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'Like a Whisper of Sin’
The Hills of the Dead by Robert E. Howard

Formerly published as A Far Dim Land, revised

During his second sojourn in the Dark Continent, the sanguinely hypocritical Solomon Kane, a most improbable tropical adventurer in his black coat and trousers, returns to the hut of his blood-brother, a voodoo conjure-man named N’Longa, who lives in a fetish hut from where he communicates with the natural world and even animates the bodies of the dead. What is haunting Kane is a tropical magnetism that is drawing him maddeningly to Africa as if she were an enchantress. At this point the reader may freely speculate that Howard may have been suffering from a severe case of “jungle fever.”

“Something entered into my blood, something stole into my soul like a whisper of sin. The jungle!”

N’Longa then goes on to assure Howard that the jungle is his own wicked mother, is probably out to get Kane, and probably will! After his soothing words he gives Kane a fetish staff of black hardwood with a head carved on one end and a point on the other end, instructs Kane in how to contact him in a dreaming state, and promises to come to his aid.

What follows is one of the best and most realistically written vampire stories I have read. I would place it just behind Stoker’s Dracula. Kane rescues a black girl and does not take advantage of her, but instead takes on an entire tribe of vampires. The horrific trope Howard breaks out is unique in horror fiction as far as I know, and I will not divulge it. The important aspect for this series is an examination if his work in the racial angle of the tale, which was absolutely scandalous, as Kane virtually becomes the sidekick of N’Longa, as if the Green Hornet were demoted by Kato.

As it turns out, N’Longa is ages old, to whom Kane is nothing but a fumbling child stumbling through a wicked garden. One might suspect Tolkien of reading this, being horrified by its absence of genteel affectations and white magic, and then deciding to rewrite N’Longa as Gandalf. Amazingly enough, this story was published in 1930 in Weird Tales.

More than in any tale, Kane comes off as a dour paladin, doggedly driven before the dictates of his own inner church of Puritan intentions and practical heresy to do battle with a devil-hunted world.

Under the God of Things

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