Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?


A novel by Mark M. DeRobertis

Muhsin Muhabi is a Palestinian potter, descended from a long line of potters. His business is run from the same shop owned by his ancestors since the day his forebears moved to Nazareth. The region's conflict saw the death of his oldest son, and rogue terrorists are in the process of recruiting his youngest in their plot to assassinate the Pope and Israeli prime minister.

Professor Hiram Weiss is an art historian at Nazareth’s Bethel University. He is also a Shin Bet operative on special assignment. With the help of fellow agent, Captain Benny Mathias, he plans to destroy the gang responsible for the death of his wife and only child. He puts a bomb in the ancient vase he takes on loan from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Mary Levin, the charming assistant to the director of Shin Bet, has lost a husband and most of her extended family to recurring wars and never-ending terrorism. She dedicates her life to the preservation of Israel, but to whom will she dedicate her heart? The brilliant professor from Bethel University? Or the gallant captain who now leads Kidon?

Harvey Holmes, the Sherlock of Haunted Houses, is a Hollywood TV host whose reality show just flopped. When a Lebanese restaurant owner requests his ghost-hunting services, he believes the opportunity will resurrect his career. All he has to do is exorcise the ghosts that are haunting the restaurant. It happens to be located right across the street from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Robert E. Howard

Yesterday, Nathan Bransford asked his readers an interesting question: If you could meet an author, one alive and one dead, who would it be? I was somewhat disappointed that in over 200 comments, no one selected Robert E. Howard as the writer who was dead. Is he that unknown? Or that unappreciated? Is it that his most famous character, Conan of Cimmeria draws unmistakable images of an oafish Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Is it the male chauvinistic stereotype that such an image evokes?

I think Howard gets a bad rap, and I blame John Milius, the Hollywood director who made that horrible movie, Conan the Barbarian. If that is your only reference to the character of Conan, then you still have no clue about this great character. John Milius effectively destroyed the character of Conan. It was a disaster to have him make that movie. And it was a bad decision to cast Arnold in the role. It was his first major role, and he got it only because of his bodybuilder’s physique. Well, he certainly didn’t get the role for his acting ability, and not for any other resemblance to the character.

Sure, Howard’s limited descriptions painted Conan as a big guy with muscles, but Conan was no bodybuilder. He was a warrior who stood taller than most others, and he was from the Northern countries, which, today might be somewhere in Northern Europe. His tanned skin and blue eyes stood out, however, as did his jet black hair.

Anyway, it’s Howard’s writing that I really want to stress here, not just his most famous character. Howard wrote about a lot of different characters. Conan is one of my favorites, but another one of my favorites is Solomon Kane. I must admit that my own character, Trent Smith has a trait or two in common with Solomon Kane. One of those traits is his tendency to be a loner, and another, his tendency to be an extremist. In Trent Smith’s case, he was an extremist when it came to justice. In Solomon Kane’s case, he was an extremist in terms of his Puritan philosophies. But both had a sense of righteousness, and it’s what drove them onward in their respective stories.

Robert E. Howard is the best writer of fiction ever, imo, and that says a lot, obviously, since there are so many great, great writers out there. But he writes so well, that his prose is like poetry, and yeah, he wrote a lot of poetry, too.

Every story Howard wrote is like a masterpiece unto itself. It was Howard who invented the genre of Sword and Sorcery. I bet most of today’s aspiring writers have never even heard of him. But they’ve all heard of Rowling and Meyer, neither of whom can hold a candle to Robert E. Howard. I guess that’s what a bad movie can do to a great writer. Man, oh, man.

Here's what the Italian book reviewer, Mario Guslandi had to say about Howard:

Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, Solomon Kane and other memorable characters, has such a reputation as a master of heroic fantasy that it's easy to forget that his huge production (over a hundred stories within the space of only 12 years) includes a number of strong, colourful horror pieces. Never a refined stylist, Howard displayed an energetic and vivid type of storytelling also in his horror fiction which tends to feature brave, strong-willed men fearlessly facing alien forces and evil creatures.


Robert Ervin Howard (1906-1936) is best remembered for his classic sword and sorcery tales of the brawny Cimmerian swordsman Conan, though he wrote stories in a number of genres: horror (Pigeons from Hell, Worms of the Earth), oriental adventure (The Lost Valley of Iskander, Swords of Shahrazar), westerns both humorous (A Gent from Bear Creek) and conventional (The Last Ride, The Vultures of Whapeton), boxing (The Iron Man), and others. Howard's tales of Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Turlogh O'Brien and Solomon Kane created and defined the sword and sorcery genre, leading to innumerable pastiches and outright ripoffs of Howard's characters.

For Guslandi's complete review go to: http://www.sfsite.com/03a/rh291.htm


  1. Hollywood does tend to stray from the original author's vision for a character. I didn't realize he set the stage for the Sword and Sorcery genre, either. Thanks for pointing out the work of Mr. Howard, who until your post I hadn't heard of before.

  2. You are so very welcome. You are a lucky man. You get to read Robert E. Howard for the first time. But the third and fourth is just as thrilling.

  3. It's always great to find another Howard fan on the internet!

    While I share your complaints about Conan the Barbarian irrevocably affecting public perception of Conan and Howard, I think Arnold could've done a good job as the "real" Conan. After all, he won a Golden Globe for "Stay Hungry," so he definitely had some acting ability. Of course, that isn't why he was hired. There are still a few scenes in the film where he could almost be Howard's creation: glimpses through squinted eyes, but they're there. All that said, he wasn't ideal by any stretch. I personally think Clancy Brown would've been pretty interesting as Conan.

    Guslandi's review is excellent. Though I wouldn't categorize his heroes as necessarily "fearless" (most of them are experiencing stark terror even as they confront the menace), and Howard wrote well over a hundred stories (it's actually closer to SIX hundred!), it's a very positive, forthright review.

  4. Clancy Brown, yeah, I never thought about that. I'm trying to imagine a balck square cut wig on him.

    My choice (back then) was Hulk Hogan as he appeared in Rocky III. Put a black wig on him, shave off the mustache, and presto...it's Conan. He had the bronzed skin, the height, and the physique...not a bodybuilder's physique, like Arnold, but a warrior's, like Conan.

    I'm sure Clancy is the better actor though, and that, of course, is the bottom line. It's one thing to look the part, but you gotta know how to act. Clancy does. Not so sure about Hogan.