Tolkien’s Sword – Anglachel

Anglachel_BelegI had a burst of activity over at One post took an in depth look at one of Tolkien’s magic swords from The Silmarillion. If you’re not familiar with the history of Anglachel, you need to click on over and check it out.

The Silmarillion is a fascinating collection of epic stories that weave in and out of the history of Middle Earth. It can be a tough read, but there’s a lot of great stuff in it.




Back on the REH Foundation Awards Preliminary List

Howard_FoundationPlaqueFor the third year in row, I’m honored to make the Long list for the Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards. I made the short list in 2016 (but didn’t make the cut last year), though I didn’t win. That’s fine. I’m a latecomer to Robert E. Howard (as I am with Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe) but he’s become my second favorite author, behind only John D. MacDonald. And that might even change. So, I’m glad folks find my Howard scribblings worth reading.

I got nominated for this essay, which posits that the Conan tale, “The God in the Bowl,” is actually a police procedural before the term was even in use. I’m also up for the emerging scholar award.

I’ve set aside Holmes and Pons these days to focus on Conan tales – Howard’s and others’. REH was simply a fantastic writer. And not just of sword and sorcery stories.


And, I want to mention that there’s only five days left in my buddy David Marcum’s latest kickstarter. The first four Solar Pons collections by August Derleth have been out of print for over forty years. No more! They are being reissued by Belanger Books under David’s direction. And the other Derleth collections are coming shortly.

My Pinnacle paperbacks are falling apart. Don’t miss out on the chance to get the best Holmes pastiches we’ve seen yet.


I’m Not Dead! Just not Writing Much…

Conan_BlackColossusNo updates this year here on my blog. Huh. I’ve not been too active with my writing, though I’m reading Robert E. Howard and Conan-related material at a furious rate. There will be some essays coming as a result.

Back in January, I did a post over at, looking at some of the better Conan pastiches that have been written, with opinions from Howard Andrew Jones and Ryan Harvey mixed in. It was the second-most popular post of the month, so that’s not too bad.

That’s been my only Black Gate post this year – I better get going or they will take away my login!

James Schmidt, who runs the Mighty Thor JRS blog, let me do a guest post. I wrote about three Conan stories that are linked by the political scene in Kjoraja (“Black Colossus,” “Shadows in the Dark” and Conan the Renegade).

I liked the idea and may do a couple more posts on REH stories which other authors build on, such as “Beyond the Black River.”

I backed the Conan RPG Kickstarter from Modiphius. Fellow Black Gater Gabe Dybing did as well and he offered to run a Play by Post on FB to explore the system. We added Martin Page and his son Xander and we just got underway. There will be several Black Gate posts related to our venture; the first of which we’re editing now.

I haven’t been in the mystery world for months, but I might write a guest post at another blog in which I talk about a lesser-known Solar Pons story, “The Burlstone Horror.”

Well, just an update to let folks know I’m still around. And I share a lot of thoughts and information on Facebook (Bob Byrne). I’m practically a Cliff Claven of trivia.

My Thoughts on New Robert E. Howard Pastiches

I had an interesting experience the past couple of days. As you know, I am a huge fan of Robert E. Howard. I think he’s the best fantasy writer we’ve seen yet. And as showed with its Discovering Robert E. Howard series, he wrote well in several genres.

From what little I know (like I ever let THAT stop me), I don’t think that Cabinet is going to take ‘The Tor Approach’ and crank out a lot of mediocre pastiches (some were good, like Conan the Rogue by John Maddox Roberts and John Hocking’s The Emerald Lotus, but many were not). And I certainly don’t expect nearly a dozen Age of Conan spin offs (I hope not).

And if they get a good line editor (I’ve got a vote for that one) and quality authors, I think REH fans will be pleased to see new stories featuring Steve Harrison, or Sailor Steve Costigan, or El Borak, or Solmon Kane or whoever (I love Conan, but REH wrote about a lot more than just the mightily-thewed Cimmerian).

Harry Turtledove’s Conan of Venarium came out in 2002. It’s been fifteen years since an REH pastiche. And even that one came five years after the prior Conan novel.

Cabinet could easily have gone another fifteen years without any new books about REH’s characters, so I’m excited. And I’m pleased it’s not just Conan. I would like to add some new REH books alongside my original text Del Rey editions.

Here’s how I choose to look at it: The rights holders focused on getting unabridged REH texts out there. So, we got the Del Rey series (which is what made me an REH fan) and some excellent books from the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press. We were weaned off of the de Camp edits. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt heading into the world of new REH pastiches.

Hopefully the Q&A will yield some more details on what we can expect. I do know that the first book will be out in 2018.  May it be the first of many.




RIP John (Watson) Hillerman

Hillerman_WatsonJohn Hillerman, best known as ‘Higgins’ on Magnum PI, passed away last week. The actor had a couple of Sherlockian ties.

The first was in the Magnum episode, Holmes is Where the Heart Is. Patrick MacNee (who himself played Watson three times and Holmes once) is David (nee, Sigerson), an old friend of Higgins. David thinks that he is Sherlock Holmes and he is out to foil a Moriarty plot. Higgins is forced to become a reluctant Watson. It’s a good episode.

Hillerman would play the real Watson a few years later opposite Edward Woodward’s Holmes in The Hands of a Murderer. That forgettable film was based on the script for The Prince of Crime, which was to be the third Ian Richardson Holmes film, before Sy Weintraub settled his lawsuit against Granada and packed up his project after two movies. (Richardson is just about my favorite Holmes).

Hillerman had a very Shakespearean voice and I would have loved to see him on stage, booming out the lines of Falstaff.

A Nero Wolfe Newsletter? Satisfactory!

Wolfe_MurderBookHopefully, if you’re here, you are aware that I have created two free, on-line Newsletters, which I host over at my Solar Pons website. The Solar Pons Gazette is dedicated to ‘The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street.’ Baker Street Essays is about Sherlock Holmes.

Let me give you a tip: if you want to become a professional writer, creating free, online Newsletters is NOT the way to go about it.
So, of course, I just created my third such one, which is why I make my living as a Fiscal Officer (we can discuss my level of ‘professional’ in that field elsewhere.

I have read (and written about) a LOT of mystery series’, but my favorite of them all is Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. I have re-read the stories in the Corpus many times and never tire of them. So, it was time to put together some of my writings about Wolfe and Archie.

If you like Rex Stout’s mismatched pair, go ahead and give it a look. And if you haven’t discovered these wonderful stories, the first essay will give you an overview of the series; with a Sherlockian perspective.

Go ahead and click on over

LA, Kershaw & The Fall Classic!

Kershaw_WSGameOneWord Series baseball returned to Chavez Ravine last night in spectacular fashion:

  • On the 45th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s passing, his son, daughter and widow threw out the first pitch;
  • Dodger greats Sandy Koufax, Don Newcombe, Vin Scully, Tommy Lasorda and more were on hand;
  • It was the fastest World Series game since 1992;
  • At 104 degrees, it was the hottest starting temperature ever: higher than the last two openers combined;
  • Justin Turner, a former unwanted utility infielder, won the game with a two run homer and tied the great Duke Snider for the all time team RBI lead in the post season;
  • Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher on the planet, became only the second pitcher in World Series history to strike out 11 batters without walking any. The other: Don Newcombe!
  • The Astros, who led the majors in runs scored and fewest strike-outs, scored only one run and struck out 12 times.

When it lives up to its name, The Fall Classic is a great sporting event.