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Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  234 ratings  ·  31 reviews

Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, King Kull, and others that defined heroic fantasy, lived and died in the small town of Cross Plains, Texas. While his books remain in print, Howard himself has fallen into obscurity, his life mired in speculation and half-truth. This engaging biography traces the roots of his writings, correcting long-standing misconceptions, and offers

Paperback, 342 pages
Published July 19th 2013 by (first published December 25th 2006)
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Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Howard fans; anyone interested in American pulp literature
Recommended to Werner by: It was a common read in one of my groups
Versatile pulp writer Howard (1906-1936) has, until now, not been very well served by his biographers. The apparently only previous full-scale biography, the 1983 effort by L. Sprague and Catherine de Camp (which I haven't read, but of the particular slant of which I was already informed before reading the discussion here) devoted a lot of its treatment to "proving" de Camp's thesis that Howard's tragic suicide at age 30 must have been caused by long-term insanity. Finn undertook to write an ind ...more
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a lot to say about this book, but if you just want a short recommendation, then this book is as definitive of a biography of Howard as we are ever going to get.

Ok, now on to the meat:
This book has a few problems. Some of them are Finn's fault, others are out of Finn's hands. Buckle in, because here we go:
First, you can tell that Finn is a big Howard fan. This is a problem in biography writing because we aren't getting a neutral picture of the person. For example, Finn glosses over Howard
Jul 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very useful new Biography of Robert E. Howard from Texas writer Mark Finn. Finn focuses a lot on the Texas nature of Howard's writing, and is one of the first biographers to treat Howard's humorous stories with due respect.
Aug 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected an easily accessible style. I expected solid scholarship and a passionate defense of Howard's legacy. What I didn't expect was to get so caught up in Mark Finn's picture of Howard's world that I didn't want to put the book down. Of course you should read this if you're a fan of Robert E. Howard and his work. You don't need me to tell you that. But even folks who only know Howard in passing will get caught up in this one.
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book explores the life and times of one of the most famous writers ever to come out of the state of Texas. During his brief writing career in the 1920s and 1930s, Robert E. Howard did a lot more for imaginative literature than simply create the character of Conan the Cimmerian.

In the early 1900s, Texas was experiencing an oil boom. Practically overnight, a town would spring up around oil wells, bringing all sorts of people, from roughnecks to work the wells, to barkeepers to prostitutes. Th
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A decent biography and close enough for me as I will probably never get to read the one written by his girlfriend ....which is out of print and very expensive.
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english, text-review
Pro mě osobně nesmírně zajímavé čtení! Nikdy jsem nechápal, jak je možné, že člověk, trpící depresemi a sebevražednými sklony, nemluvě o závislosti na své nemocné matce, člověk, který strávil naprostou většinu svého dospělého života v malém texaském městečku (a který vlastně prakticky nikdy neopustil Texas), člověk, který si ve třiceti letech prohnal kulku hlavou, zkrátka že právě takový člověk stačil během tak krátké doby napsat tolik úžasných příběhů a svým literárním vkladem vlastně definovat ...more
I read the old Conan 1-12 Ace published paperbacks religiously as a teenager, and have delved back into them (or the Del Ray Conan re-prints) for a re-read from time to time. I have always counted Howards Conan stories among my favorite books. As far as Howard himself I always found him to be a fascinating but confusing figure. I had heard such wildly varying stories of how he was. On one hand he had been portrayed as a macho, brawling, boxing, roughneck fitness fanatic, that in some ways mirror ...more
Stephen Robinson
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Mark Finn's Blood and Thunder is an exceptional biography of American pulp writer Robert E. Howard. Finn does a service by debunking the many myths about Howard's life and his tragic suicide. The book really shines when explaining the history of Texas during the oil boom years of the 1920s and how this context of economic growth combined with violence and lawlessness shaped Howard's worldwide, especially his constant theme of decaying and corrupt civilization versus the nobility of barbarism. I ...more
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the first proper biography of Robert E. Howard that's been written in decades, Mark Finn seeks to adress some the myths that have been circulating about Howard - most of them to his detriment - and also to place him within a particularly Texan literary context. The latter is accomplished by analyzing how early 20th century Texan society affected Howard's upbringing and mindset, and in turn how this filtered into his various creations from Steve Costigan to Conan to El Borak. While this makes ...more
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This is an excellent biography of one of the men that shaped modern Science Fiction. Finn does a remarkable job of helping us understand how the time and place Howrad lived influenced the way he viewed the world and the stories he produced. And who would have thought that Cimmeria was inspired by the Texas Hill Country? After reading this biography, it was an absolute must to go and read the re-released, de-Decamped collections of Howard's stories in their original form and properly released ord ...more
Remco Straten
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Immensely readable, comprehensive biography of pulp writer Robert E. Howard. It traces his roots from pioneer stock, and lays the origins of his writing in his Irish heritage and the Texan tradition of 'spinning yarns' from when the Wild West was still living memory. This, set against a backdrop of oil boom and bust and a young man who doesn't quite fit in, gives a quite good impression of the man who did not only gave the world Conan, but also invented the Weird Western, wrote historical advent ...more
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am a purist fan of Robert E. Howard. This means that I am only interested in the stories that he wrote before they were edited or added to by the likes of L. Sprague de Camp. Luckily my interest and discovery of Howard's work corresponded with the release of the Del Rey illustrated trade-backs that were published with fans like myself in mind.
Blood and Thunder is a magnificent biography of one of my favorite authors. The insight into Howard's life and creative process is as complete as any fan
Gonzalo Oyanedel
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
El investigador Mark Finn pretende una aproximación honesta y desprejuiciada a la figura de Robert Ervin Howard, cuya imagen fue distorsionada durante años por las versiones muy subjetivas que propagaron continuadores como Sprague De Camp. Un trabajo bastante completo que -pese a ciertos errores de información- aborda de lleno la vida, obsesiones e inquietudes de un autor ampliamente superado por su obra, pero a quien no le faltaron coloridas vivencias en su singular vida fronteriza. Documento.
DeWayne Todd
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Revisited this excellent book as part of Howard Day's this year and realized I hadn't dropped a review. Very engaging and well written overview of Howard, his life and his influences. Definitely give a great set of perspectives on the complexity of Robert E. Howard and the struggles he faced. I appreciated that Finn tells the good, the bad and the amazing pieces of the story and shows us that all we can really know about a person is glimpses as through the fog. What lies beneath is far more comp ...more
Karen Kohoutek
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best Howard biography so far, bar none. If you're interested in Howard, read it!
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I came across this fairly recent Robert E. Howard biography while looking instead for the earlier biography by L. Sprague de Camp, and it's just as well that I did, because Finn makes a good case that de Camp performed as much of a hatchet job on Howard as he did on H. P. Lovecraft in an earlier biography.

Unlike de Camp, Finn is actually a Howard fan--he knows and loves Howard's works, and indeed, if you finish this biography you'll likely want to read some Howard for yourself. de Camp, on the o
Richard Behrens
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I went to Providence, R.I. for Necronomicon 2015, the convention devoted to Weird Fiction. To be honest, I went to experience the works of H.P.Lovecraft, but got a pleasant surprise running into the Robert E. Howard Foundation whose table at the vendors' room was a great place to buy a copy of Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, because the man who sold it to me, Mark Finn, was the author of the book.

I first read Howard when I was kid in the form of those butchered paperbac
Peregrine 12
Thank you, Mark Finn, for providing such a wonderful and in-depth review of Robert E Howard and the world surrounding him. Being a Texan myself, I especially appreciate the focus you give to the attitudes and belief systems prevalent during Howard's time and even today. It's hard to articulate the culture, but you have done an excellent job here. You have made REH come alive and seem as a real, understandable person and not a manic-psycho depressive who lived in a constant state of paranoia (as ...more
Jayme Blaschke
A magnificent examination of the life and works of Texas fantasy author Robert E. Howard, Finn dispels myths and delves deep into the man's troubled personal life through extensive research. Howard's life in the tiny, West Texas town of Cross Plains come to vivid life under Finn's steady hand--Finn's passion for the subject matter is almost physical in its intensity.

This is a short review, but make no mistake, this is an engrossing book that will bring the reader a whole new appreciation for How
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read a later edition of this book which I don't see here that includes additional material.

The constriction of Howard's circumstances and inevitability of his suicide ride the narrative throughout the book, but there is joy and humor to be found in his life. Finn places Howard and the reader firmly in Texas and though the state is vast, there was a world beyond that Howard yearned to see and never would. He made his own world through a passion for history, a violent imagination, and great tal
Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very quick read -and fascinating- about the man who wrote the Conan the Barbarian stories. Mark Finn's purpose is to point out the importance of Howard's small-town Texas roots and he shows that REH's writing was about much more than Conan. He wrote poetry, boxing stories,horror, historical fiction( mostly set in the time of the Crusades ),and increasingly, Westerns. Ultimately,it is a tragic story, as REH committed suicide at the age of 30. Finn explores possible reasons why he did that. And, ...more
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A great backgrounder on a king of pulp. Texas blood in his veins runs into his work. Disappointed with limited insights on Conan series. A mere footnote here. I assume author felt this territory was covered by others and wanted to show the larger breadth of the man. A shame considering Conan's appeal and the fact the cover art is of Conan to draw you in (draw sales). Putting the book down early as the next bit is Novalyn Price notes which I would prefer to read in her novel One Who Walked Alone. ...more
Martin Rundkvist
This biography is well argued but poorly written. When the author reaches for a slightly more literary phrase, he often grabs hold of almost but not quite the right word. This could be helped by professional copy editing. But another weakness is neither the author's fault, nor possible to do anything about. This is simply the biography of a man who lived a short and uneventful life.
Nov 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Very interesting, especially for Howard fans. Does its best to make sense of Howard's rather tragic life (he committed suicide at age 30) and rehabilitate his literary reputation. Although he he was mostly published in the ghetto of pulp magazines in his lifetime, Howard does deserve to be recognized as one of America's great writers.
Vincent Darlage
Mar 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
I really enjoyed this look at the life of Robert E. Howard. It seemed far more balanced and scholarly than any other biography of Howard I have ever read. Top notch work. Now, this is how one should write a biography. Engaging to the last, it kept me going even though I have other pressing matters at hand to do.
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Probably the best biography of Robert E. Howard (there aren't too many, but I know one of which is not worth the paper it was printed on). Mark Finn really shows what a complex and driven person REH was, and also how misunderstood he was and is. A must read for fans!
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best biography of Robert E. Howard hands down. I love how Mark Finn brings in Texas as being so much a part of REH. You owe it to yourself to read this book and to learn about a creative genius so many do not know about.
Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard by Mark Finn (2006)
Jouni Virtaharju
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-researched biography of REH. The reader gets a glimpse of the pulpster's life in the early 20th century Texas.
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Mark Finn is an author, an editor, and a pop culture critic. He is a nationally-recognized authority on Robert E. Howard and has written extensively about the Texas author. His work has appeared in publications for the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press, Dark Horse Comics, Boom! Comics, The Cimmerian, REH: Two-Gun Raconteur, The Howard Review, Wildside Press, Centipede Press, The University of Texa ...more

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