Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Red Nails” as Want to Read:
Red Nails
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Red Nails

(The Dark Storm Conan Chronology #24)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,736 ratings  ·  104 reviews

One of the strangest stories ever written -- the tale of a barbarian adventurer, a woman pirate, and a weird roofed city inhabited by the most peculiar race of men ever spawned!

That was the Weird Tales editor's original terse blurb for this story's magazine publication. (There was another, longer less coherent, but it wouldn't fit here on the back cover.) Death! Decay!

Paperback, 295 pages
Published November 1st 1977 by Berkley (first published November 1st 1936)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Red Nails, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Red Nails

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,736 ratings  ·  104 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Red Nails
Jason Koivu
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Real solid story. I appreciate the addition of the strong female co-main, Valeria, who is on the run after killing her would-be rapist.

Red Nails was the last Conan story Howard ever wrote. Weird Tales, the magazine that published most of his stuff, was behind in payments to the tune of $1500, which during the Great Depression was beaucoup bucks. So, he moved on to Westerns which were in demand.

Howard's end was a terrible shame. It would have been nice to see how his writing progressed if he ha
About a year ago, at a library book sale I ran across some collections of Conan stories, which were edited by Karl Edward Wagner. These were labeled as “Authorized.” I didn’t pay much attention to that, because I thought I had read pretty much all of the Conan stories back in high school. And I may have, but the ones I read were part of a multi volume set that was “edited” by Lin Carter, August Derleth, and L. Sprague DeCamp. The point here is that the stories I read way back when were leavened ...more
Love of Hopeless Causes
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Howard fans
Recommended to Love of Hopeless Causes by: Capt Corajus
Shelves: appendix-n, fantasy
If Howard produced a final draft, this may have become his, "Stairway to Heaven." Presumably created while he suffered from crippling depression caused by the declining health and eventual death of his Mother, compounded by a time of unsatisfactory relations with women generally, it's surprising that Valeria is featured.

Imagine relentlessly pounding this out on a typewriter with no light at the end of the causeway besides a pulp paycheck and the modest respect of your friends. The author still
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of first reading the Conan stories in the order Robert E. Howard wrote them, which provided a peek into the mind of a profoundly troubled man. Conan was the last major character he created, and towards the end of Howard's life, the world of Conan became progressively more bleak and barren and grim, its people little more than the remnants of a civilization that had raped, enslaved, and murdered itself into near extinction. RED NAILS was the final Conan story and didn't make it ...more
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Robert E Howard's last Conan story. Loved the eerie setting, as Conan battles foes and monsters alike in an ancient, dead city where the last remnants of rival feuding clans linger among the splendor and riches of ages long past. ...more
Baal Of
Dec 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wine, beef-bone
It makes sense that this is one of the highest regarded Conan stories. It has a subtleness in its violence and brutality that is just a step beyond that of many of the other stories. The language is pulpy but well-honed, and the is an extra touch of the uncanny in the setting and the narrative. Valeria is a stronger character than is typical for Howard's female protagonists, and in at least one of the skirmishes, she takes out two enemies for Conan's one. There is a giant lizard/dinosaur, poison ...more
Seth Skorkowsky
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is my 3rd Conan story to read and it is by far my favorite. I’d heard of Red Nails before, but didn't know anything about it. What I found was an adventure that cements Howard title as a Sword & Sorcery master.

Here we find Conan and his companion Valeria (Those familiar with the 1982 movie will recognize that name) as they go through a jungle. They are attacked by a dragon, and once that encounter is done, find an abandoned and hidden city. Hopeful for treasure, they enter the rusted doors
Matthew Devlin
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion, one of the strangest Conan stories ever written, and one of the best. Sure, the character development is pathetic, but who cares? A completely enclosed city, factions of the same tribe at war with one another, engaged in a violent competition, gorgeous women in loin cloths, a despot king, monsters from below, and a dinosaur. They call it a dragon, but it is totally a dinosaur. You won't find the furthering of gender equality, or even racial equality in the works of Howard. Let us ...more
Jenny Gaines
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it

This was my first foray into the world of Conan, and boy, what a trip! As I finished the story, I laughed at how little there was to actually take away from it (as in, nothing) but- that's okay. Comically racist and sexist, the story is a great adventure all the way through. Now, I just have to find a reason to exclaim, "Sulky slut!"
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: appendix-n
I have to say that I very much enjoyed this story. There's a lot of early east Texas cultural baggage to get past. Once I did, I enjoyed the primal adventure, sensuality, and moral inhibition of of this very well put together Conan story.

Robert E. Howard had a complex and contradictory consciousness. For example, he's a lost cause on the subject of race. Like his colleague, H.P. Lovecraft, he was a man whose family had fallen on hard times, and aggrandized himself at the expense of other people
Tom Van Boening
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Being a gigantic fan of all things fantasy, I am a big fan of the sword and sorcery. Never having read any of the Conan novels, but being a fan of the movies, I decided to read these books.

They certainly come out of a different era, but the fantasy elements of the lovable swashbuckler are still awesome and wonderful. This was written when you knew straight down the line who the bad guys were and who the good guys were.

What I find especially fascinating about Conan himself is that he is not a her
John Behnken
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, gritty, adventure
My very first foray into the realm of Conan the Barbarian. A few things stood out for me.
1. The mood and the setting had a tremendous feel. Howard is not just some pulp fiction author - he really knew his craft.
2. Conan was far more literate than I ever expected. Probably the result of seeing the Conan movies so many years ago. This was not disappointing in the least. Just took some getting used to.
3. The action was beautifully written - something I expected of course but it far exceeded my exp
Steve Scott
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure
A short, fun read. Howard was a master in the genre.

Modern readers will note the racist tinges and sexism...even though here Valeria is a heck of a fighter. Yet when running from danger he picks her up and carries her so as to maintain speed. Ah, well...
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Some of the best Howard Conan stories, presented with minimal to no editing by Karl Edward Wagner. This is how they were meant to be read.
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a great story.
Ray Smith
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories are much like Ian Fleming's Bond books: utterly ridiculous but also incredibly entertaining. I liked them, and I shall read more! ...more
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
In my opinion one of the best of Howard's Conan short stories.

I have read this story several times in the past, and after the Conan movie I thought "Wow, the plot really sucked. Why didn't they do something like "Red Nails" which reminded me I hadn't read it for ten or twenty years. I figured I would reread it, just in case I remembered it through rose colored glasses. Nope, still as fun as ever.

Think of if the Hatfields and MaCoys were trapped in an enclosed city of three or four stories, surr
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite Robert Howard story that I have read, and I've read it multiple times. Its a real pleasure and a great escape. A sense of place and darkness permeates Robert Howard stories, old decayed civilizations, remnants from a distant past lurk in jungles, etc. This story is a good place to start if you want to dig in and really appreciate this woefully underappreciated author. ...more
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Reviews of this book are deservedly good! This story was outside of my normal range and I entered into the experience with an open mind. It was worth every moment of my time!

A truly exciting story with excellent characters and an unusual setting.
Highly recommended!
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: howard
another from howard...the...7th, 8th or so...most of them conan stories, all save 2 i think. kindle edition...and it seems there's...what? 3? 4? kindle editions available? haaaa-rumph.

this one begins:
1. the skull on the crag
the woman on the horse reined in her weary steed. it stood with its legs wide-braced, its head drooping, as if it found even the weight of the gold-tasseled, red-leather bridle too heavy. the woman drew a booted foot out of the silver stirrup and swung down from the gilt-wor
It's not very good but you can see why people liked this sort of thing, and why Conan stuck around in the popular imagination. It's not very good but it has potential. ...more
Bret James Stewart
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Red Nails is both the title of an individual story and the four work collection in which it is included. Three of the tales feature Robert E. Howard’s most famous character, Conan the Barbarian. The fourth is an essay describing Howard’s pseudo-historical Hyborian setting. All four writings were originally composed and the three stories published in the pulp Weird Tales magazine in the 1930s. This edition has an introduction and afterword by Karl Edward Wagner. These bookend the collection well, ...more
Ned Leffingwell
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read some Conan stories many years ago in my youth, and my memories of them were quite fond. I recently downloaded a bunch of Robert E. Howard stories that are in the public domain and I decided to read a Conan story for old times sake. Red Nails follows Conan and his companion Valeria as they stumble upon a mysterious city in the desert. Conan and Valeria become involved in a feud between the crazed inhabitants of the city. There is action, magic, lust, and enough bloodshed to satisfy th ...more
Seth Kenlon
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf
I take it all back. THIS is the best Conan story.

In this story, Conan meets his equal in the form of Valeria, a captain of the Red Brotherhood. She's a pirate, and a true swashbuckler, skilled with blades and fancy footwork. To me, she's an incarnation of Bêlit from the Black Coast; it's not an exact fit, but it's close enough for me to shoehorn it into my personal Conan canon.

There's a lot of Hyborian history in this book, too; several discussions detail the stories of Aquilonia and the Cimmeri
Peregrine 12
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Four out of five stars from an REH fan - one champion story, a good one, and one stinker. Glenn Lord's commentary is outstanding, though, as is the chance to read REH's own description of his world-building.

The foreword and afterword by Glenn Lord were, for any REH fan, worth reading just by themselves. Otherwise, this compilation includes:

1. Beyond the Black River (1935);
2. Shadows in Zamboula (1935);
3. Red Nails (1936);
4. The Hyborian Age (notes from Howard on his world mythos).

My review:

Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is still amazing to me that an author as profoundly disturbed and depressed as Howard could write so beautifully. The skill with which he paints a picture of these characters is wonderful.
I have been reading Howard since I’m 13 years old. A giant that lives life on his own terms, is a favorite of actual gods, and loves every minute. Arnie was not a bad character in the movies, but still did not fulfill the image from these stories.
If you have a chance to read them all - do it.
This was a go
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haven’t read Red Nails in years, so when I saw this was free on Kindle, I figured I’d re-read it.

Once upon a time, I would’ve listed R.E. Howard as one of my favorite authors. Oh REH, R.E. Howard, Two-Gun Bob, you are like the sexist, racist uncle at the holidays. Everything will be fine for a while, then BAM, he says something awful. Ostensibly, Red Nails is a great tale of a dwindling civilization trapped in the halls of an abandoned, entirely enclosed city. It’s horror effective, its action v
B.L. Daniels
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Classic Conan.

If you're into S&S "sword & sorcery", then this will be right up your alley. A great tale from the Conan series of stories. Nothing overly flowery or "epic" about this fantasy. Straight forward, brutal, dark. You can pretty much tell how things will end well before the final page, but Howard's storytelling makes the journey fun nonetheless.

This is a quick read full of fun hack n' slash fantasy; the kind you just don't find nowadays. Both the content and the language (so many adver
Michael Sorbello
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-books
Wandering across the scorching desert in search of adventure, Conan stumbles upon the beautiful and fearsome pirate Valeria. After narrowly escaping from a dragon by making clever use of a poison fruit, Conan and Valeria take refuge in an entirely walled and enclosed city named Xuchotl where generations of inhabitants have waged war against each other for hundreds of years. Conan and Valeria get swept up into some nasty affairs between the two warring clans, a storm of swords and demonic sorcere ...more
Phillip Rodgers
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Howard's final Conan outing...

Red Nails was Robert E. Howard's final Conan novella. Indeed, I believe that he was already dead by the time it was published. Howard is one of the great story tellers and this is no exception. It clips right along and has, what at the time would have been called, "spicy" elements. A good and entertaining read.
« previous 1 3 4 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Another World Boo...: July 2020: Red Nails, by Robert E. Howard 10 6 Jul 28, 2020 02:52PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Beyond Lies the Wub
  • Second Variety
  • The Variable Man
  • The Defenders
  • The Crystal Crypt
  • A Princess of Mars (Barsoom, #1)
  • The Skull
  • Mrs. Todd's Shortcut, from Skeleton Crew
  • Beyond the Door
  • Mr. Spaceship
  • The King in Yellow
  • The Book of Wonder
  • Pygmalion's Spectacles
  • Cain's Eye (Bouncer #1)
  • The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
  • The Road Virus Heads North
  • The High Republic Free Digital Sampler
  • Crimson Joy (Spenser, #15)
See similar books…
Robert Ervin Howard was an American pulp writer of fantasy, horror, historical adventure, boxing, western, and detective fiction. Howard wrote "over three-hundred stories and seven-hundred poems of raw power and unbridled emotion" and is especially noted for his memorable depictions of "a sombre universe of swashbuckling adventure and darkling horror."

He is well known for having created — in the p

Other books in the series

The Dark Storm Conan Chronology (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • The Hyborian Age
  • The Frost Giant's Daughter
  • God in the Bowl
  • Rogues in the House
  • Shadows In The Moonlight
  • Black Colossus (Conan the Barbarian, #4)
  • Queen of the Black Coast
  • A Witch Shall Be Born
  • The Devil in Iron
  • The People Of The Black Circle

Related Articles

Diverse voices and sparkling debuts dominate today's contemporary short story collections. For this roundup, we took a look at the...
97 likes · 10 comments
“Blast your soul, you hussy!" he exclaimed in exasperation.” 1 likes
“Well, let's go. If the people in that city are going to cut our throats they may as well do it now, before the heat of the day begins.” 0 likes
More quotes…