Howie K. Bentley is one of the rising stars in the sword and sorcery genre. He started out as a guitar player with his band Cauldron Born. Life has included playing in heavy metal bands, teaching guitar, and also writing fiction.
He writes dark, violent stories the way sword and sorcery should be written. His influences include David C. Smith, Richard L. Tierney, and Karl Edward Wagner. If you grew up on 1970s sword and sorcery in anthologies such as Swords Against Darkness, Howie Bentley’s fiction will recall that period.
In classic sword and sorcery writer history, Bentley has been published in various magazines and anthologies. THE SNAKE MAN’S BANE is a collection of six novelettes.
The title story is original to the book. “The Snake Man’s Bane” is a novella featuring Vegtam the Skald. He runs afoul of serpent men who are infesting Herod-Thaar. Escaping only to land in the realm of the sorcerer Xexor-Wroth who takes him prisoner. There is a battle with the serpent men and their human henchmen with Thorn the Rune, a demon, inhabiting Vegtam to do some serpent men kicking. Rune was a mascot for the band Cauldron Born. Sort of like Eddie for Iron Maiden. If you like Clark Ashton Smith’s sorcerers, you will like this story.
“All Will Be Righted on Samhain” is co-written with David C. Smith. This story appeared in the anthology Swords of Steel. The setting is Britain in the days after Boudicca’s failed revolt against the Romans. There is a lot of atmosphere in the first portion of the story. Thorn returns to aid Bunduica’s Boudicca’s daughter, revenge against the Romans .
“The Heart of the Betrayer” introduces the series character Argantyr, originally in Swords of Steel II. Argantyr is a mighty warrior betrayed and left for dead. Thorn the Rune makes a deal for revenge in exchange for something. Argantyr extracts an interesting tome, On the Black Art of the Fenrir and Becoming the Lycanthrope.
“Where There is No Sanctuary” was originally in Cirsova #4. The story has Argantyr the lone survivor of a winter battle. He finds refuge in a mysterious tower that ends up containing some Lovecraftian horrors. Argantyr has made use of the book on lycanthropy he took at the end of the last story. He can transform into a werewolf which comes in handy.
Swords of Steel III has “Thannhausefeer’s Guest” as the cover story. Argantyr is the survivor of a shipwreck caused by the giant Thannhauserfeer. The giant has fight contests and Argantyr decides to put an end to it.
“Full Moon Revenant” is a story original to this book. It has Argantyr on the trail of a werewolf who is attacking his people.
This collection is full tilt sword and sorcery. Sword slinging, cosmic horror, gothic atmosphere, it is all here. I have coined the term studded leather sword and sorcery to describe Howie’s fiction. These are memorable stories.