Bill at Subterranean was nice enough to send me a copy of the limited edition of Kull: Exile of Atlantis, the limited edition ($150). As a piece of book craft it is one of the most beautiful volumes I've ever seen, complete with stunning illustrations by Justin Sweet that echo in certain ways John Allen St. John's work but are very much Sweet's own.
No matter what you're reading, settling down for an evening of Mr. Howard is bound to clear your sinuses and put a gleam in your eyes.
So far I've read the seminal Kull story "The Shadow Kingdom" and I have to say that while many who came after have done sword & sorcery very well nobody, at least to my taste, has quite created a world as believable as Kull's treacherous and bloody kingdom.
Raymond Chandler once remarked that Erle Stanley Gardner was able to make his unlikely plots seem real by the sheer force of his storytelling. There was something to say, Chandler felt, for the kind of speed writing that was Gardner's hallmark.
I suspect the same thing is true of Howard's fantasies. The battle scenes, the marketplace scenes, the brooding thoughts of Kull, the almost noirish descriptions of night and its hidden dangers, fill the senses with sharp and often stunning images. I know he did a lot of historical research. And he was able to turn that research into real pulp poetry.
This is one of those collections that make me feel as if I'm spending a weekend in my old hometown. I grew up reading Howard and I'm always happy to discover that his Conan and Kull stories especially still hold their magic for me.