Board Games, H.P. Lovecraft

Mansions of Madness Board Game Review

Mansions of Madness published by Fantasy Flight Games and designed by Corey Konieczka is a one versus many (in this case one to four) board game using H.P. Lovcraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.  It was first released 2011.  It plays from 2 to 5 players (ages 14 and up) in 2 to 3 hours (or less).

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     In this game, there are two groups of players: the Keeper and the Investigators.  The keeper is a sort of game master or overlord which controls much of the game and is the antagonist for the investigators using sinister powers and monster to thwart them from uncovering clues, discovering their objective and accomplishing it.  The Investigators on the other hand are the remaining players (one to four) who take the roles of a 1920’s character archetype.  If you are familiar with Arkham Horror, you will be familiar with the eight characters found in this game.  The investigators role is to search the mansion (of madness) for clues to uncover what plot elements the Keeper has chosen for the particular story scenario being played.Image

     The game comes with five stories in total: The Fall of House of Lynch, The Inner Sanctum, Blood Ties, Classroom Curse, and Green-Eyed Boy.  Each story has three slightly different objectivess that the Keeper selects and keeps hidden until forced to reveal when the investigators uncover the appropriate clue. Additionally, each story has between 1-5 other elements for the Keeper to select from to tailor the each story slightly.  These usually involve where the next clue can be found in the clue change.

     To setup, which this game has quite an involved setup, the Investigators setup of the map which is composed of a number of thick cardboard map tiles to make the mansion (of madness) and select and spec (choose what abilities they want) their character for the game.  While the Keeper pulls the required clue, lock, obstacle, mythos, and event cards for the story and seeds them on the map in the appropriate areas depend on the story elements chosen.Image

Game play begins with the investigators who each allowed to move their character two spaces and receive an additional action which can be used for a variety of things such as movement, combat, room exploration, use of items, etc.  After each Investigator has had a chance to complete their turn, the Keeper draws threat (the currency they need to power many of their actions) and plays whatever effect they can afford and adds a time token to the event deck.  When the event deck has the same number of token as the number listed at the bottom, the card is revealed and read aloud by the keeper performing all actions it lists as applicable.  The game continues until the investigators or the Keepr have completed their objective causing the other side to loose.  In Mansions of Madness it is possible for both side to lose in that case the game and the Great Old Ones win.

Mansions of Madness Investigators

The Investigators: Gloria Goldberg, Joe Diamond, Sister Mary, Kate Winthrop, Michael McGlen, Ashcan Pete, Harvey Walters, and Jenny Barnes

The components in this game are of high quality.  In fact, I only really bought this game for the unpainted miniatures which I have all since painted. Please note, the picture shown is not my painting of the miniatures.  The sculpts are very good on par with similar 28mm war game pieces.  The artwork is also very good to the point I always think there is a mar or scratch in the Exploration Cards due dilapidated hallway they feature.  The map tiles are also both attractive looking and function as the same time.

Like I said above, I really only bought this game for the miniatures but decided to sit down and play a game since it came with it.  When reading the rules, I admit I was a little underwhelmed by it as a veteran pen and paper role playing gamer.  However, upon playing it the rules form a tight structure for both sides to work within with very transparent game mechanics.  Additionally, the game is intended to be more head to head rather than a Game Master facilitating an adventure in more typical rpg.  Though I would recommend new Keepers to understand the Investigators’ players skill level and relative interest in what they want out of the game.  Most of the stories are heavily weighted toward the Keeper.  This balance will equalize after multiple replays and the players roughly know what they need to do for story becoming more of a game of deception on the Keeper’s part.  Speaking of re-playability, the base game does have a limited stories, objectives, and elements.  Even the objectives and elements are that varied mechanically.  Objectives are sometimes opposites and elements are usually where the clue can be found in the mansion (of madness).  If Investigator players are enjoying this game for the mystery and exploration, it will have a fairly short shelf life.  However, if the Investigator players have played the same story multiple times the nature of the game changes as the Keeper must bluff where the clue chain goes and be on their toes about accomplishing their objective.

The Pros, it is a very light, structured rpg that has a definite ending.  While the game itself mention it, it is very jump in, jump out of game as players can join/leave adding/removing Investigators while the Keeper simply adjusts the amount of threat they collect.  It is a very good use of the Lovecraftian theme.  It has very good physical components.  Fantasy Flight Games have excellent customer service (I lost a piece of the game making it unplayable and they quickly replaced it).

The Cons, the game has a long and involved setup and long break down.  The Keeper and incorrectly seed the map and make the game unwinnable for the Investigators.  There are so many components that it is very easy to lose a vital piece making certain stories unplayable.  Some of the stories if you take a step back and look at it as a whole may come off anticlimactic. Because of the miniatures it is pricier than most board games.

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Bottomline, I actually have grown to enjoy this game the more I play it.  It hits the table each week and is likely to for at least the next month.  For something I wasn’t expecting to even really play that much it has blown me away.  If you and your group are interested the general premise of Mansions of Madness and none of the cons are deal breakers, I recommend picking it up. I give it 4 out of 6 Elder Signs.

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Pulp Story Review, Robert E. Howard, Sword and Sorcery

The Frost-Giant’s Daughter

The Frost-Giant’s Daughter (first published in 1976)

by Robert E. Howard

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This very short story opens with the last two warriors stand over the snowy field of battle between viking-like fighters, one side with blonde beards and the other hair as red as flame.  One of the tall combatants is a red-headed Vanir named Heimdul, the other is a youthful man with mane of black different from the others as Cimmerian named Conan.  After a brief exchange, Conan slays Heimdul and is the last man standing in this bloody battle of eighty men on frozen fields.

Yet he spies a woman with milky white skin and completely bare of clothing despite the freezing temperature.  She posses an elfin beauty with fair of neither Vanir red nor Aesir but a blend of each.  Conan remarks he knows of no village nearby she could be from.  The beautiful woman leads across plains of hoar-frosted snow to low hills that give way to towering mountains.  It is these silvery mountains of blue ice that the woman springs her trap upon the barbarian warrior.  Her brothers, giants seemly carved of snow and ice with thick armor and frost covered axes, strike  at Conan with the fury of a winter storm.

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This story was originally rejected by Weird Tales hence the publishing date of more than 30 years after the author’s death during the 1970’s fantasy and sword and sorcery boom.  This tale is perhaps the earliest account in Conan’s adventurous life as he is younger than most of Howard’s original stories.

As for the story itself, I can partly understand why it was rejected.  It comes in at a scant seven pages making it the shortest of the Conan stories.  Additionally, there isn’t a whole happening in this story as well.  Conan is the last warrior in a battle of eighty men (which comes off rather incredible even for Conan).  He follows a strange naked beauty for several miles in some strange lust-fueled obsession only to be attacked by frost giants.

For me, The Frost-Giant’s Daughter may be my least favorite Conan story between The Black Stranger and Vale of Lost Women both which are better stories but have elements I dislike more than any of The Frost-Giant’s Daughter.  With The Black Stranger it is swashbuckler/pirate Conan which just seems out of place for the character.  While Vale of Lost Women is one of Howard’s more racist stories though it does have Conan fighting a creature seemly inspired by H.P. Lovecraft.

Bottomline, this is not a particularly good Conan story though it is serviceable and short enough to read without leaving a bad taste in the mouth.

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H.P. Lovecraft, Pulp Story Review

At the Mountains of Madness Review

At the Mountains of Madness (originally published in Astounding Stories in 1936)

by H.P. Lovecraft

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     This novella, like many other of Lovecraft’s tales, is a first person account. This time it is Dr. William Dyer, professor of geology at Miskatonic University who previously led a scientific expedition to Antarctica in 1930 (presumably six years ago being published in 1936).   Dr. Dyer is writing this amendment to his account of the expedition to dissuade further scientific study of the frozen continent.  Like many other of Lovecraft’s narrators Dyer speaks of the dangers of humanity learning too much about the universe as the human mind is simply incapable of some horrible truths.  He explains that he and surviving expedition members purposely redacted the more fantastical discoveries they uncovered in the extreme south of the planet.   Things he hoped he would never be forced to reveal.  However, he has decided to shed additional light on what happened those many years ago to stop others from making the same mistake.

Dr. Dyers begins by recapping some of the resources, routes, and scientific data collected during expedition.  Lovecraft, like in Shadow Over Innsmouth, uses the convention of telling the reader that the finer details can be found in past newspaper articles, telegraph/wire transcripts, and other sources.  Simultaneously cutting down on the supposedly information for the story and giving the tale a fell of authenticity as only be a part of a larger body of information.

At the last portion of the voyage to the Antarctic, describes a bizarre wind that howled through the summits of the Admiralty Mountain Range.  He describes the sound as similar to that of, “half-sentient piping music” that both reminded of a painting Nicholas Roerich of the Plateau of Leng and of the Necronomicon written by the mad Arab Abdul Alharzed.  Almost a month later, while temporarily lost above the icy world of the Antarctic, Danford, a graduate assistant of Dyer, witnesses the volcano of Mt. Erebus which reminds him of a passage in Edgar Allen Poe’s Arthur Gordon Pym. 

Months later in the expedition, Professor Lake of the Biology department  at Miskatonic University radios to the base camp while flying as part of a sub-expedition discovers a mountain range that may rival the Himalayas with peaks taller than even Mount Everest.  Lakes aircraft is later forced to land before they can reach camp.  Not wanting to waste time or opportunity Lake radios back about strange cubical formations upon the highest peaks on this colossal mountain range than appear to give off strange reflection of light and wants to set up a camp there. The following day Lake’s sub-expedition discovers a cave in the ice while drilling core samples.  Inside were a whole host of fossils many different ages in geology.  More fantastic than the treasure trove of fossils was the discovery of large plant-like specimens eight feet tall, with a three and half foot diameter with five ridges with tubular, wing-like growths folding within the ridges of the main barrel shapedImage body.  Dark grey in color the things have five light gray tentacle appendages around its pentatonic body.  The things are topped an apparent head like a starfish tipped with reddish globe like eyes.   Even as a biologist, Lake as difficulty determining if the things are vegetable or animal.  What is known it the sled dogs hate the things and likely would destroy them if given a chance.

I like this the adventurous nature of the At the Mountains of Madness.  The idea of being on a scientific expedition appeals to me a great deal and I even enjoy the little details that Lovecraft throws in to make it feel like you are in fact reading the account of a geology professor.  Unlike earlier works of Lovecraft, he goes into great detail to describe the Elder Things that are discovered in cave Lake drilled and blasted into.  By virtue of having scientists as the protagonists, Lovecraft could go into great clinical detail about them.

As as I like the setup of this story, I feel that Lovecraft plays the ending too close to the vest.  I want to know what Danforth saw or at least have his experiences more than a few fragmented words and references to other stories and the Cthulhu Mythos at large.  I will admit though, like any good horror writer, Lovecraft likely stop the story where he did so the reader who have to wonder what exactly happened as have their imagination put together what they think it was.

My biggest compliant with In the Mountains of Madness, is a theme that sometimes appears in many of Lovecraft’s other weird horror stories: man should not explore the universe as its truth can only cause madness.  The only reason that Dyers wrote this is to stop any future expedition to Antarctica.  I understand his reasoning, the Elder Things and shoggoths are extremely dangerous creatures that can wipe out mankind.  If they were to learn of humanity existence, it may very well mean our extinction or at very least subjection by this ancient beings.  I am not sure of H.P. Lovecraft’s stance on science because of this.  He dabbles into science-fiction and clearly likes using academics as his protagonists, but he keeps coming back to this line mankind should never explore.  I’m just not a fan of the trope, “things man was not meant to know.”

Elder Signs

Bottomline, while I have a slight issue with the theme of In the Mountains of Madness, it is a chilling tale of exploration and discovering ancient monsters.   Six out of six Elder Signs.

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H.P. Lovecraft, Pulp Story Review

The Dunwich Horror Review

The Dunwich Horror (first published in Weird Tales 1929)

by H.P. Lovecraft

dunwich horror

by Santiago Caruso

The novella begins with a prolonged setup of the Massachusetts town of Dunwich and the surrounding features such as Round Mountain, The Devil’s Hop Yard, and Sentinel Hill atop which a strange ring of stone columns thought to have built by now extinct tribes of Indians. It is perhaps these stones that started the stories of witches and devils that haunt the areas around Dunwich, however, what is know is the general disdain travelers have for loitering in the town any longer than they absolutely have to.  The Dunwich folk are mostly composed of but a few families such as the Bishops and the Whatelys.  A few of the branches of these familial trees have fallen into degeneration over the decades.  It is one such family that story revolves largely around.

Wizard Whately and his albino daughter, Lavina, bizarre and deformed part of the degenerated Whatelys living our at a farm near Dunwich.  The xenophobic townsfolk usually take little interest in affairs others, but the birth of Lavina’s son is of note for several reasons.  For one, the boy is a bastard with the father unknown by any in Dunwich.  Cursorily, Lavina doesn’t shun the boy, but in fact, seem proud of the goatish looking baby.  The other oddity is the the boy’s, Wilbur,  astonish rate of growth and mental development.  By a year and half the boy had grown to the size of a child normally thought to be four.  Wilbur began speaking at eleven months seemly skipping lisping and forming sentences almost immediately.

Wizard Whately began odd projects soon after Wilbur’s  birth.  He found renewed wells of stamina to repair and make additions to his old dilapidated home.  Old Whately also began to purchase additional cattle though the surrounding folk noted that his herd size never appeared to increase.  For years after none of the people of Dunwich paid this branch of Whatelys any mind as was common for them to mind their business.  However, ten years after the birth of Wilbur, the boy who have the appearance and demeanor of a man aided his grandfather in restoring the old barn on the property for some strange purpose.  It was later in the spring that old WIzard became worn out and sick.  The Whippoorwills had gather in frightening number at the Whately farm.  According to Wizard to try an take his soul as he died.

With the death of old Wizard Whately, it was up to Wilbur to finish what sinster task his grandfather has started.  To do so required an earlier edition of the Necromonicon written by the Mad-Arab Abdul Alhazred for a passage written on page 751.  Wilbur writes many universities and even visits Arkham’s own Miskatonic University to get his hands on own.  It only by Dr. Henry Armitage’s refusal that the boy is unable to get the required knowledge from the book.  Yet something urgent is requiring Wilbur to return to home…

The Dunwich Horror is a departure from Lovecraft’s normal first person narrative.  Although, the author doesn’t stray that far from it.  The story is still told in a typical account style writing that gives feels like Lovecraft wanted to have it told from single source (such as a newspaper reporter) but could make all the elements he wanted fit.  This does allow the story to give the reader information  and immediate tension not usually found in his story.  Because the story isn’t written after the fact, the climax can actually generate a more visceral experience that typically found in H.P. Lovecraft.  Not withstanding first short chapter, the Dunwich Horror has an easier narrative for readers new to H.P. Lovecraft to follow.

Elder Signs

Bottomline: The Dunwich Horror is one of my top five favorite Lovecraft tales.  It makes a good entry into reading the author as the story is about villains trying to bring about the end the world and academicians attempting to stop them. Six out of six elder signs to keep the gate and the key of Yog-Sothoth sealed away.

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Editorial

Editorial: How long should copyright last?

With the start of my blog I have been thinking about copyright as much of the reviews I write come from the 1920s and 1930s.  In a sane world one could reasonably expect that these stories may be in the public domain.  Hell, H.P. Lovecraft wrote his works for going ownership of his creations in the interest of expanding the mythos (though, it is my understanding that he really see his writings worth much anyway).

However in the United States, “The term of copyright for a particular work depends on several factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so, the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first. For works first published prior to 1978, the term will vary depending on several factors. To determine the length of copyright protection for a particular work, consult chapter 3 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the United States Code). More information on the term of copyright can be found in Circular 15a, Duration of Copyright, and Circular 1, Copyright Basics.” (Source:  copyright.gov).

That seems mostly pretty clear cut.  Lovecraft Died in 1937 so most of his works are now public domain, or are they?  It seems that even Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation has still not quite entered the Public Domain the United States according to the author’s estate.  It seems that Leslie Klinger, the author of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, was issued a noticed to pay a licensing fee to publish his book from the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  While most of the stories are clearly in Public Domain at this point a few of Doyle’s stories were published between 1921 and 1927 keeping them out of public domain until somewhere around  2022.  That is unless the ACD estate has a few more hidden in the rafter or false bottom of a desk which could reset the whole clock again.

Unlike many authors, Klinger refused to pay the fee on the grounds that the subject matter of Sherlock Holmes in public domain and back in February of 2013 sued the ACD estate. It wasn’t until recently, that the estate made a response.  They state that with the character of Holmes entering the public domain he will have ‘multiple personalities’ and this will ‘dismantle the character.  They seek special immunity for character’s with complex psychological composition. I hardy think that is a good reason for a special extension. While I like the character and delight in reading Doyle’s stories I’m not really sure that Sherlock Holmes is really that complex psychologically.  He is more a cypher and a force to keep the story moving that actual person though.  It also appears that the courts are also likly to agree with Klinger and myself.  But should someone have to sue just to prove that something is in public domain?

Conan of Cimmeria created by Robert E. Howard who died tragically in 1936 had many of his stories published after his death.  If the death of the author plus 70 years in the end of copyright then Conan should have gone into public domain back in 2006.  Or because of some of his works being published after his death could be 2056 (1936 +120) for the barbarian makes it into public domain?

All of the above is far too long of time by more than triple of what copyright should be.  I’m not saying that there shouldn’t copyright and creators (and to limited extent holders) of intellectual properties (IP) shouldn’t get compensation for the efforts.  What I am saying is that 14 years with possibility of another 14 year extension should be more than enough time to make whatever money one is going to make of an IP.

“What if the thing I created doesn’t become popular until 15 plus years after I created it and I didn’t bother extending it?” you say as the prospective artist who is going to make it big.  First thing I will tell you is, “If you believe in your IP so strongly and knew eventually is would find a market you could have extended it.” And if you you as this future great artist, author, etc. did in fact extend and say, “what if it becomes famous after 3o years?”  I will retort, “After 30 years you only created this one thing and even then it took 3o years to become popular.”  With fame comes ease of future creations.  You now have an audience.  They will likely purchase other IPs you produce even if they are of poor quality, at least for a little while.  Lastly, I want to say to this future author, “Guess what, the world IS not fair.  Bad things do happen to good people.  Lovecraft died penniless and thinking he was failure.  Howard was never appreciated in his own time. There are many artists in the past that got a raw deal and there will be many in the future to get the same.

I cannot fathom why as a people we what copyright to last so long.  I used to work as a machinist and a welder.  I designed and created many local manufactures during my time.  I never expected anything more than the modest pay I received for my efforts.  I know that much of the time art takes more time for less pay than minimum wage.  I considered myself a competent drawer and cartoonist.  I spent many years learning music and still am terrible.  My writing skills, by my own admission,  is not very good.  I know it is hard to do and even harder to break through.  I think it is up to 28 years of compensation hard.  After that you should give your thoughts to society for future use and be glad if they get used.

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H.P. Lovecraft, Pulp Story Review

The Colour Out of Space Review

The Colour Out of Space (originally published in Amazing Tales in September 1927)

by H.P. Lovecraft

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By Darksorrow 666

The narrator of this short story is a man sent to New England to survey land for a new reservoir.  Even from the city of Arkham the narrator is told this area known as the Blasted Hearth is evil though the younger folk don’t known why and the elders won’t say other than, “strange days.”  Curiosity gets the better of the him, and he finally gets the name of someone that might talk about those strange days.  He warned not to believe Ammi Pierce’s crazy stories about the past and the desolate area known as the Blasted Hearth.  Instead, the narrator seek Mr. Pierce out immediately.

Using the reservoir surveying as guise to ask about the story behind Blasted Hearth and the strange days, the narrator talks to Ammi and discovers the old man to be far more intelligent that he was led to believe.  Ammi states it would be better for what had happen during those strange days to be under water.  Without much prodding however, Ammi retells the story of Gardner Farm as well as its fall.

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by Rafa García de la Mata

Decades ago in 1882, a strange meteorite fell on the Gardener Farm and intrigued professors from Miskatonic University to study it.  The meteorite seemed to shrink in size after hitting the Earth according to Nahum Gardener.  It was composed of a malleable material that was warm to the touch and seemed to completely inert to acids and many other chemicals.  In fact many of the test performed by the professors yielded result not like any material known.  After gouging deeply into it, the University geologist discovered a strange substance that could only be describe as a colour, though it was not like any in the known spectrum and entirely impossible to describe.  Only one of these colour globules were found within the odd meteorite.  After a thunderstorm the meteorite was struck by lightning according to Nahum and the professors could not find any remains of the meteorite.

It was this that Nahum’s farm began to produce huge, mutated crops that completely inedible.  Disgusting in taste the entire crop was useless.  Soon after, the animals began to act strange and the livestock also impossible to eat as the meat took on a horrid taste.  After more than a year, the surrounding vegetation grow strange.  The flower bloomed colors unlike they ever had and even the grasses were prismatic in their array of colors.  The Gardener’s were not immune to what ever was causing this strange growth.  Nahum grew taciturn though most though it was from the hard times at his farm.  Mrs Garden fell into a madness, and the Gardener child became ill and died.  By harvest, the Gardener Farm and the area surrounding the farm the vegetation was crumbing to gray ash like powder.  Like the color and life had been sucked out.  That was forty-four years ago.

The Colour Out of Space is brilliant blend of science fiction and horror.  I always put myself in the shoes of Nahum Gardner who not only is his livelihood falling apart, but his family is either becoming ill and dying or insane.  The Colour’s effect happens over the course of a couple years forcing Nahum to endure the menace and dread of such a tragedy far more than a simple serial killer or mad man chasing after the protagonist.  He is truly helpless against this force from beyond the stars that even the brightest minds of Miskatonic University can’t understand.  What is most frightening is that the Colour may continue to expand, perhaps faster, even after the reservoir is place over the Blasted Hearth.  I always took the strange effect the Colour had on the environment as well as the heat from the meteorite to be a sort of radiation.  Or even the Colour itself being or giving off toxic radiation that mutated and drove mad living things before draining the life and color out them.

The Colour, like the Nothing is the Neverending Story, is purely literary concept as Lovecraft goes out of his way to make the reader known it was a color know like any known shade or type.  I can’t help to at least think a little of the impossibility of such an idea as I’m fascinated by electromagnetic radiation including the visible spectrum of light.  However, I don’t let that bother me from such a chilling tale.

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Bottomline:  The Colour Out of Space is a tale that even to this day gives a heavy gut from the tragedy and horror it produces.  The idea of a thing so subtly destroying your life without concern and perhaps one day becoming a threat to the entire world is a spine chilling one.  I give The Colour of Space 6 out of 6 magnetic field producing elder signs.

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Pulp Story Review, Robert E. Howard

Blue Flame of Vengeance Review

Blue Flame of Vengeance (originally titled Blades of the Brotherhood and first published in Red Shadows in 1968)

by Robert E. Howard

This short story was never published in Howard’s short life time and was finally published more than thirty years after the author’s death.  The story, as many Howard stories often do, opens sans the title character between a duel between the offended Jack Hollinster and a nobleman named Sir George Banway near the shore of an English town.  Sir George had offended Jack by publicly slandering, Mary Garvin, the woman he loves.  The local magistrate halts the duel after Jack’s quicker blade wounds Sir George’s arm.  While the magistrate considers the matter of honor concluded, the two men seek a clash of rapiers to the death.  However, each second as well as the magistrate break up the two men before it becomes lethal. Image

Jack Hollinster decides to walk the English shore line to cool his head where he encounters a tall swordsman dress in black with a slouch hat, the only bit of color about him a green sash made of fine silk.  The wanderer introduces himself as Solomon Kane and speaks with Jack who is still furious from the duel.  Kane has come here seeking Jonas Hardraker, whom some call The Fishhawk.  Out on the sea is a black ship keeping its distance from the English settlement and Kane believes it to be the Fishhawk’s.

Later, Jack Hollinster wakes from nightmares to discover from his Mary has been abducted by Sir George.  Jack takes with him Sam who told him of the fiend’s deed to go to Banway’s home to rescue poor Mary.  Jack and Sam reach the dilapidated home of Banway, and before Jack can find entrance he is betrayed by Sam.

When Jack awakens he finds himself in the the large cellar of the Banway estate bound hand and foot.  He is surrounded by garish and dangerous pirates as well as Sam and Sir George.  Mary is bound to a great oak ring with him in the cellar where the couple is taunted by Sir George.

The carousing pirates at interrupted by Solomon Kane who had infiltrated the Banway estate.  Armed with two wheellock pistols Kane seeks to rescue Jack and Mary and pierce the black heart of the Fishhawk with a pistol bullet.  The Fishhawk realizing he is dead-to-rights frees the captives and taunts Kane.  He calls Solomon a coward for not having the courage to face him in an honest duel. The ploy works as Kane hands his pistols to Jack and prepares to duel the Fishhawk in a fight with daggers.  Kane armed his dirk and the Fishhawk banishing a wicked-looking Turkish dagger.

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     The Blue Flame of Vengeance is only complete story that Howard wrote about Solomon Kane that has no fantastic or supernatural elements to it.  Even the uncompleted fragments of Kane stories alluded to some sinister supernatural start.  It may have been the lack of any fantastical elements that prevented Howard from being able to sell this story.  It is merely a work of swashbuckling action without any of usual weirdness to it.  This does not take away from the story.  The swordplay and action scenes are Robert E. Howard’s usual visceral and vividly descriptive style the author is known for.  As are the expertly crafted visages of the pirates.  I felt like I was there in the cramped cellar with these brigands.

This story may also be one REH’s more dialogue heavy stories.  Unfortunately, the author tends to be a little weak there, but in Blue Flame of Vengeance to conversing is serviceable.  The character of Mary is largely a plot device which like Red Shadows and nearly every other Howard story with notable exceptions (Red Nails being one) is very typical for him.

As I stated before, I’m a bigger Solomon Kane fan than Conan fan, and I enjoy this story as standing apart fro the other Kane stories having no supernatural element.  It is a good read and well worth it for a fan of swashbuckling action, sword and sorcery, and 1930s pulp stories.  In terms of Solomon Kane stories I rate it a little less than middle of the road.

Bottonline: This is the one Kane story without any supernatural elements that is a decent enough read.  However, it is a little less than average writing for Robert E. Howard and not likely to sway someone who is not already a fan.

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