FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #586: FLAME AND CRIMSON: A HISTORY OF SWORD AND SORCERY By Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy’s excellent study of Sword-and-Sorcery fiction touches all the bases. He correctly identifies Robert E. Howard as the key figure in the genre. Murphy discusses other Sword-and -Sorcery writers from Weird Tales and other magazines. He spends some pages on C. L. Moore whose Jirel of Joiry is one of the few female characters in the genre with gravitas. The genre declined after the death of Howard and went dormant.

Then Murphy transitions to “Revival” with writers like Michael Moorcock who introduced Elric, Corum, and Dorian Hawkmoon to the Sword-and-Sorcery audience. Fritz Leiber created Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser which energized the genre. I wish Murphy had spent a few more pages on TOR’s Conan pastiches (over 40 volumes) published from 1982 to 2004 (there are rumors this Conan series might be revived).

If you’re a fan of Sword-and-Sorcery stories, Brian Murphy’s book provides a history of the genre’s development, its ups and downs and an idea where Sword-and-Sorcery is headed. Do you have a favorite Sword-and-Sorcery writer? GRADE: A


TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Intorduction v
CHAPTER ONE: What is Sword-and-Sorcery? 1
CHAPTER TWO: Origins 31
CHAPTER THREE: Robert E. Howard and the Birth fo Sword-and-Sorcery 57
CHAPTER FOUR: Weird Tales: Howard’s Sword-and-Sorcery Contemporaries 83
CHAPTER FIVE: Revival 107
CHAPTER SIX: Renaissance 133
CHAPTER SEVEN: Decline and Fall 163
CHAPTER EIGHT: Underground, Resurgence, and New Directions 195
CHAPTER NINE: The Cultural Impact of Sword-and-Sorcery 219
CHAPTER TEN: Why Sword-and-Sorcery? 241
A Probable Timeline of Sword-and-Sorcery 249
Works Cited 255
Acknowledgements 279
About the Author and Artist 281

20 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #586: FLAME AND CRIMSON: A HISTORY OF SWORD AND SORCERY By Brian Murphy

  1. wolf

    I can’t stand swords and sorcery!
    And I was sad and angry that people like Fritz Leiber and C L Moore invested their time in writing that kind of cr*p (at least in my eyes) instead of writing more stories like Change War, Silver Eggheads and Shambleau.
    PS:
    Really funny – the German wiki on Shambleau is much longer than the English one, obviously a fan of C L Moore wrote it who was fascinated by it.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Wolf, I enjoy Sword-and-Sorcery in small doses. The genre has been around for a long time so there’s a market for Conan, Elric, and Corum (and their clones).

      Reply
      1. george Post author

        Rick, I really enjoyed reading Fritz Leiber’s Sword-and-Sorcery collections…and I enjoyed their great covers, too!

  2. Cap'n Bob Napier

    Howard, who is about the only S&S author I’ve read! I don’t hate the genre, but I haven’t got a lot of interest in it and I have too many books in other fields to consume!

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Bob, I love Robert E. Howard’s work, but I think the early Michael Moorcock Sword-and-Sorcery series–Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon–deliver plenty of action and fun!

      Reply
  3. Michael Padgett

    This book actually sounds considerably more interesting than most of the S & S I read after exhausting the originals like Howard and Leiber and, to a lesser extent, Moorcock. I haven’t read much fantasy, S & S or otherwise, in years.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Michael, Brian Murphy explores Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane, John Jakes’s Brak the Barbarian, and various Sword-and-Sorcery anthologies. Well worth a look!

      Reply
      1. wolf

        Rather OT:
        I met K E Wagner almost 40 years ago at the Brighton Eastercon (1984)- seems that I looked like him. sometimes people would ask me for autographs …
        He also enjoyed the German beer I had brought, so I was invited to several room parties where I met other famous people like Wollheim’s daughter Betsy who had just taken over DAW books effectively.
        Wagner already didn’t look really healthy, afaik he had stopped writing already.

  4. Steve Oerkfitz

    My favorite would be Fritz Leiber. I read Howard as a teenager (probably the best age) but not since. I don’t read much S&S anymore. but I do like K. J. Parker a lot. Otherwise find most S&S to be pretty generic.

    Reply
  5. Jerry House

    I was a big S&S fan with Leiber being my hands down favorite, followed by Moorcock, Moore, Wellman, and (of course) REH. After the field became economically viable in the late Sixties, the good was driven out by the dreck and I seldom returned. I’m sure there’s some very good stuff being published now but I really can’t be bothered.

    Reply
      1. Steve Oerkfitz

        Sometimes it’s hard to tell sword and sorcery apart from other fantasy. Both dark fantasy and high fantasy contain many of the same elements.

  6. Rick Robinson

    I saw this in >i>Black Gate too, and considered it, but like everyone else have too many other books in hand to add another.

    I like fantasy, I like Sword & Sorcery. I enjoyed Howard’s Conan books a lot, and especially like and read and reread the Fafhad and Gray Mouser books by Leiber. I’ve tried Moorcock and just flat don’t like Elric. I gave away all my Moorcock paperbacks years ago (they did have nice cover art). There have been other authors in the (sub)genre I’ve liked, but they don’t come to mind as I write this.

    I see you’re having fun with drop caps, George.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Rick, like you I saw the review of FLAME & CRIMSON on BLACKGATE and immediately ordered the book. I like to support efforts like this with dollars.

      Reply

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