12 January 2022
Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs
The 1930s were the heyday of pulp fiction in America, with over a hundred magazines (named for the cheap wood pulp paper they were printed on) being published, some printing over a million copies of each issue. A variety of genres were featured, with adventure, detective/mystery/gangster, fantasy/science fiction, and horror/occult the most popular. Some famous writers wrote for the pulps early in their careers, notably SF authors Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein, western writers Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour, English adventure authors H. Rider Haggard and Talbot Mundy, and crime novelists Dashiell Hammett and Elmore Leonard.
Robert E. Howard did not go on to become famous until long after he was dead - at the age of 30 he committed suicide. He had only begun writing at around 23. The writing that he did in those few years would later be basis for an immensely profitable business, based primarily on his 'Conan' character. During his brief career Howard never earned more than $2,000 in a year, and less than $10,000 in all. The first Conan film (the 1982 film with Arnold Schwarzenegger directed by the great John Milius) made close to $80 million at the box office and eventually over $300 million through video sales. In addition, Conan books (mostly collections of several short stories and novellas - only one was a full-length novel) were being printed from the 1960s onward. From the early 1980s to 2003 or so no less than 43 books based on Conan and his life and time were published, authored mostly by well-known authors such as Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time). Almost all were quite good and welcomed by Conan aficionados such as yours truly. I may have almost as many Conan books as Nick Carter books, but not quite.
Unlike Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs would see fame and financial success during his own lifetime. Born in 1875, he was thirty-one when Howard was born, and had been writing since 1912. One of his first, perhaps his first novel, 'A Princess of Mars' published in 1912, had been serialized in the pulps in 1912. His first Tarzan novel, 'Tarzan of the Apes' was published in 1914 after appearing in serial form in 1912. He would go on to write almost 80 novels, and Tarzan films were being made as early as 1918, when Howard would have been about twelve. When Howard died in 1936, Burroughs had set up a company to publish his own books. He would live another fourteen years, dying in 1950. Howard's thirty year life and his accomplishments covered approximately the productive period (1906-1936) of Burroughs' life. I sometimes wonder what Howard's career might have been like if he had lived as long.
Robert E. Howard: works and legacy
By far, Howard's Conan (known popularly as 'Conan the Barbarian') is the best-known creation, and for many, the only of his creations most people know. The appellation 'the Barbarian' was rarely if ever used in the Conan stories - he was almost referred to as 'the Cimmerian'. His entrée into the popular culture, primarily (aside from the paperback books published for years prior) was via the 1982 film featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, thus cementing the identity. However, while not as varied as that of Burroughs, Howard's body of work comprised a number of interesting characters. He wrote a considerable number of westerns, detective and stories about boxing (an activity he had taken up to improve his physical condition when younger, and become fond of) and other 'real-world' adventures as well as a considerable amount of poetry. As almost all of his work was published in periodicals of the day (mostly the 'pulps') it can be found in various collections that have been published since the 1960s. So, here we go, obviously starting with Conan. These were all published in the pulps (mostly 'Weird Tales') with the exception of 'Hour of the Dragon', which was published as a full-length novel. They have since been published in groups, usually about five or six, by Lancer/Ace from 1966-1977. Most of them were edited (and in some cases completed) by the venerable SF/fantasy authors L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. Of the twelve volumes, eight have covers by Frank Frazetta. These contain pretty much all of Howard's Conan stories.
Conan - Conan is introduced, along with the historical background of his world. His escape from slavery and acquisition of the iconic sword depicted in the John Milius film is based on the first of the eight stories in this volume.
Conan of Cimmeria Eight tales of Conan's early exploits. The standout here is "Queen of the Black Coast", wherein Conan meets a hot female pirate (likely the inspiration for Valeria in the film. Valeria was also the name of his love interest in 'Red Nails', one of his better stories).
Conan the Freebooter Five more adventures, this one has one of my top three Conan stories, "A Witch Shall be Born". This was the source for the crucifixion scene in the film, and as usual (much as I admire John Milius' work) the film version doesn't measure up. I'll explore it further a little later.
Conan the Wanderer Conan mixes it up with various middle eastern factions, where Iran, Turkey, etc. are located today.
Conan the Adventurer This one includes another of my top three, "The People of the Black Circle". It could be the best of the three, but it's close between it and "Beyond the Black River". There's a lot of black in these stories. There are only four in this volume, being some of the longer ones. "The Slithering Shadow" is a ancient-isolated-lost-in-the-desert city that is no longer a great place to live, kinda like the one in "Red Nails".
Conan the Buccaneer This is a single story, a little long to be combined with several others. Conan adventures at sea in command of a pirate ship.
Conan the Warrior There are three stories in this one, somewhat longer than most. "Red Nails" is here, with the third of my favorites, "Beyond the Black River".
Conan the Usurper Some stories of the time Conan is king of Aquilonia (how he gets there is not told here but hinted at in the other stories). "The Treasure of Tranicos" and "The Phoenix on the Sword" are pretty good.
Conan the Conqueror Conan is deposed and imprisoned in dungeons of his enemy. Surviving an encounter with a man-eating ape he goes on a long quest to acquire the means of reclaiming his throne.
Conan the Avenger Conan's queen is demonically abducted, and the fate of the world rests on his ability to successfully complete his quest.
Conan of Aquilonia Conan's son comes of age in these stories, and Conan finishes off his long-time archenemy.
Conan of the Isles The peaceful world Conan has achieved is beginning to get a little dull, and he's getting old. Luckily a supernatural threat from beyond the sea gives Conan the opportunity to ditch the king business. Abdicating in favor of his son, he journeys overseas to do battle with the bloodthirsty Aztecs. His further adventures are left to the imagination of the reader.
Considering that he was writing for the equivalent of comic books, Howard's material is impressive. Some stands out, and I have revisited it numerous times and probably will again. These are among the longer ones, with more character development and subplots.
A Witch Shall Be Born This is a rather unusual piece. Most of the stories are rather straightforward examples of Conan finding himself in a situation which he then has to get of without his skull being the one that gets vertically bisected, while seeing that one or more other characters are so favored. in 'Witch', he is well into a bad situation at his first appearance. He is in fact hanging on a cross with the vultures circling above. Milius does include the dental decapitation of a vulture in the movie, but it doesn't come close to the impact or reading Howard's description. Conan's late entry into the story is not the only departure from the usual style. Conan only appears in two chapters. The remainder is told by various characters - a young soldier in the deposed queen's guard, a wandering savant, and the queen's evil twin herself. The ever-present theme of barbarism vs. civilization is prominent here: after Conan escapes death at the hands of the mercenary commander, a product of the civilized society of the time, he subjects him to the same treatment. He tells him as he hangs on the cross "You are more fit to inflict torture than endure it. You civilized men are soft; your lives are not nailed to your spines as ours."
The People of the Black Circle In the most complex of these three, we find Conan having assumed the leadership of hill tribe in Afghulistan (by the description modern-day Afghanistan) and is having problems with the encroachments of Vendhya (India). He is also having keeping control of the tribe, as some of its leaders have been arrested by the Vendhyans. An opportunity arises when he goes to negotiate with the governor, only to have newly minted queen of Vendhya barge into the meeting. He grabs the girl and heads for the hills, intending to trade her for his men. But a Hyrkanian (Iranian?) spy complicates matters, as do the wizards who have just caused the death of the new queen's brother (who had previously held the position), along with a renegade wizard and other assorted characters. Along with the next selection, 'People' is some of his best writing. To illustrate why best attempts at films are no substitute, we have the following:
Not even Conan could spy, in that darkness, an ambush set by Zhaibar
tribesmen. As they swept past the black mouth of a gorge that opened
into the Pass, a javelin swished through the air and thudded home
behind the stallion's straining shoulder. The great beast let out his
life in a shuddering sob and stumbled, going headlong in mid-stride.
But Conan had recognized the flight and stroke of the javelin, and he
acted with spring-steel quickness.
As the horse fell he leaped clear, holding the girl aloft to guard her
from striking boulders. He lit on his feet like a cat, thrust her into
a cleft of rock, and wheeled toward the outer darkness, drawing his knife.
Yasmina, confused by the rapidity of events, not quite sure just what had
happened, saw a vague shape rush out of the darkness, bare feet slapping
softly on the rock, ragged garments whipping on the wind of his haste. She
glimpsed the flicker of steel, heard the lightning crack of stroke, parry
and counter-stroke, and the crunch of bone as Conan's long knife split the
Conan sprang back, crouching in the shelter of the rocks. Out in the night
men were moving and a stentorian voice roared: 'What, you dogs! Do you
flinch? In, curse you, and take them!'
Conan started, peered into the darkness and lifted his voice.
'Yar Afzal! Is it you?'
There sounded a startled imprecation, and the voice called warily.
'Conan? Is it you, Conan?'
'Aye!' the Cimmerian laughed. 'Come forth, you old war-dog. I've slain
one of your men.'
I'm trying to imagine Arnold: "Come fauth, you old wah-dog". Yasmina, the captive queen, is a woman worthy of Conan. She is defiant when he abducts her, only cracking when at the mercy of the evil wizards. As if anyone wouldn't. Except Conan. By comparison, Tamaris (in 'Witch') is nice enough, but completely helpless when things are out of control.
Beyond the Black River Probably the best to end with, in some ways a prehistoric western. Conan is again selling his sword arm, this time to the kingdom of Aquilonia. This is some time before he becomes the king. The Aquilonians are expanding their territory, and the indigenous peoples of the region aren't too happy about it. Which is where the western angle comes in. Conan is working as an army scout at a fort on the frontier. The indigs are preparing for a major offensive, intending to push the interlopers back beyond the river. The setup is described in a conversation between Conan and a young settler he meets in the woods.
'Or any three or four clans,' admitted the slayer. 'But some day a man
will rise and unite thirty or forty clans, just as was done among the
Cimmerians, when the Gundermen tried to push the border northward, years
ago. They tried to colonize the southern marches of Cimmeria: destroyed
a few small clans, built a fort-town, Venarium - you've heard the tale.'
'So I have indeed,' replied Balthus, wincing. The memory of that red
disaster was a black blot in the chronicles of a proud and war-like people.
'My uncle was at Venarium when the Cimmerians swarmed over the walls. He
was one of the few who escaped that slaughter. I've heard him tell the tale,
many a time. The barbarians swept out of the hills in a ravening horde,
without warning, and stormed Venarium with such fury none could stand
before them. Men, women and children were butchered. Venarium was reduced
to a mass of charred ruins, as it is to this day. The Aquilonians were
driven back across the marches, and have never since tried to colonize
the Cimmerian country. But you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you
'I was,' grunted the other. 'I was one of the horde that swarmed over the
hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated
about the council fires.'
Balthus involuntarily recoiled, staring. It seemed incredible that the man
walking tranquilly at his side should have been one of those screeching,
blood-mad devils that had poured over the walls of Venariumon that long-gone
day to make her streets run crimson.
The supernatural element (demons and wizards) makes a suitably grisly appearance, something Howard does well. Ending with Howard's grim philosophy.
'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'
Those are the stories Howard wrote, an amazing amount of work in such a short time. And is quite small compared to the volume of work they inspired. The fan base was quite large long before the 1982 film. In addition to the paperbacks, Conan had appeared in Marvel Comics in 1970. After the success of the Lancer/Ace books, Bantam Books published seven original books from 1978 to 1982 (the last one being an adaption of the film) by de Camp and Lin Carter, joined by several veteran SF writers. No Frazetta covers here (although another great fantasy artist, Boris Vallejo, would contribute cover for some later books) but all suitably dark and grim. Some had interior black and white illustrations.
Conan the Swordsman (1978 - L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, and Björn Nyberg)
Conan the Liberator (1979 - L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter)
Conan: The Sword of Skelos (1979 - Andrew J. Offutt)
Conan: The Road of Kings (1979 - Karl Edward Wagner)
Conan and the Spider God (1980 - L. Sprague de Camp)
Conan the Rebel (1980 - Poul Anderson)
Conan the Barbarian (1982 - L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter (adaptation of the movie))
For some people the right amount of Conan is always more, provided it's done well. Beginning in 1982 and continuing through 2003, Tor books (a most prolific publisher with well over two thousand titles by hundreds of authors) began a series of original novels, again written by established SF/fantasy authors well-known for their original creations. I was traveling a lot at the time and bought a fair number of them in airports and read them on airplanes and in hotel rooms. If you just can't get enough of Conan, here they are:
Conan the Invincible (1982) (by Robert Jordan)
Conan the Defender (1982) (by Robert Jordan)
Conan the Unconquered (1983) (by Robert Jordan)
Conan the Triumphant (1983) (by Robert Jordan)
Conan the Magnificent (1984) (by Robert Jordan)
Conan the Destroyer (1984) (Robert Jordan) (adaptation by of the movie)
Conan the Victorious (1984) (by Robert Jordan)
Conan the Valorous (1985) (by John M. Roberts)
Conan the Fearless (1986) (by Steve Perry)
Conan the Renegade (1986) (by Leonard Carpenter)
Conan the Raider (1986) (by Leonard Carpenter)
Conan the Champion (1987) (by John M. Roberts)
Conan the Defiant (1987) (by Steve Perry)
Conan the Marauder (1988) (by John M. Roberts)
Conan the Warlord (1988) (by Leonard Carpenter)
Conan the Valiant (1988) (by Roland Green)
Conan the Hero (1989) (by Leonard Carpenter)
Conan the Bold (1989) (by John M. Roberts)
Conan the Great (1989) (by Leonard Carpenter)
Conan the Indomitable (1989) (by Steve Perry)
Conan the Free Lance (1990) (by Steve Perry)
Conan the Formidable (1990) (by Steve Perry)
Conan the Guardian (1991) (by Roland Green)
Conan the Outcast (1991) (by Leonard Carpenter)
Conan the Rogue (1991) (by John M. Roberts)
Conan the Relentless (1992) (by Roland Green)
Conan the Savage (1992) (by Leonard Carpenter)
Conan of the Red Brotherhood (1993) (by Leonard Carpenter)
Conan and the Gods of the Mountain (1993) (by Roland Green)
Conan and the Treasure of Python (1993) (by John M. Roberts)
Conan the Hunter (1994) (by Sean A. Moore)
Conan, Scourge of the Bloody Coast (1994) (by Leonard Carpenter)
Conan and the Manhunters (1994) (by John M. Roberts)
Conan at the Demon's Gate (1994) (by Roland Green)
Conan the Gladiator (1995) (by Leonard Carpenter)
Conan and the Amazon (1995) (by John M. Roberts)
Conan and the Mists of Doom (1995) (by Roland Green)
Conan and the Emerald Lotus (1995) (by John C. Hocking)
Conan and the Shaman's Curse (1996) (by Sean A. Moore)
Conan, Lord of the Black River (1996) (by Leonard Carpenter)
Conan and the Grim Grey God (1996) (by Sean A. Moore)
Conan and the Death Lord of Thanza (1997) (by Roland Green)
Conan of Venarium (2003) (by Harry Turtledove)
Finally, for a look at other noteworthy works. As observed earlier, Howard wrote a in other genres. Of those only the ones related to fantasy are here, along with some historical stories that have a similar flavor, i.e. real or fictional characters in various historical situations which resemble the fantasy scenarios, being in the pre-industrial age.
According to Howard's history, the Hyborian age fell between the sinking of Atlantis and the beginning of recorded history. Sometimes known as 'Kull of Atlantis' or 'Kull of Valusia', he was similar to Conan, i.e. a barbarian with principles. Like Conan, he has various adventures on the way to becoming the king of Atlantis, and like Conan finds being a king is not as much fun as getting there. Marvel Comics published a series of Kull comics in the '70s and '80s. Never a huge Marvel fan, I didn't read many of them. Collections of these seem to be available on Amazon. There was a movie, 'Kull the Conqueror' in 1997 with Kevin Sorbo as Kull. Saw it a couple of times, not bad.
Solomon Kane actually occurs in modern history, but he is one of the other notable creations. Described as "tall, sombre and gloomy man of pale skin, gaunt face and cold eyes" and "dour English Puritan", he is nothing like Conan or Kull in physique or personality. He wanders the world redressing wrongs, usually tangling with supernatural evil in the process. He was featured in Marvel Comics in the '70s and '80s. As Andy Warhol might have said if asked to comment "everything will be exploited by Marvel Comics eventually".
Bran Mak Morn
A Pictish chief or king (the Picts in this case being inhabitants of Scotland while Britain was occupied by the Roman empire, he has just a handful of stories. Usually with a connection to the Cthulhu Mythos (Howard was a contemporary of Lovecraft and they corresponded during the last few year of Howard's life).
Turlogh Dubh O'Brien
Some adventures in 11th century Ireland, with some historical references.
So, shall we take a look at Burroughs?
Since that's what I set out to do, why not? It's not likely anyone will read it. I'm just working on recovering physical functionality lost at the hands of the medical industry, and typing helps with the hands. So...
Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in 1875, into a considerably different world that Howard was. The modern world of electricity, automobiles and airplanes was taking shape, but was well underway by the time Howard entered it. Burroughs produced a considerable bibliography, almost all of it in the form of full-length novels, as opposed to Howard's mostly short stories. Producing most of his work in technology age meant that it would from the start be exposed in more media than paper. His Tarzan novels were adapted to film by 1918, just a few years after he began writing, with radio and television following. He formed a company to own and manage his work, and to the present day Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. is owned by his descendants and manages and licenses his work. And of course, toys and video games are a part of that.
Burroughs has been quoted as saying (of the pulp magazines of the day) "...if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten" and on another occasion that "he wanted to find out how bad a book he could write and get away with". As to how bad any of his books were I can't say (although I've read most of them there could be one lurking out there) but he certainly got away with plenty - good or bad. Since I enjoyed almost all of it it must qualify as good. Somewhat good, anyway. Much as I loved reading his books from the time I discovered him as a teenager, I have occasionally suspected him of pushing Deus ex machina a little far.
BTW, thanks to Burnett Drugs in Wynne. The only thing left after 50 years is the sign on the corner of the building, but when I acquired quite a few of my SF novels there back in the 70s. In a town of 7,000 - especially that long ago - there was no place to buy books. The grocery stores, maybe a gas station or two, or the drugstores would have one of two of those rotating racks that occupied just a couple of square feet of floor space. Usually two, one for paperbacks and one for comics. 12 cent comics. Except for the occasional '80 page giant' from DC - I believe those were either a quarter or fifty cents. This was maybe a dollar and a half lunch money I was spending. Anyway, we found there were usually a handful of SF novels amongst the Harlequin romances or whatever. I used to write my name and grade (7-H, 8-H, or whatever on the inside) and we nerds would trade them around amongst us.
So who goes first? Burroughs is best known for Tarzan, so even though my favorites are most of the others, let's see what we have.
There appear to be about 26 or 27, depending on how you count. It looks as if two children's books were at some point combined into one. I haven't read them all - probably about half. The ones I read I enjoyed, but not as much as the SF novels (especially the 'John Carter of Mars' and 'Pellucidar' books) more, and as I got older there was less time to read. Of the Tarzan books, two favorites would have to the the first (the 'origin', as they say in comics) and 'Tarzan at the Earth's Core', which was a crossover with the Pellucidar stories, wherein Tarzan goes inside the earth. I also enjoyed the ones in which he visited Opar (2,5,9,14) and 'Tarzan and the Forbidden City' (very imaginative). Given the time in which they were written, and being set in Africa, there are experiences with European (French, German, English) colonialism in the region, with the Germans looking pretty bad on account of WWI being in there. They're fun reads, anyway.
1 Tarzan of the Apes (1912)
2 The Return of Tarzan (1913)
3 The Beasts of Tarzan (1914)
4 The Son of Tarzan (1915)
5 Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (1916)
6 Jungle Tales of Tarzan (stories 1916–1917)
7 Tarzan the Untamed (1919)
8 Tarzan the Terrible (1921)
9 Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1922)
10 Tarzan and the Ant Men (1924)
11 Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (1927)
12 Tarzan and the Lost Empire (1928)
13 Tarzan at the Earth's Core (1929)
14 Tarzan the Invincible (1930)
15 Tarzan Triumphant (1931)
16 Tarzan and the City of Gold (1932)
17 Tarzan and the Lion Man (1933)
18 Tarzan and the Leopard Men (1932)
19 Tarzan's Quest (1935)
20 Tarzan the Magnificent (1936)
21 Tarzan and the Forbidden City (1938)
22 Tarzan and the Foreign Legion (1947, written in 1944)
23 Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins (1963, collects 1927 and 1936 children's books)
24 Tarzan and the Madman (1964, written in 1940)
25 Tarzan and the Castaways (1965, stories from 1940 to 1941)
26 Tarzan: The Lost Adventure (1995, rewritten version of 1946 fragment)
OK, on to the lesser-known works. My favorite overall is the Barsoom (Mars) books (John Carter of Mars) which began around the same time as Tarzan. The first book, 'A Princess of Mars' was published in 1912, as was 'Tarzan of the Apes'. A total of eleven books were published, the last being a combination of two shorter stories published some years after the author's death.
The Mars novels are, if not more complex in plot (or may be in some cases) than the Tarzan stories, they are immensely more varied and entertaining. Not confined to Africa and its inhabitants, Burroughs creates a wide variety of people, flora and fauna, and technologies that make his stories possible.
A Princess of Mars (1912) In the first entry, one John Carter, Civil War veteran, is prospecting in Arizona when he is attacked by bloodthirsty Apaches. Hiding in a cave, he is suddenly for no apparent reason transported to Mars. Well, he had to start being John Carter of Mars somehow. Arriving on Mars he first has difficulty walking normally due to the weaker gravity, but gets used to it in time to avoid immediately being slain when a group of green men arrive. Whether Burroughs was having a little fun with the 'green men' idea (these green men are nine feet tall and have two sets of arms) or if he was aware of the usage of the term as it came into common use some years later. In any case, the green men are sufficiently intrigued by his ability to leap great distances and by his light skin (the dominant human race on Mars is a coppery red in color) to forbear to immediately kill him (the usual treatment for red Martians) and make him a prisoner. Impressed by his physical prowess they accept him as a member of the tribe, and when a red Martian woman who just happens to be the daughter of a powerful ruler is taken prisoner, the usual save-the-lady and then save-the-world sequence is played out, and Carter lives happily with the princess. But not ever after, or there would be no need for more books.
The Gods of Mars (1913) This one gets pretty wild. Carter must debunk a wicked religion that is embraced by the entire population but is actually eating the pilgrims who sojourn to their 'paradise', save his princess again, and prevent the overthrow of his adopted homeland. Interference by the now unemployed priests (who are obviously not too happy) and some pirates operating from a polar stronghold keep it interesting.
The Warlord of Mars (1914) Actually, he almost saved his princess. Now he must complete the job, which he does after vanquishing treacherous foes and such. Acually, quite entertaining, as all of the books. There is a lot of combat, mostly personal one-on-one or in small groups, and it is almost invariably conducted with swords. Firearms (of a sort - the propellant is not described - with exploding bullets available. The use of radium dates the stories - the element had been discovered only a few years earlier and was not well understood. Generally, using anything other than a sword was looked upon with distain by real men.
Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1916) John Carter and his princess, might as well name her, Dejah Thoris now have an adult son. A quick note, the Martians are oviparous, so their son was hatched from egg. Apparently this works if the male parent is a regular human from Earth. This offspring, Carthoris, is madly in love with the titular heroine, who is unfortunately betrothed to another. When she is abducted he is set up by the abductor to take the fall. Seeking to rescue her he has some interesting adventures, including an encounter with an interesting civilization that showcases one of the author's intriguing scientific theories. A prominent element in all the stories involves the primary mode of transportation. Aircraft of all sizes, from one-man personal vehicles to battleships, are essentially flying boats/ships with gravity-repelling technolgy. An important plot element is a spy tampering with the autopilot on Carthoris' aircraft.
The Chessmen of Mars (1922) This one is introduces some truly strange sort-of-human creatures, and an interesting game of chess, or at least something similar, but some people have a bloody way of playing it. John and Dejah now have a daughter, Tara, who is of course awesomely beautiful and desired by every eligible man (which is a very small number, given that she is the daughter of the most powerful man on the planet) and initiates a crisis by taking a joyride alone, at just the wrong time. Not sure where her brother is at the time, but in any case it's up to another valiant and noble warrior to rescue her.
The Master Mind of Mars (1927) This time it isn't John Carter's family involved. A gentleman named Ulysses Paxton, about to die in a WWI trench, gets hauled off to Mars for some adventures of his own. Upon his arrival he meets the mad scientist Ras Thavas, who will show up later in a somewhat more disturbing manner. In this case it's mainly about his brain transplant work, something he has apparently perfected to the point he is able to teach Paxton how to do it. Inasmuch as Ras Thavas' body is about worn out, it's a good thing. He wants Paxton to do it, but there are some difficulties along the way. Paxton does end up with a princess of his own, though, and meets John Carter at the end.
A Fighting Man of Mars (1930) Paxton's only role here is narrating the next adventure to Carter's biographer on Earth (Burroughs) via an interplanetary radio communication of some sort. It's about an army officer in love with a not-quite-princess, probably the daughter of a Duke or something. She's not interested, but when she is abducted he goes after her, mixing it up with some considerably fearsome creatures, another mad scientist, a tribe of cannibals, and so on. Only to discover, once he has her, that she really wasn't worth it and is really not such a nice girl. However, he is quite taken with an escaped slave he rescues along the way, only to find that the slave is actually an abducted princess.
Swords of Mars (1934) The assassination, suppressed by Carter earlier, is getting out of hand again. He goes undercover (with some skin coloring to blend in) but is soon having to deal with not one but two mad scientists who are working on an intelligent spaceship. Dejah Thoris gets abducted again, they end up on one of the moons (remember Mars has two) and encounter some more strange creatures/people.
Synthetic Men of Mars (1939) Dejah Thoris is injured in an accident and it's bad. Bad enough that they need the best doctor available, and that happens to be Ras Thavas. Now he's creating men, at least creatures that look somewhat like men, out of vats of some something or other. There's some brain transplanting going on here, and things get ugly. But obviously all ends well, because there's one more to go. At least one of the original series.
Llana of Gathol (1941) This time the damsel in distress is none other than Carter's granddaughter. Once again a variety of strange people and situations are encountered. Well, it's been almost 30 years since he started these, so maybe it was about time.
John Carter of Mars (1964) I don't know if I've read this. If I did it wasn't memorable. Since it is actually two short stories published in the pulps earlier. Burroughs had died in 1950 and this was published by his son. Who knows why.
I did not find the Venus books as interesting. In general they're as entertaining as Tarzan or John Carter, but entertaining is what Burroughs did best. Not that there weren't some jewels of philosophy or observations of human behavior, which may or may not receive commentary later, but when I picked up a new Burroughs book I expected to be entertained for a few hours, and almost always was. Anyway, here are the Venus books. I may take another look some day if I live long enough.
Pirates of Venus (1932)
Lost on Venus (1933)
Carson of Venus (1938)
Escape on Venus (1946, stories from 1941 to 1942)
The Wizard of Venus (1970, written in 1941)
The Caspak series was fairly interesting and enjoyable. It concerns a lost continent (this was the WWI era, and it figures into the plot of the beginning) surrounded by impassable mountains and accessible only through a submarine tunnel.
The Land That Time Forgot (1918)
The People That Time Forgot (1918)
Out of Time's Abyss (1918)
The first two were adapted to film by a British studio, with Doug McClure (who also was featured in 'At the Earth's Core') and rather charming appearances by Patrick Wayne (John Wayne's son) and English actress English actress Sarah Douglas. McClure has a minor role as he was left behind on the island in the first film and the others are on a mission to rescue him. He appears long enough for them to find him and perish while helping them escape. They were quite well done, much in the way of the Hammer horror films, very good sets and costumes, with enjoyable characters.
The 'Moon Series' was another creation, even shorter than 'Venus', but in some ways more imaginative. It involves a voyage to the moon and the usual adventures and misadventures. Worth a look.
The Moon Maid (1923) In a rare excursion into future history, a spaceship is sent to explore the moon. Written in 1923, it has the expedition occurring in 1967, off just two years from the first manned moon landing. The obligatory maiden in need of rescue and nasty villain are of course included. Some interesting observation about politics and war from the day (between the World Wars).
The Moon Men (1925) The villainous Earthman facilitates the invasion of Earth by the inhatitants of the moon. Told you he was a bad one.
The Red Hawk (1925) The moon people, having conquered the earth, aren't as good at ruling as conquering. The earthlings now live in a pre-technology feudal society fighting the moon people. Overall pretty good.
Which brings us to the final entry, at least as series go. Wherein an inventor and his wealthy sponsor use an enormous tunnel boring machine to drill into the earth, ostensibly for prospect for valuable minerals. Losing control of the machine and unable to steer or return to the surface, they prepare to die. But as it turns out, the earth is hollow, and after a while they emerge on the inside. Awaiting them is a prehistoric world, with a few interesting creatures in addition to the dinosaurs. Burroughs' work is spiced with philosophical and sociological observations, as well as interesting scientific thought experiments. Here his humor is perhaps more prominent than elsewhere, aside from Tarzan. In Pellucidar, because the land area corresponds to the water on the outside and vice versa, the inner world is larger (in surface area) than the outside. Additionally, because the world is illuminated by a sun at the center of the the 'sky', there is no way to tell time as it is always noon of an eternal day.
At the Earth's Core (1914) Davie Innes, scion of a mining magnate decides to risk his neck riding in a 'mechanical mole' which the inventor believes will make discovery of valuable minerals easier. He soon regrets is when the machine proves uncontrollable, but since the Earth's crust is only about 500 miles thick they eventually arrive on the inside. A prehistoric world greets them, with a few bonuses like intelligent flying reptiles who are in charge, but can only communicate telepathically, and use a species of Sasquatch-like beings to do the dirty work. Rescuing the endangered maiden with just a few minor missteps and leads the humans in a revolt against their cruel overlords, before returning to the outside world to acquire the technology to conquer the new world. New to him anyway, and isn't that what counts?
The book was adapted fairly well to film in 1976, one of several Burroughs adventures featuring Doug McClure, with the lovely Caroline Munro (Hammer's 'Dracula 1972 A.D. and some James Bond film) and another charming performance by Peter Cushing (a Hammer alumnus himself). Worth watching. At least I think so.
Pellucidar (1915) Returning to Pellucidar, David rescues his beloved from her captors and with his eccentric scientist friend Abner Perry permanently defeats the former overlords and builds an army and navy to deal with the bad people.
Tanar of Pellucidar (1929) The titular character, the son of a indigenous chieftain allied to David, is captured by the descendants of Muslim pirates who entered Pellucidar through the polar opening (more on that later) but he and David end up imprisoned.
Tarzan at the Earth's Core (1929) David's friend on the outside mounts an expedition to enter Pellucidar through the polar opening. To build a rigid airship capable of the feat, an exotic metal found only in Africa is needed. Which is where Tarzan gets involved. Having secured the material, he goes along. Perhaps swapping lions and elephants for dinosaurs and other monsters appealed to him. As always, an entertaining adventure.
Back to the Stone Age (1937) A member of the rescue party is left behind, has the usual hair-raising Pellucidarian adventures. Along the way he falls in love with an indig maiden, and decides he'd like to stay.
Land of Terror (1944, written in 1939) David has a few more misadventures, including become the slave of man-sized ants. Not as bad as it sounds.
Savage Pellucidar (1963, stories from 1942) A handful of short stories, posthumously published. If you're decide to read the books, might as well go all the way. Not as bad as the final Martian book.
So to finish up, there are a number of stand-alone books, some quite good. These are the recommended ones in the fantasy/SF realm.
The Lost Continent (1916; a.k.a. Beyond Thirty)
Beyond the Farthest Star (1942)
The Eternal Lover (1914, rev. 1915; aka The Eternal Savage)
Jungle Girl (1931; aka Land of the Hidden Men)
I am a Barbarian (1967; written in 1941)
Howard is notable for his creation of Conan, and it alone has a legacy that probably equals (size-wise) that of Burroughs. His work is almost universally dark and grim, and its relevance to his tragically short life cannot be ignored. The fact that it was produced in the short span of a dozen years or so is remarkable. Burroughs almost certainly had a more enjoyable life, and lived more than twice as long. While both infused philosophy and social commentary in their works, Burroughs often accompanied his with humor. Working across the lines of fantasy and SF, Burroughs (whether he knew it or not) had visions of the future of society and technology, and their being entertwined. Being first of all escapist entertainment, they should not be dismissed on that account. In both cases the genius bleeds through.