A colleague of mine who shares my interest in the old Pulps and in the work of Robert E. Howard kindly gave me his extra copy of an old paperback entitled Skull-Face and Other Tales. The dog-earred little book collected some of the most interesting stories Robert E. Howard wrote for Weird Tales magazine during his too-short career. The story entitled “Skull-Face” really weighs in as a novella of sorts, spanning some 127 pages and featuring dozens of characters and sinister locales in rundown sections of 1920’s London. Originally run in serial form in Weird Tales from October-December 1929, “Skull-Face” features a flawed protagonist named Steve Costigan, a man driven to hashish addiction by the horrors he witnessed serving as an infantryman in WWI. Costigan must overcome all manner of exotic villains from around the world, all serving under the titular madman himself, the enigmatic Skull-Face!
Despite some cultural insensitivity from Howard (a product of his time), the story stands up remarkably well to modern scrutiny, and will surely please Howard fans only used to reading his Conan material and its many pastiches. With the imminent release of the third Mummy movie, folks seeking some rip-roaring pulp adventure to complement the theme should look no further than this wonderful collection.
Howard wrote a number of other non-Conan tales across many genres, all in his highly descriptive, muscular style that packs maximum detail into an economy of words. Find some of the best listed below:
- The end of the trail : western stories
- Gates of empire and other tales of the Crusades
- Moon of skulls : the weird works of Robert E. Howard. Volume 2
- Nameless cults : the Cthulhu Mythos fiction of Robert E. Howard
- The savage tales of Solomon Kane
- Shadow kingdoms : the weird works of Robert E. Howard. Volume 1