valley Destiny, a biography of Howard that set many fans' teeth on edge. Mark Finn says in his "Afterword" to Blood and Thunder, "In many ways, it was because I have such a strong negative reaction to Dark Valley Destiny that I chose to write this book the way I did; I tried to think of everything I didn't like about de Camp's effort, and then I tried very hard not to do that."

De Camp was a diligent researcher, no question. But to put things in the current idiom, Finn believes that de Camp cherrypicked the intelligence to suit his thesis and therefore was wrong about most everything. De Camp, a northerner, didn't understand Texas or Texans, the very things that shaped Howard's life and writing. Finn does, and he puts things in perspective in this volume, giving a vivid picture of Howard's life in Texas boomtowns, the people he met there, and the tall-tale tradition he grew up in.

Finn doesn't dodge the difficult questions about Howard, including what some have called his racism and of course his suicide, but he avoids the amateur psychoanalysis and Freudian theories that de Camp favored.

Finn also has much to say about Howard's writing, both about specific stories and about Howard's methods and techniques. He quotes copiously from Howard's letters and from other published accounts to support just about everything he has to say. If you're a fan of Howard's work or if you're at all curious about his life, this book has a lot to offer. Check it out.


Mark Finn said...

Thank you, Bill. I was wondering what you thought of the book. I'm pleased that you liked it enough to put in your blog!


Unknown said...

You did a great job, Mark. I hope you sell a jillion copies.