Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Siege of the Black Citadel - Chuck Dixon

I remember reading and enjoying Chuck Dixon’s Conan stories in the black-and-white comic magazine THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN more than 30 years ago. At the time it never occurred to me that one day Dixon and I would be friends and that I’d even have the privilege of editing a few of his books. He remains one of my favorite writers.

THE SIEGE OF THE BLACK CITADEL is the first of what I hope will be numerous Conan novels by Dixon. As the story opens, Conan is part of a mercenary company fighting on the side of the rebels in a civil war in the country of Koth. The rebel forces have laid siege to the fortress known as the Black Citadel, which controls a river that’s vital to both sides in the war. Charged with finding a way to infiltrate the fortress, Conan accidentally discovers the secret of a great fortune hidden inside the citadel. At that point, THE SIEGE OF THE BLACK CITADEL becomes something of a sword-and-sorcery heist novel, as Conan and several of his comrades scheme to use the upcoming battle to cover their theft of the hidden fortune. Unfortunately for them and a number of other people, there’s a sorcerer inside the fortress who is able to breach the wall between worlds and bring over a bloodthirsty beast that may tip the odds in the defenders’ favor.

While I consider myself a Robert E. Howard purist for the most part, I’m not opposed to the idea of pastiches, especially in a work such as this which is based only on the Conan stories that appeared in WEIRD TALES, as is made clear in a note inside the book. Because of that, Dixon gives us a Conan who is true to Howard’s original creation and acts, talks, and thinks in authentic ways for Conan. The writing style also does a good job of approximating Howard’s prose. I’m not sure any writer can sound exactly like another writer, but a talented pro can come close and Dixon does so in this book.

It also helps that THE SIEGE OF THE BLACK CITADEL is a short novel, the kind that could have been serialized in WEIRD TALES in three parts. I think this is the best length for sword-and-sorcery yarns, in general, although I’ve certainly read some longer ones that are quite good. But the shorter length means that the tale has to move and not get bogged down, and I’m happy to report that THE SIEGE OF THE BLACK CITADEL races right along in fine fashion.

I had a great time reading this novel. If you’re a Robert E. Howard fan, maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t, depending on how you feel about pastiches. If you’re a fan of Conan in all the various forms, I can’t help but think you’ll enjoy the book a lot. It’s available as a trade paperback on Amazon or from the publisher. As for myself, I’m looking forward to Chuck Dixon’s next novel about the Cimmerian.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just finished reading the chapter 3 of the book Silken Noose. Dixon writes good Conan