I read most of the Conan books below, as a youngster, though in various moves around Britain and then here to Denmark, I lost or had given away, my collection. So recently, I wondered if it was possible to re-collect the Sphere Books versions, with the white backgrounds, I remember having. These are the results so far.
I’m not really sure how many there are in total. I have a list, but no real way of knowing if that list is definitive. As you will see, later on in the list, it would seem that Sphere stopped publishing the novels in the UK (after about book 20), and the ones thereafter are coming from the USA, published, I think, by Tor Books. As I’ve started, I figure I might as well keep on until the bitter end.
The books I’m re-collecting, are second-hand/used books, so aren’t – in the great scheme of things – all that expensive. Cheaper than a bus into Aarhus, as I often point out. They clearly aren’t, as yet, so sought-after either, which also keeps prices down. I take the quality of the book as it comes and have *touches wood* been lucky so far. There are some that claim to be ‘new’ copies out there, and those are quite expensive, so as this is more an excercise in ‘can I…?’ I’m perfectly happy to have something someone else has read – and hopefully enjoyed – before me.
The first 12 Sphere books, are shown here in chronological order. That is, they are mostly the original Robert E. Howard stories which weren’t of novel-length, as they were written for the pulp fiction magazines of the time, the 1930’s. The early books below, are collections of those short-stories, ‘edited’ together and sometimes re-written, mostly by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. After around book 12, the Robert E. Howard stories have been used up and other writers brought on board to carry the character on. As continuing the character chronologically from the final Robert E. Howard story, would mean that within a couple of books Conan would be too old to be much of a Barbarian any longer, the later books have dispensed with being chronological, in favour of just being about Conan in different periods of his life.
With the Sphere books at the start then, I have listed the chronological order they should be read in, with the Sphere book number (found on the back cover) in brackets. I’ve seen the first Conan film, with Arnold Schwartzenegger, listed as Book 18, so that’s why it is in there.
As you can see, the classic books had cover illustrations (where credited, listed as ‘painting’(s)), by Frank Frazetta. They are mostly superb. There are a few duff ones, but they are how most people picture Conan. I can’t tell you if they were specifically commissioned for the book covers, or just taken from his catalogue. There isn’t really a consistency in features to his Conans, so I would doubt that if they were commissioned, there was all that much in terms of Art Direction going on. Later covers, mostly by other artists, are even more hit and miss, as you will see. Some are truly dreadful, others slightly better. My favourite, and I’ve seen it called the ‘classic’ cover is book 5, Conan The Adventurer. But compare Conan there, with Conan on book 1, for instance.
All the covers below are the books I have so far and are scanned in from the copies I have bought. They aren’t the dreaded ‘stock photo’ some sellers put up, so you can’t really see if you are getting the cover you want until it arrives. They are all the books I have so far and as most sellers don’t (or can’t, to be fair with the later ones) list the book order number, some are out of sequence because they are thos I have found so far. The others I will get as and when. Where the covers don’t ‘fit’ with the Sphere series, it’s because I’ve not been sent the book that was advertised. Irritating, but not really worth complaining about at those prices. The Tor books haven’t, obviously, followed the Sphere books.
I’ll update the list as I find new books. The final two are from the 2011 film. The first tie-in may well be a re-print of the stories in the first film tie-in.
This list is also on the Speesh Reads Pinterest page if you’d prefer.
Here they are, in sequence, (so far):