The Sword of Conan by Robert E Howard [Gnome Press]

This is a collection of short stories, apparently from the middle of Conan’s career. The included stories are The People of the Black Circle, The Slithering Shadow, The Pool of the Black One, and Red Nails.

I actually liked all of them. The People of the Black Circle was the longest; it’s a cool arabesque adventure, with lots of riding among the steppes and plateaus, dark sorceries, and the like.

The Slithering Shadow doesn’t pull any punches; it begins with the heroes out of food and water, stumbling into the desert as the last remnants of an army, expecting to die. Then they come on a city of weird technology (it made me think of Hawkmoon style brass and jewels) that’s haunted by a demonic thing that slinks through the city…

The Pool of the Black One is an interesting depiction of life at sea… until they stumble on a bountiful island. Conan’s not a hero (he murders the captain unprovoked), until the Black Ones take the crew back to their enchanted pool…

Red Nails is an interesting–they encounter one giant house, with a war/feud among the remnants who are trapped within the walls for generations.

Each story partners Conan with a woman early–a different woman each time. Sometimes they are commanding and respected leaders, sometimes they’re fainting maidens, and sometimes she’s a skilled warrior in her own right. I could see “the women of Conan” as an interesting project from these 4 alone.