From “Red Shadows”, published in Weird Tales magazine in 1928:
The man whose long, swinging strides, unhurried yet unswerving, had carried him for many a mile since sunrise, stopped suddenly. A movement in the trees had caught his attention, and he moved silently toward the shadows, a hand resting lightly on the hilt of his long, slim rapier.
These are the first sentences describing Solomon Kane and check it out: just one brief aside about the way he walks and you catch the fact that he’s basically The Terminator. Unhurried yet unswerving. This guy has a mission and he will not be distracted from it even for a moment!
This is a note Howard will touch on yet again before the first section break:
Slowly he rose, mechanically wiping his hands upon his cloak. A dark scowl had settled on his somber brow. Yet he made no wild, reckless vow, swore no oath by saints or devils.
“Men shall die for this,” he said coldly.
Mechanical… like a death machine robot from some dark future.
And yet it’s tempered. He can betray a strain of gentleness when speaking to a dying girl, sure. But more than that… this is someone that works for the guy that instructed his followers to “swear not at all”.
Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
The sermon on the mount is serious business– especially when there are men that need killing! Speaking of which, how do these guys stack up against words that will not pass away?
“Hell’s devils!” cursed the Wolf, hauling him upright and propping him in a chair. “Where are the rest, curse you?”
“Dead! All dead!”
“How? Satan’s curses on you, speak!” The Wolf shook the man savagely, the other bandit gazing on in wide-eyed horror.
Ugh. Now too well. Those oaths look pretty tacky now…!
Of course, Kane himself is far from perfect. But just the fact of his slipping up on something like this is going to be a bad sign:
“Le Loup, take care!” Kane exclaimed, a terrible menace in his voice, “I have never yet done a man to death by torture, but by God, sir, you tempt me!”
The tone, and more especially the unexpected oath, coming as it did from Kane, slightly sobered Le Loup; his eyes narrowed and his hand moved toward his rapier.
Who is this guy?!
We have to have this hunt range half way around the world and on into the darkest depths of Africa to find out:
“Why have you followed me like this? I do not understand.”
“Because you are a rogue whom it is my destiny to kill,” answered Kane coldly. He did not understand. All his life he had roamed about the world aiding the weak and fighting oppression, he neither knew nor questioned why. That was his obsession, his driving force of life. Cruelty and tyranny to the weak sent a red blaze of fury, fierce and lasting, through his soul. When the full flame of his hatred was wakened and loosed, there was no rest for him until his vengeance had been fulfilled to the uttermost. If he thought of it at all, he considered himself a fulfiller of God’s judgment, a vessel of wrath to be emptied upon the souls of the unrighteous. Yet in the full sense of the word Solomon Kane was not wholly a Puritan, though he thought of himself as such.
What a guy!
And yet there’s so much more here. This is not a straight ahead tale of vengeance a la John Wick. It moves from rapier and dagger action in France to the excitement of a Tarzan style jungle story, yes… but then on to the bizarre black magic, talking drums, and dark gods of a truly weird tale!
I haven’t seen any recent Solomon Kane adaptations, but I suspect there would be a strong tendency to edit out this sort of thing in contemporary handlings of this character. Kudos, however, to anyone that dares go against the tide on that! Because you know that nine times out of ten, people are going to replace the awesome with ill conceived backstory, unnecessary character arcs for the protagonist, and lame scenes that compromise the very concept of the character created by Robert E. Howard.
Fortunately, the real thing is freely available and you don’t have to settle for cheap knockoffs!