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Siege of the Black Citadel –

Siege of the Black Citadel

Sunday , 2, April 2023 1 Comment

Chuck Dixon’s Siege of the Black Citadel is a brand new novel from Castalia House. Dixon started writing King Kull stories for the comic Savage Sword of Conan in 1985. If I am correct his first Conan story was “Winter of the Wolf” in The Savage Sword of Conan #133 (February 1987). If my spread sheet is correct, Dixon wrote 33 Conan stories from 1987 to 1991. Here are the titles, date, and issue number. All from Savage Sword:

Winter of the Wolf Feb-87 133
Cursers of the Light Mar-87 134
Lost Legion Jun-87 137
Garden of Blood Aug-87 139
Crimson Citadel Oct-87 141
Blind Vengeance Nov-87 142
Waiting Doom Jan-88 144
Feast of the Stag Feb-88 145
Blood Circus Mar-88 146
Vulture’s Shadow Apr-88 147
Besieger of Cities May-88 148
Slaves of the Circle Jun-88 149
Call to the Slain Jul-88 150
Fury of the Near-Men Aug-88 151
Blood on the Sand Oct-88 153
Return of the Iron Damsels Nov-88 154
Behind the Walls of Night Dec-88 155
Rogue’s Honor Jan-89 156
Bane of the Dark Brotherhood Mar-89 158
The Wheel Apr-89 159
Call of the Howling Shadows Jun-89 161
The Horned God Jul-89 162
Code of the Wolf Aug-89 163
The Slithering God Sep-89 164
City of Rats Oct-89 165
Emerald Lust Feb-90 170
Swarm of the Bog Witch Apr-90 172
The Three Deaths of Conan Aug-90 176
The Well of Whispers Sep-90 177
Pillar of the Sky Oct-90 178
Fury of the Iron Damsels Nov-90 179
The Decapitating God Mar-91 183
Horror Out of Time Jun-91 186

Gardner F. Fox was a comic book writer who also wrote prose for the pulp magazines and paperback books. For some reason, Roy Thomas never wrote any books in prose. In recent years, Chuck Dixon has turned to writing prose including westerns, the Bad Times, and Levon Cade series.

Last week, I covered S. M. Stirling’s big novel from Titan Books. Now I cover Siege of the Black Citadel.

On the copyright page is the statement:

“Created by Robert E. Howard, the character of Conan first appeared in Weird Tales in 1932, and entered the public domain in Europe in 2006. Chuck Dixon’s Conan is an original creation by comics legend Chuck Dixon that relies solely upon the stories and characters of Robert E. Howard that are available for use in the public domain and should not be confused with any of the later presentations of Howard’s characters that are still protected by copyright law in the United States of America.”

The e-book is 113 pages, paperback is 126 pages. This is Conan as mercenary in Koth. The Hyborian Age kingdoms generally have historical analogs. Koth is sort of like the Asia Minor part of the Byzantine Empire in the Middle Ages. There is mention of spahis in “The Scarlet Citadel.” There is civil war with a prince in rebellion. If he can take a strategic fortress, it will open up control of the grain lands critical to King Strabonus.

Conan’s mercenary boss gives him the dirty jobs. One include a mission to infiltrate the citadel looking for a way in. During the mission, they grab Lord Rodian. As Conan says, “Because fat men always know things!”

Conan’s small group find from Lord Rodian of a stash of gold. They plan a heist during the storming of the citadel. The commander is a relative of King Strabonus taking orders from a sorcerer.

An assault using a ram fails. Conan and other mercenaries are put to work digging a tunnel to bring down the citadel. The story moves right along to its climax. I knocked this short novel off in 2 nights.

As I have said, I am a Hyborian Age scholar. I do have some quibbles. Dixon refers to Strabonus as Emperor Strabonus whereas he is King Strabonus in Robert E. Howard’s “The Scarlet Citadel.” The sorcerer is an “Azghuli.” There are Afghuli in the Hyborian Age. There are Aesir and Vanir mercenaries. Howard gave the impression the Nordheimer were penned up in the North and the Hyborians only vaguely knew of them.

After I read the novel, it came to me that it reminded some of Donald Westlake writing as “Richard Stark’s” “Parker” novels. Siege of the Black Citadel is a heist novel. I have known some people who like Louis L’Amour and Robert E. Howard. I have also known some people who like both Robert E. Howard and the Parker novels. Conan schemes in stories playing factions off each other the way Parker does. This novel works as it is shorter than the Tor pastiche novels. There is a rapid pace all too absent in the Tor paperbacks.

I am under the impression that Siege of the Black Citadel is selling very well, better than Blood of the Serpent. Amazon is supposedly out of copies. You can order from Book Depository or even better, just order directly from Arkhaven/Castalia House. Chuck Dixon has more Conan novels on the way.

I have thought that there is a connection between westerns and sword & sorcery. There have been some western writers who have written historical novels that veer close to the sword & sorcery attitude: Gordon D. Shirreffs, W. T. Ballard, Philip Ketchum, T. V. Olsen. Ben Haas who wrote the Fargo novels wrote three true sword & sorcery novels. It would be interesting to bring some modern day writers of westerns to write sword & sorcery for an anthology.

One Comment
  • Kevin Deming says:

    This was such a good book – thank you bringing it to us!
    I am sure this idea is not original, but wanted to make sure it is indeed put forth – Gary Kwapisz for illustration on one of Mr. Dixon’s upcoming Conan books. I am sure this would make many happy!

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