I often listen to audiobooks when I'm falling asleep, and my favorite go-to for these is Librivox, the incredible collection of volunteer-read public-domain texts (I used to buy a lot of Audible titles, but the fact that they use DRM even when publishers and authors beg them not to has meant that I no longer use the service). Last night, I stumbled on Phil Chenevert's reading of the Robert E Howard classic "The Queen of the Black Coast," one of the great Conan stories, available on Project Gutenberg, in the anthology The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian: The Original Adventures of the Greatest Sword and Sorcery Hero of All Time!, and in a smashing graphic novel adaptation by Brian Wood (!).
This is the Ur-stuff, the sword-and-sorcery material that turned me into a stone Conan freak when I was 12 years old. It's all mighty thews and straining jaws and blood-drenched swords -- and pirates and sinuous dances and so on. Chenevert gives a great reading of the material, sounding like the voice that I heard in my head when I was falling in love with that stuff. I was reminded of the revelation I experienced when I read John Clute's marvellous Robert E Howard book, that the young Howard used to shout the words aloud as he typed them, in his small-town Texas home, while his mother lay dying of TB in the bedroom above him; and the fact that Howard wrote all this incredible material between the age of 22 and 29 (he killed himself at 29, after his mother finally died). The idea of a 22-year-old Howard producing this amazing, mythic stuff makes it all the cooler.
Queen of the Black Coast by Robert E. Howard
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