Monday, March 24, 2014

Episode 19: Beyond the Black River (Or, we zigged when we should have Zogar zagged...)

"...I'm a mercenary. I sell my sword to the highest bidder. I never planted wheat and never will, so long as there are other harvests to be reaped with the sword. But you Hyborians have expanded as far as you'll be allowed to expand. You've crossed the marches, burned a few villages, exterminated a few clans and pushed back the frontier to Black River; but I doubt if you'll even be able to hold what you've conquered, and you'll never push the frontier any further westward..."

Our story this week is the superlative Beyond the Black River. Originally published in May and June of 1935 in Weird Tales, you can check it out on Project Gutenberg here! Also, you can download the episode here.

...And we have a special guest this episode... Mr. Mark Finn joins us yet again! We get a chance to catch up, talk about Mark's convention schedule and projects before we get into the story! What a busy guy! Keep up with Mark on his blog, and be sure to check out his brand new collection of short stories, Empty Hearts! You can find it right here on!

We all agree, this is one great tale! It may even be our favorite so far!

Wild lands and hard men on the fringes of society... Hmmm, sound a bit familiar?


What are your favorite westerns? Let us know in the comments below! Or leave a voicemail! We can be reached at (859) 429-CROM! (that's 2766). Leave a question / comment and we'll play it on the show! (Thanks, Hattey, for the nice voicemail!)

Our next stop on the Road of Kings will be in Zamboula - read Shadows in Zamboula on Project Gutenberg. Let us know what you think!

Questions? Comments? Curses? Email us! (thecromcast at gmail dot com)
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Beginning theme: "Sudden Defeat" by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


  1. "Come on, boy," he mumbled, rising. "We've got work to do."

    Good episode guys! It was great that you had Mark Finn as a guest again. I'm glad you liked this story. It is one my favorites as well. It was great to hear your take on it.

    They were sons of civilization, reverted to a semi-barbarism. He was a barbarian of a thousand generations of barbarians. They had acquired stealth and craft, but he had been born to these things. He excelled them even in lithe economy of motion. They were wolves, but he was a tiger.

    I agree with you that we get a great look in to barbarism in this story. It is cool to see Balthus and the other Aquilonians in contrast to Conan. Barbarism something you born into, something you live and breath. Civilized people can never truly become it. Btw, this also applies to wizards in the Hyborian Age as well, it really helps if you have the ancestry to back it up.

    A world cloud of this story I made several years ago.

    For me, the real hero of the story is Balthus and Conan is the deuteragonist. He is almost just part of the setting and I think Conan's stance on the conflict mirrors this as well. He is quite indifferent about the Aquilonian push westwards (although he deems it foolish) and is sure of the inevitable outcome, but he is just along for the ride. I mean why not?

    "This is as good life as any. I don't know how long I'll stay on the frontier; a week, a month, a year. I have a roving foot. But it's as well on the border as anywhere."

    Conan's gig on the frontier is pretty sweet. He gets officer's pay, is quite free to come and go as he likes and there are Pict heads to be collected. His notion of someone uniting the Pictish tribes someday really alludes to this story and The Hyborian Age essay, I think, when the Hyborian Age ends in fire and blood.

    I'm already waiting for your next episode! Just remember when you visit Zamboula that peril hides in the house of Aram Baksh!

  2. My favorite western is probably THE WILD BUNCH.

  3. Yes, THE WILD BUNCH. A giant of a movie, great on so many levels.


  5. The link is to the brilliant new CONAN album, "Blood Eagle."

  6. My other favorite western might not meet your definition, as it has no white men in it at all--it's a movie set in North American before the coming of the whites. It's called WINDWALKER, and it's a quiet little masterpiece. There is no English spoken in the movie, only the Native American languages of Cheyenne and Crow (with English subtitles), although it was filmed in America starring Trevor Howard and the young James Remar. Here's a link to a complete article about the movie that I wrote a while back:

  7. If you like the western flavor of this story, I highly recommend Max Brand's THUNDER MOON books. Fantastic stuff, and I'm sure Howard read these tales when they were being published.

  8. Thanks for the comments, y'all. The Wild Bunch is a top one in our books too! And thanks for the movie and book recommendations, John.

    Just queued up that new Conan album and HOLY CRAP is it heavy. Love it!

  9. Oh, I forgot to say that 'The Last of the Mohicans' is the one movie that most reminds me of Beyond the Black River. Not that they have much in common, but there are some elements of frontier, civilization and barbarism in the movie. Great movie (and good books too).

  10. Yes, and LAST OF THE MOHICANS was taken from the Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper. Conan is the "Natty Bumppo" character in "Black River." Pretty fascinating. (That was Daniel Day Lewis bringing Hawkeye Bumppo to life in the '92 LAST OF THE MOHICANS movie.)