Friday, October 25, 2013

Forgotten Books: CONAN plays Sam Spade (and The Continental Op)

When James Reasoner reviewed John C. Hocking's Conan and the Emerald Lotus some time back (that's HERE), Charles R. Rutledge commented, "Robert E. Howard's Conan was to most fantasy what Dashiell Hammett was to Agatha Christie. Later, one of the John Maddox Roberts pastiches even lifts elements from The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest." The book he was referring to was Conan the Rogue. And boy, was he ever right!

In fact, along with paying extended homage to those two Hammett classics, Conan the Rogue also gets a lot of mileage out of one storyline from the second Continental Op novel, The Dain Curse. John Maddox Roberts obviously had a lot of fun writing this one.

From The Maltese Falcon, we have Piris (Joel Cairo), Brita (Brigid O'Shaughnessy), Asdras (Floyd Thursby), Casperus (Casper Gutman), Gilmay (Wilmer) and Mulvix (Captain Jacobi).

From Red Harvest, we meet Maxio (Max Thaler, aka Whisperer), Bombas (Sheriff Noonan), Delia (Dinah Brand), Xanthus (Elihu Willsson) and Lisip (Reno Starkey).

And from The Dain Curse, there's Rietta (Gabrielle Leggett), Andolla (Joseph Haldorn), Oppia (Aaronia Haldorn). There's also Reitta's father (a guy we don't meet in the The Dain Curse), named Rista Daan.

Some scenes, situations and relationships follow Hammett's pretty closely, while others do not, so while I sometimes thought I knew what was coming, I wasn't always right. And there are several characters and at least one storyline that are not related to Hammett at all. I was on the lookout for elements of The Glass Key and The Thin Man, but if they're in there they slipped by me.

Roberts' Conan is an interesting guy, because he's much more cerebral than Howard's. He thinks far ahead, plans carefully, and pays great attention to detail. And he's able to keep his passions in check until he can put them to the best use. Howard's Conan is more elemental, has little patience, and is more likely to let consequences be damned.

I'm not complaining. I enjoy seeing this different side of Conan, and it makes sense because this story seems to takes place not long before Conan takes the throne of Aquilonia. I'd like to believe he's grown wiser in the course of his wild career.

Where the Howard flavor really comes through is in the dialogue, both of Conan and his supporting cast. Somehow, everything works, and Conan the Rogue is a mighty entertaining read. Makes me want to track down the graphic novel version too (below), though the cover scene has nothing to do with Roberts' story.

Forgotten Books at pattinase (I think).


Charles Gramlich said...

I have read this but I don't remember anything about it these days. I'll have to go back and refresh my memory.

George said...

CONAN THE ROGUE sounds like a lot of fun! I've avoided the Conan pastiches but this one would be worth reading. Nice review!

Rick Robinson said...

Sounds like you enjoyed this one, Evan,and I can understand why. Fun stuff.

Albie The Good said...

Ok that sounds interesting! I don't do the S&S that often anymore, but this one seems like a great place to pick back up. thanks for the tip!