It's traditional for fans of Robert E. Howard's work to read something by him on his birthday. This year I picked one of his stories that I hadn't read in a good number of years, "The Fire of Asshurbanipal". What a wonderful yarn it is, too. You've got a lost city in the desert, ancient and abandoned and sinister. You've got a skeleton sitting on a throne clutching an enormous red gem supposedly forged from the fires of Hell itself. You've got two brave adventurers, American Steve Clarney (I'll bet he's a Texan, although the story doesn't say so) and his Afghan sidekick Yar Ali, who are after the gem and pursued by a gang of Bedouin outlaws who want revenge. Oh, and did I mention that the gem is supposed to be cursed? And that this story is connected to the infamous Cthulu Mythos? Throw in one of my all-time favorite pulp covers, the work of J. Allen St. John, and you've got an excellent way to spend the evening and pay tribute to the great Robert E. Howard.