The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard: Del Rey. 2008.
This is a massive, 500+ pages compilation of pretty much every horror tale Robert E. Howard wrote. If you’re a fan of REH you’ll surely love it. If all you know is his fantasy, his Conan stories, then it will enlighten you on the man’s tremendous range. I actually started reading this a couple of years ago and chose to read it slowly and savor it, just a story here and there. Many of these stories I’d read before but they were all worth a reread.
I read one review of this collection that said it wasn’t “horror.” Well, not if your idea of horror has been defined by Stephen King. There are vampires, ghosts, and werewolves here, but the bulk of the stories either have Lovecraftian elements, or are of a type I might call southern campfire tales. By that, I mean the kind of tales rural southerners tell each other on dark nights when panthers are screaming in the woods and the fireflies flash like dead souls haunting the piney woods. Tell one of these around a campfire and no one will want to leave the light to go gather more firewood. The only thing worse would be to let the fire…die down.
Another thing about Howard’s stories is that, as a writer, REH found it basically impossible not to include a high level of physical action in his tales. Some people think that moves a piece away from horror. I don’t. Action and horror are a great mix. There’s plenty of it here.
Among my favorite pieces in this collection are “Dig Me No Grave,” “Old Garfield’s Heart,” “The Black Stone,” and “The Thing on the Roof.” I think the masterpiece of the collection is “Pigeons from Hell,” which creeped me out pretty badly.
This collection strove for completeness and that means not every piece in here is a masterpiece. There are also some fragments at the end that I wish Howard would have finished. Generally, though, I really liked this work and gave it five stars on Goodreads. I wish I'd written a bunch of these.