Just read a good book—my own! Conan the Gladiator, my tenth “posthumous collaboration” with the great Robert E. Howard, from ancient times, 20+ years ago. Tired from promoting my more recent historical yarn LUSITANIA LOST (available for pre-order from Mango.bz or at leonardcarpenter.com) I picked up the old yellowing paperback and read it. over 3 or 4 nights at bedtime. (continued below)
It’s a rousing read, but a departure from Conan’s usual remorseless sword-slinging on behalf of his own or others’ survival. I couldn’t let our hero be a merciless mercenary, a pit-fighter or captive slave fighter (this was pre-Russell Crowe.) Instead, he tends to make friends with his fellow gladiators and battles them only reluctantly. In fact, the whole Arena scene is so decadent and (ugh!) civilized that he loses (temporarily) his taste for killing (except in urban street gang rumbles.)
The situation was complicated by my deadline. It normally took me 9 months, working half-time, to grind out a respectable pulp pastiche. I was on track for this when my publishers for Tor, the late lamented Sprague and Catherine de Camp, informed me that my deadline had been moved forward 3 months, from April 1 to December 31! A wannabe Conan sequelizer had failed to deliver his book and they were being published quarterly.
Luckily, I had a holiday vacation available from my day job. But this meant writing every day, even Christmas. And, with a toddler at home who loved to “help” me work, I had to pretend to leave for the office each morning and then sneak back in the window to my closet, where my Apple lle time machine was hidden.
I did this dutifully for two weeks, “coming home” only for lunch with my wife, and to play briefly with the boy. I ended up finishing the book on New Year’s Eve at midnight. It was Fed-Exe’d only one day late, and published on time.
But alas, the accumulated resentment–scrabbling away at my keyboard, as ever “pushing the envelope” for more harrowing effects while the rest of my family loudly celebrated the New Year–may have poisoned my plotting. One irate reader later complained that I had, oops! killed Conan, by leaving him too long in the unbreakable grip of Xothar, the temple-consecrated strangler, amid the collapsing ruins of… well, no spoilers here.
Feeling vaguely guilty about this oversight, I neglected to look at the book for a couple decades. But now that I do, I find it delightfully historical, a blast from our Hyborian past.