Friday, February 4, 2011

FFB: King of the Wood by John Maddox Roberts

It must have been frustration for young writers who discovered the pulps their parent’s generation had read were no longer around. Just think of a kid of about 14 or 15 discovering the format in attics, and used book shops and garages around the country….. and of course in those late 60s paperback reprints of the bigger name authors… only when these would be pulp writers entered the writing market in the 70s and 80s there was little call for their take on pulp.

All of this is to say that King of the Wood reads like it should have been published over the course of a year in an adventure pulp, with each installment giving a little piece of the adventure of Hring Kristjanson, as he wanders an alternative North America circa 1485. Hring a son of the royal bloodline has been cast out of both the Christian church and Treeland his nation.

From that starting point we get a series of adventures over the course of which Hring explores the empires and cultures that have come to power, or stayed in power on the continent of North America. He finds and looses companions, ascends and descends levels of power, before finally leading one last big adventure and returning home, before giving into his fate.

I don’t want to get too much more into the story, let’s just say that there are solid adventure yarns though out the book, filled with adventure, weird rituals, and even what is essentially a western tale.

As a writer John Maddox Roberts has had what I consider an interesting career. After King of the Wood, which was published in 1983, along with Cestus Dei both of which I also read as a teen, he would go on to write eight Conan between 1985 and 1995, if King of the Wood is any indication I would say that he would be the right choice for Conan. He also contributed one of the three D&D Mysteries, Murder In Tarsis (1996) to their excellent but all too short-lived ventures in genre blending. These days he’s best know for his SPQR series Mystery series set in Ancient Rome. I’ve read the first one and enjoyed it a lot.

A lot of books that I read as a teen haven’t held up to being revisited, but rereading King of the Wood, I felt like I was getting a lot more out of it than the first time around. Roberts is an author who is well worth checking out.

More Friday Forgotten Books at Todd Mason's Blog HERE


Evan Lewis said...

Read most of his Conan books, and liked 'em just fine. I need to try some of the Roman stuff.

Charlie Parker said...

JMR was about the only writer worth reading in the Conan line