It's been awhile since I posted my thoughts on anything print related. So with the famed Cimmerian apparently getting ready for a new movie (even if the casting looks heinous) I decided to revisit one of Conan's best known and loved adventures. And the last penned by his creator.
As our story opens, Conan might have finally found the perfect woman-Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, a feisty Aquilonian Pirate who had just left the camp of Zarillo after having killed a Stygian and lost Zarillo's protection. But things take a turn when both are attacked by a seemingly indestructible creature. After managing to defeat it, the two find what appears to be a deserted city only to discover it has been split into two by two different factions-the Xotalanc and the Tecuhltli. When they save a Tecuhltli native named Techotl, they agree to go with him to his king Olmec. Olmec sees a possible way to end the war with help from Conan. His wife Tascela has other plans though...plans that involve Valeria.
Published as a three part story in Weird Tales in 1936, Red Nails shows Robert E. Howard at his best. Throwing in rousing action, from Valeria's fight with three Xotalancs to the bloody battle near the story's end, a pinch of humor and some horror, Howard weaves a masterful tale that keeps the reader riveted from beginning to end. I'm sure some though will find it juvenile and even though Howard does present a strong female protagonist in Valeria, he still isn't above some 1930s titillation (for some reasons naked women strapped to a table seemed to be a fetish for pulp writers of the time.) Still for those who wonder why Conan and Howard exudes such pull on readers this is where to begin. The story is available in two books-The Conquering Sword of Conan, the third in Del Rey's excellent trade paperback series of Conan stories and Black Hounds of Death, the fifth in a cheaper paperback series called The Weird Works of Robert E. Howard.