The Pulp Swordsmen: Jehan de Courtenai

Sunday , 6, May 2018 7 Comments

E. Hoffmann Price (1898-1988) is remembered today as the guy who met H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith in person.

Price had served in the U.S. Army during WW1 in the horse cavalry, with postings in the Philippines and France. He never saw combat. After the war, he attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and served in the Coast Artillery. The details are murky but Price appears to have been discharged from the army under suspicious circumstances due to a marriage to a girl that is referred to as “the child bride.”

He wrote some stories on the side for Weird Tales starting in 1925. He was one of the solid second tier writers for Weird Tales in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He became a full time pulp magazine fictioneer in the depths of the Great Depression. Price ended up with around 500 stories in the pulp magazines. A large portion of his output was for the detective pulps when he went pro. Around 60-65% of his output were in the “spicy” pulps that included weird menace, detective, and adventure.

Now and then, Price would write an historical yarn. One of the best is “Wolves of Kerak” from the December 1938 issue of Golden Fleece. Pulp magazines devoted to historical adventure were few and short-lived. Clayton’s Soldiers of Fortune only lasted four issues. There were two attempts to convert Romance into an all historical magazine in the late 1930s that each lasted one issue. Golden Fleece lasted the longest with nine issues October 1938 to June 1939.

Golden Fleece contained fiction by some Weird Tales writes including Seabury Quinn, Robert E. Howard, and E. Hoffmann Price. You even had an early L. Sprague de Camp caveman story that has not been reprinted!

“Wolves of Kerak” is set in the Holy Land with events that set the Third Crusade in motion. Jehan de Courtenai, a Crusader masquerading as a Kurd in Cairo. Jehan is in the service of Raynald de Chatillon, lord of the stronghold of Kerak. He sees a captured French girl, Elinor de Montfried, recently captured by the Mohammedans.

Jehan fails attempting to rescue Elinor, barely escaping Cairo alive. He reports back to Kerak with information that Saladin’s sister, Sitti Zayda, will be traveling in a caravan bound for Damascus. The Kingdom of Jerusalem has a truce with Saladin but Raynald, a prisoner of the Turks for 12 years is thirsting for revenge.

The men of Kerak attack the caravan taking Sitti Zayda and freeing Elinor de Montfried, who had been made Zayda’s handmaid.

War is the result with Saladin besieging the city of Tiberias. The Crusaders march to challenge Saladin and are destroyed at the Battle of Hattin.

Saladin’s guards overpower Jehan is an attempt to save the doomed Raynald. Saladin considers his act that of a madman and sets him free. “A madman is in the hand of Allah.”

I was reminded of Robert E. Howard’s Crusader stories when I first read “Wolves of Kerak” in the Carcosa Press collection, Far Lands, Other Days.

E. Hoffmann Price learned to fence at West Point. He knew weapons and how to use them. He also could write a very good action scene when he wanted. He knew his history and certain parts of the globe. This is no Henry Kuttner boiler-plate make believe.

If you want to read “Wolves of Kerak” can be read in a pulp replica of the issue of Golden Fleece from Girasol Collectibles. Or you can hunt down a copy of Far Lands, Other Days.

 

 

7 Comments
  • deuce says:

    Reading EHP’s THE BOOK OF THE DEAD, he seems to have slowly moved into the “pulp adventure isn’t REAL literature” camp as the years went by. He seems to have genuinely admired long-forgotten authors who made the jump to the “slicks” over truly classic pulp authors like Lovecraft and Howard. A shame, because when he was hitting on all cylinders–which wasn’t all that often, percentage-wise–he could write some good pulp adventure.

    I still need to read this tale and “The Stranger from Kurdistan”.

  • Mark McSherry says:

    Thanks for this article, Morgan.

    “Wolves of Kerak” is in the Kindle ‘E. Hoffmann Price’s Exotic Adventures MEGAPACK’ for 99 cents.

    And “The Stranger from Kurdistan” is in the Kindle ‘E. Hoffmann Price’s Fables of Ismeddin MEGAPACK’ for 99 cents.

    • deuce says:

      Thanks for the tip. I’m not huge on ebooks (though moreso than in the past), but the low pricepoint makes it likely I’ll jump for one if not both.

      • Mark McSherry says:

        ‘Far Lands, Other Days’ still looks very attractive, even at the $90-$100 price point.

        And the Wildside Press MEGAPACK editors do say that they have worked with Mr Price’s heirs in compiling the E Hoffman Price ebooks.

        • Morgan says:

          FAR LANDS, OTHER DAYS is a great book. I was fortunate in getting it in 1984 for $15.00. My favorite of Price’s fiction was in ARGOSY. He was a regular from 1938-1942. Some great adventure fiction. “One Step From Hell” is an all time adventure classic.

          • Mark McSherry says:

            Morgan wrote:’ “One Step From Hell” is an all time adventure classic.’

            OK! Just the excuse I needed. Bought a near fine copy of FAR LANDS, OTHER DAYS from Abebooks for $50.

  • J. Manfred Weichsel says:

    I picked up a copy of The Devil Wives of Li Fong awhile ago as an impulse buy because I had seen Price’s name come up in blogs I read. I think It’ll have to be my next book to read now.

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