Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Ode to the Berkley Medallion Conans


...in all their tattered glory
Karl Edward Wagner was and remains the most qualified individual to weigh in on the issue of Conan stories penned by someone other than Robert E. Howard, given that he wrote arguably the best pastiche of them all (“The Road of Kings”). So it behooves us to listen to what he had to say in the foreward to the Berkley Medallion Edition of Conan: The Hour of the Dragon (August 1977):

“I have written Howard pastiches myself, so I can speak both as a reader and an author: Every author leaves his personal mark on whatever he writes; the only man who could write a Robert E. Howard story was Robert E. Howard. Read Howard pastiches as you will—but don’t let anyone kid you that you’re reading Robert E. Howard. It is far more than a matter of imitating adjective usage or analyzing comma-splices. It is a matter of spirit.”
While Howard fans these days are spoiled by the Del Reys, prior to 1977 you could not buy a collection of the Conan stories without editorial emendations or the presence of pastiches. Both the widely printed Lancer/Ace collections of the 1960s and 70s and the rarer Gnome Press editions from the 1950s were marred by editorial changes and additional non-Howard material. That all changed with the Berkley Medallion Editions, published by the arrangement of the late, great, Glenn Lord (1931-2011), and edited by legendary horror and swords and sorcery author Karl Edward Wagner (1945-1994). These consist of three books in an aborted series that was supposed to run longer and include all 21 of Howard’s original stories. They include The Hour of the Dragon, The People of the Black Circle, and Red Nails. To prepare the Berkley Medallion Edition manuscript Wagner made photocopies directly from the pages of Weird Tales, correcting only obvious typographical errors.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Black Gate website.

4 comments:

David J. West said...

I made it a point to grab the hardcovers and the paperbacks with their cool fold out covers.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Here here. Well said, sir.

Pericles said...

I am happy to say that I own all three of these paperbacks with the fold-out covers intact. Very cool.

God bless the immensely talented KEW. It would have been wonderful if they'd allowed him to assemble more of Howard's work in Berkley editions.

Brian Murphy said...

I'm jealous, David and Pericles... still hoping one day to obtain copies with the fold-out covers.

I too would have liked to have seen Howard's entire ouevre published by Berkley Medallion with KEW forewards/afterwards.