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  • Black Vulmea's vengeance & Other Tales of Pirates is a collection of Adventure short stories about pirates by Robert E. Howard.  It was first published in 1976 by Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in an edition of 2,750 copies.  The title story first appeared in the magazine Golden Fleece in 1938.
  • Terrence "Black" Vulmea, we are told, was an early seventeenth century pirate, who learned his woodcraft amongst the natives of North America. Next to Conan himself, Vulmea is my favourite Robert E. Howard character, perhaps because he is so very similar to the barbarous Cimmerian. So many of REH's heroes were grim and brooding, while Vulmea seems to be having a lot more fun -- in a buccaneering sort of way.
  • BLACK VULMEA’S VENGEANCE
  • By Robert E. Howard
  • Robert E. Howard, though best known for his horror and sword & sorcery, was at heart an adventure writer. He buckled anything that swashed. What better subject for swashbuckling adventure than piracy on the high seas? 
  • Black Terence Vulmea is REH’s pirate hero. He is an Irish sea-rover, a survivor of England’s tyrannous rule over the Emerald Isle. We get two Black Vulmea stories: “Blades of the Red Brotherhood” and “Black Vulmea’s Vengeance”. “Blades” should be familiar to many Conan fans. It was originally a Conan tale and re-written as apirate sotry. L. Sprague de Camp re-re-wrote it as “The Treasure of Tranicos”. It’s a darn fine adventure as Black Vulmea finds himself stranded on a remote shore and involved with an exiled French nobleman, a rival pirate, hostile Indians, and a legendary lost treasure. It’s a festival of sword-play, double-crosses, and thrilling action.
  • “Vengeance” lets us get much closer to the pirate’s character. Vulmea is captured by Wentworth, a haughty Royal Navy captain. But the pirate is nobody’s fool and soon the tables are turned. This yarn is an interesting one in that REH gives full vent to his feelings on England’s rule of Ireland, and how a strong man deals with a bully. You might be surprised. 
  • “Isle of Pirates Doom” rounds out the book. While it is a pirate tale, Black Vulmea is not present. Instead REH gives us one of his one of his sword-women: Helen Tavrel, the wildest she-pirate afloat. While Helen Tavrel has never gotten the notice that Belit (“Queen of the Black Coast”), Valeria (“Red Nails”), or Dark Agnes (“Sword Woman”) have received, this is an interesting story. Helen Tavrel isn’t just a man in drag or a sex-kitten with a sword. She has her own complex web of relationships and womanly sense of propriety. She’s no man-hater, but don’t take liberties, you’ll regret it. 
  • Sadly out-of-print, Black Vulmea’s Vengeance is as fine a set of pirate yarns as was ever penned by a salty sea dog.
  • Unfortunately, Robert E. Howard only wrote two tales featuring Vulmea, neither of which saw print during his lifetime.
  • Here, Vulmea plays a more peripheral role in a yarn largely told from the viewpoint of Francoise, the niece of a French count, Henri d'Chastillon. The Count has fled to the west coast of America to escape the revenge of a slaver/witch doctor. A pirate, Harston, shows up, mistakenly believing the Count came to this coast looking for treasure. Then the witch doctor arrives and the Count, terrified, offers his niece to Harston if Harston will help him escape. Finally, Vulmea puts in an appearance, having located the treasure which Harston wanted. A deal is struck with each party trying to double-cross the other, natives attack, and...well, let's just say, the Count probably should have stayed in France.
  • For all the swordplay, this story reads more like a gothic melodrama than a pulp adventure, with the isolated location, the count with the deep, dark secret, the tormented and abused niece, and the plots and counter-plots lending the whole thing a Wuthering Heights ambiance. Apart from Francoise, however, the characters are not especially fleshed out or complex. Each is driven by a single impulse -- the Count by fear, Harston by greed, Vulmea by...greed, too, is anyones guess. Nonetheless, the story is very compelling, and, as usual, REH tells it as a mystery, with two central questions: who is the "black stranger"?; and what was it that attacked Vulmea in the cave?
  • Depending on who you believe, "Swords of the Red Brotherhood" was either a rewrite of "The Black Stranger" or vice versa. Karl Edward Wagner insisted that evidence in the original manuscript proved the former was the case.
  • It may seem strange to say, but, having read both versions, is find one might really care for the Conan story. Partly, this is because the Vulmea story is slightly shorter. All the scenes are the same, but Howard trimmed a sentence here, a phrase there, producing a tighter, more effective narrative. Another reason may have to do with the milieu, which works for Vulmea, but doesn't work for Conan. For a more thorough discussion about this, see my review of "The Black Stranger".
  • The final story, "The Isle of Pirate's Doom", is a weaker offering, told more as a romance than an adventure, but nonetheless still pretty good. Told from the first-person point-of-view, our hero, shipwrecked on an island, encounters a female pirate, Helen Tavrel, and together they search for a lost treasure in a swamp. The hero is unusually sensitive for a Robert E. Howard character, and frankly, not very heroic. Helen Travrel is somewhat better, but also, for a blood-thirsty pirate, seems surprisingly prone to tears. By the climax she has pretty much lost any credibility as a seadog, being reduced to a fairly standard damsel in distress.
  • In 1977, Zebra Books put out a Vulmea pastiche called The Witch of the Indies, by David C. Smith (co-author of the Red Sonja books, etc.). 
  • Of the two Vulmea stories here ("The Isle of Pirate's Doom" is a non-Vulmea pirate yarn), it is a toss-up which is the better. In "Black Vulmea's Vengeance", Vulmea concocts a scheme to revenge himself on a British officer who had tried to hang Vulmea as a child purely because Vulmea was Irish. Making up a story of hidden treasure, he leads the officer, Wentyard, into some ruins, where, surrounded by hostile natives, there is no way out (except for Vulmea, of course). The natives fear to actually enter the ruins, for, as we soon learn, a very good reason...
  • This is a very atmospheric piece, with steadily building suspense as Wentyard begins to suspect he may not be alone in the shadowy ruins. At the same time, it has (for REH) some unusual character twists. While Vulmea is very similar to Conan, there is a subtle difference between them: Vulmea, for all his bluster, seems slightly softer, more human. When Vulmea learns that Wentyard has a wife and daughter back home, he reluctantly takes pity on the officer. In Howard's stories there is rarely room for forgiveness, and the ending here sticks in the reader's mind. (REH used a similar ending in the Solomon Kane poem, "The One Black Stain".)
  • As far as is know, this is the only time "Swords of the Red Brotherhood" has ever seen print, but many readers will find the story familiar, since it is a rewrite of the Conan story, "The Black Stranger" (retitled "The Treasure of Tranicos", by L. Sprague de Camp).
  • ==Contents==
  • "Swords of the Red Brotherhood"
  • "Black Vulmea's Vengeance"
  • "The Isle of Pirates'Doom"
  • ==References==
  • ==Further reading==
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  • {{cite book | first=Robert | last=Heinlein | authorlink= | date=1980 | title=Expanded Universe | edition= | publisher=Ace Books | location=New York |
  • ==Further reading==
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  • {{cite book | first=Robert | last=Heinlein | authorlink= | date=1980 | title=Expanded Universe | edition= | publisher=Ace Books | location=New York |

 

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