Book Report: Conan the Barbarian by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter (1982) / Conan the Destroyer by Robert Jordan (1984)

Book coverI bought these books and a couple of other Conan/Robert E. Howard paperbacks last summer in Berryville, Arkansas, and as I just watched the films in July, I thought I would pick them up. I am spending a lot of reading time this year on paperbacks, so why change now?

These books differ from some movie novelizations in that the authors were already steeped in the Conan mythos as they’d written original Conan short stories and/or novels in decades before the movies appeared. So you get a lot of depth in the books that you don’t get in a lot of cases where the novelizinator works quickly from a script.

I summarized the plots of Conan the Barbarian in the movie post thus:

In Conan the Barbarian, young Conan sees his father and mother killed before him when a raiding party strikes their undefended village, and he is taken as a slave. He grows up, becomes strong from his labor, and then ends up as a gladiator traveling with Mongol-types, still a slave, until he is released. He flees to a dead area where he finds Mako playing a sorcerer of questionable ability and seeks his revenge on the leader of the band who killed his family and razed his village, Thulsa Doom played by James Earl Jones. Of course, the man is now the leader of a spreading cult of snake-handlers. Oh, and Sandahl Bergman plays Valeria, a fighter-thief that Conan loves.

It’s as good of a read as the movie is a good movie, if that makes sense–it reads like a standalone novel, not something that simply recaptures the film so you can remember it. And it does not include photos from the movie. Perhaps the intent was to make this a backlist book that outlasted the movie.

Book coverI described the plot of this film also in that movie post:

In Conan the Destroyer, Conan is given a quest to escort the virgin niece, played by Olivia d’Abo, of a queen who is destined to restore the horn of a sleeping god. So Conan and a thief start off with the girl and her bodyguard, played by Wilt Chamberlain. They rescue Mako and a female warrior, played by Grace Jones, from a hostile tribe and they go do some sidequests and then the main quest and discover they’ve been played, and the queen is going to sacrifice the virgin to resurrect the god. So Conan has to slay the tall bodyguard and then the resurrected god.

Actually, in the case of this book, it’s a good thing that I just watched the film as this first printing has an erratum in the binding. After page 256, when Conan and his party are storming the castle, the frontspiece, title page, and the first 31 pages of the book appear again instead of the climactic showdown and end matter. I would think this might be collectible, but, c’mon, man, collecting, paperbacks, errata, and all that are so 20th century. You can find copies of this book on Ebay for $10 without mention of the errata (well, perhaps that means not all of the first printing was botched). However, if I find another copy in the wild, I might have to pick it up if it finishes the story, and perhaps I will read it again–or just the end of it. Time will tell if I count that as a complete book–but I sure counted this one as a whole book.

I shall probably delve into those other Conan paperbacks by and by–and I have already started one of the Diagnosis: Murder paperbacks I picked up on that trip.

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A Warning to Others

Two-for-one: Bowhunter gets antlered deer with extra skull and rack attached in Missouri:

“The deer (Lewis) harvested still had the skull and antlers of another deer locked in its rack,” according to Missouri Department of Conservation’s post on social media in early November.

This could be a prompt for a macabre story, or perhaps a light one: Perhaps a deer hunter harvests a deer with a Predator skeleton still attached.

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Unlike Treadmills I’ve Known

The Just Like Cats and Dogs comic from last week’s The Licking News:

That’s a pretty cut rate treadmill. The ones at the YMCA all have two places to put things, and I have been known to bring snacks and drinks to treadmill time. When running or biking during indoor triathlons, I bring fruit snacks to savor as a reward for each segment of the time on the equipment.

Even the elliptical we have at home and barely use has slots for water bottles and whatnot. So either the cartoonist is unfamiliar with actual treadmills or the cartoonist is only familiar with the basest models.

Look at me, correcting and talking back to a cartoon. I must be a blogger.

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Book Report: The Wild Horses of Shannon County, Missouri by Dean Curtis (2022)

Book coverI got this book at a book signing last month whereupon I got not only a copy for me but also for my horse-loving aunt who lives with my grandmother in Wisconsin. As I have finally gotten around to finishing a letter to my grandmother and mailing the book, I thought I would delve into it just so I can say I’ve read it if it comes up in a Facebook conversation.

Which is kind of funny: The copy of the book I sent to Wisconsin lie upon the table for a couple of weeks until I sent the letter, and now my copy has rested upon the table for several days since I read it and before I wrote this report on it, and it’s a large book, consuming a lot of real estate on the desk. So with this report, I’ll be able to clear a little space.

At any rate, it is what you would expect: some text about the photographer’s introduction to the wild horse herds while camping over a decade ago. Shannon County apparently supports four herds, but the herds are not very big–ten or so horses roughly–so they’re not like herds of buffalo from horizon to horizon. They very in levels of shyness, which means there are more from the Shawnee Creek herd than the Broadfoot, Rocky Creek, or Round Spring herds. The photographer has caught them in a variety of seasons, dispositions, and poses, from running across a river to emerging from a fogbank.

So it’s a cool book, not a long read, but an interesting look into the places nearby which are still a bit wild. As I mentioned, well, probably explained to my grandmother, I pass through Shannon County not far from these herds when I drive to Poplar Bluff. The book gives the history of the herds and the attempts to preserve them as well as the photographer’s story–the book raised money for the organization founded to protect them–and one of the headlines reproduced is from the front page of The Current Local, a paper out of Van Buren which was one of the first of my adopted hometown newpapers to which I subscribed.

Or maybe I’m just getting old that I’m relating to local books more acutely these days, especially the ones related to local history (see also Buff Lamb: Lion of the Ozarks). I’ve lived at Nogglestead for 13 years, the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere, and the experience of having lived somewhere for a while might be altering my perception of time and my place in the world. Or perhaps I’ve had too much coffee today.

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Book Report: Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (2007)

Book coverAs I mentioned when I spoke of the audiobook version of Pure Drivel, I had already picked up another Steve Martin work. This book is that work–I picked it up in between short stories in a collection that the kittens suggested by knocking it off of the shelves, but I was not powering through the collection in one go. This book, though, I read in a couple of nights even though it is longer than Shopgirl.

It is basically a memoir of the early parts of his career, from his teenaged years when he worked at Disneyland and Knotts’ Berry Farm learning magic, standup comedy, and whanot through his taking his show on the road and kind of trailblazing a new wacky style of comedy and then through his movie successes of the 1980s, although he only touches on that. He doesn’t get much into his personal life except to say that he had a rocky relationship with his father when he was younger, and it does not go a lot into his later relationships. It’s definitely through the lens of the standup work and how it evolved and how it went from fulfilling to feeling like he was just playing the role of Steve Martin in his larger arena tours after his career took off.

It’s an interesting read both as a time capsule of being a young man who wants to embark on an entertainment career as well as a glimpse into being young a couple of decades before I was young. And it’s written with Martin’s characteristic intelligence and grace with a touch of self-effacement that endears the writer to the reader.

So worth looking for more, although Martin has only written a handful of books in his time.

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On The Best of the Chris Rock Show (1999)

Book coverAs opposed to the The Best of the Dean Martin Show, this DVD did not come out decades after Chris Rock’s talk show and sketch comedy bit went off the cable (which is “off the air” in the late 20th century–the modern equivalent would be “out of the stream” or something). Rock’s show appeared on HBO, so I didn’t have access to it when it was on, and I am not one for the talk shows anyway, so I probably would not have seen it.

I have, however, seen the skit “How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police” a time or two.

This single DVD does not include the aforementioned skit, but it does have some humor poking fun at The Race Question from the perspective of the middle 1990s. One skit is purportedly about an academic who is barred from entering establishments or who gets thrown out of establishments because he’s black. But when they go to the video proof, the man is naked and is getting thrown out or barred entry for that.

Man, what a wonderful world that was. Imperfect, but better than what we have now, where these sorts of jokes and poking fun at minorities’ pecadilloes just don’t fly, and we’re not allowed to laugh at obvious stereotypes.

Man, Chris Rock was everywhere up until some point in the early part of this century, but he seemed to have disappeared. Actually, I was going to posit he got supplanted by Kevin Hart, but in reality, it’s probably that my pop cultural awareness took a nosedive this century. I see he’s been in several films in the Sandlerverse–I saw Grown Ups–twice, in fact–but not much else of his work in the last fifteen years. I guess that’s on me.

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Book Report: Dark Love edited by Nancy A. Collins, Edward E. Kramer, and Martin H. Greenberg (1995)

Book coverThis was the second book suggested to me by the kittens who were sequestered in my office for a time, and they suggested books for me to read by knocking them off of my to-read bookshelves. But they might as well have knocked this book into their cat litter, for I did not like it very much, and I am no longer taking recommendations from the kittens.

The front cover bills it as Twenty Two All-Original Tales of Lust and Obsession. Given that it’s headlined by Stephen King, I thought it would be a horror collection, but really, it’s a more crime fiction with a lot of wetwork and a bunch of sex (deviancy is a plus to the editors). It’s not horror but horrific. Many of the stories try to get into the minds of the insane, who then have deviant sex and murder people.

It took me a while to get through the book, reading several others in between the stories. Because many of the stories were very similar. Breaking it up kept it a little fresher.

And as this book is from 1995, it does contain the two baddest words in the universe: Trump and, you know, the other one. Which could be used in print in living memory as a marker that whomever spoke it was backward and not a good person. But no more.

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Standard Operating Procedure

St. Louis County has a $41 million budget deficit.

Solution? Proposed cuts to St. Louis County budget include jail, police and public health staff

Only the fact that the county is a patchwork of independent school districts prevented it from going after teachers, too.

Whenever faced with a shortfall, big local governments always target its essential functions, not the nice-to-haves, which are somehow untouchable but which citizens won’t raise a hue and cry about cutting.

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