Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ken Bulmer

Henry Kenneth Bulmer, who died December 16, 2005 at the age of 84, is also a favorite writer of mine, and he’s one that relatively few of my friends appreciate. Ken, as he was called, was born in London in 1921 and wrote close to 170 novels and numerous short stories for British, American, and European markets. Many of his books were SF or fantasy, but many others weren’t, and because he wrote under numerous pseudonyms and house names it’s sometimes difficult to track down his work. Chances are you’ve read more than one of his books without knowing it.

Two of Bulmer’s pseudonyms are of particular interest to me. He wrote three excellent sword & sorcery novels under the name Manning Norvil, each of which got better than the one before. These featured a character named Odan: The Half-God, and are Dream Chariots, Whetted Bronze, and Crown of the Sword God. Ken also wrote fifty-two books and a novella in the Dray Prescot Sword & Planet series, which were modeled on the Martian books of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Many of the Prescot books were written under the name Alan Burt Akers, although the later ones were credited to Prescot himself, who was the hero of the series. Only the novella and thirty-seven of the Prescot books were published in English, all by DAW books. Despite the fact that they were written in English, the remaining books were printed only in Germany where there is a big Bulmer fan base.

Efforts are currently underway by fan groups to get the remaining Prescot books published in English. Just recently, Mushroom Books has started republishing the early works in the series in electronic format and are hoping to acquire the German-only ones as well. This will certainly depend on sales of their early releases.

I’ll not make the claim here that Bulmer was a great writer in the sense of transcending his subject matter. I do know that I like him enough to systematically collect his work, and I think of him as a solid professional who consistently turned out interesting and imaginative stories. He even had a good dose of poetry in his soul, and he never forgot his roots among the fans.

For more about Bulmer, see his entry on Wikipedia, which lists most of his works. There’s also a yahoo group dedicated to him. It’s called Kregen, and I’m a member of it. Kregen was the name of the world where Bulmer’s most famous character, Dray Prescot, had his adventures.

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