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Red Nails

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,630 ratings  ·  89 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)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  1,630 ratings  ·  89 reviews

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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
Jakk Makk
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Howard fans
Recommended to Jakk Makk 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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,
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...
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a great story.
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
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 ...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
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:

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
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
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
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This one started out as a classic Conan tale: chasing after a girl and fighting a dragon, etc. But once it got into the city and dealt with two dueling factions, it lost my interest. I kind of felt that Howard lost interest in it at that point too. Once the fight was over, he quickly wrapped it up and ended the story. It could have been 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!
Keith Bell
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have read this at least 6 or 7 times PLUS each of the stories in other anthologies. Three of the best Conan stories in one book. Great representation of Conan's career and REH's writing style.

NOTE: My copy still has the fold out poster that comes attached to the inside cover.
Jul 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Howard's inventive mind is hard at work in imagining a city with no streets for his hero, Conan. This has all the typical challenges: a beautiful, strong-willed woman, a strange race with exotic rituals, and terrifying monsters. A good yarn, but he has penned better.
RT Brogan
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic fantasy

I read this 40 years ago. Like good wine it improves with age. Total escapism. For any fantasy fan. I am looking forward to reading the complete works. I chose five stars for sheer enjoyment.
Gareth Reeves
Nov 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Hack-and-slash writing with the emphasis on hack! The prose is functional and the characters fairly one-dimensional, but Red Nails is nonetheless weirdly enjoyable, thanks to the plot-driven, fast-paced action. Read it when you want to give your brain a break.
Amx Alamin
Dec 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
Excelent Story ...more
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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
“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
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