Mean Pete--Head Honcho of Mean Pete Publishing

Sunday, September 4, 2011

C.L. Moore Takes it to the House!

Sorry about that, but it's football season, and while I don't care for the game the way it's played on both the pro and college levels anymore--it's an over-hyped business not a game!--I do tend to have the games on, and the lingo infiltrates my brain.  But this post is about the late, great C.L. Moore, whom I've been rereading lately.

Catherine L. Moore was probably the first woman to write over-the-top sword and sorcery stories, and she was a contemporary of Robert E. Howard's, publishing her own equally great pulp in Weird Tales back in the 30's and 40's.  I like Howard a lot, but I think I like Moore even better because, as written on the back cover of the Planet Stories edition of her Northwest Smith yarns: "Moore revealed a vast imagination, beautifully descriptive prose, and a throbbing sensuality rarely matched by her male counterparts."

That's not an exaggeration.  I read her most famous Northwest Smith tale again last night--"Shambleau"--and sat marveling at the nimble way she fashioned sentences, bringing scenes and emotions to dazzling life.  These are essentially westerns set on Mars and Venus and other planets as they were imagined back in the pulp days, but they're westerns with an otherwordly eroticism and mystical charm that no one ever did better than Catherine L. Moore.



  1. These sounds fantastic. Love the genre blending westerns.

  2. Thanks for the tip on this, Peter ... I like Howard's work a lot as well as other pulp writers from that era ... I'd seen the C.L. Moore byline a few times but had never paid it much attention. Now I definitely will!

  3. And don't forget that Moore was married to Henry Kuttner and collaborated with him on a lot of great novels and stories.

  4. Somewhere I have a 1970s UK paperback collection of C. L. Moore novelettes published by Sphere Books under the Shambleau title. I can remember being impressed particularly by the Jirel of Joiry stories. Just as so many of Louis L'Amour's worthy contemporaries in the western genre tend to be overlooked, so do REH's in the sword and sorcery field. Jirel was a feisty fantasy heroine. I agree about the "throbbing sensuality" and the "eroticism." I also assume Jirel was outnumbered by her male counterparts in the 1930s fantasy pulps and that she made a refreshing change -- much as I hope Misfit Lil does today in the western genre!

  5. I'm right now--all day and tonight--reading more C.L. Moore stories, including "Quest for the Starstone," which combines Northwest Smith with Jirel of Jory and which she wrote in collaboration of her husband, Henry Kuttner but is far more Kuttner than Moore, and her Jirel of Jory stories in the great collection, JUDGEMENT NIGHT. Wonderful stuff. I'll be posting on this later.


  6. Shambleau is one of the great SF stories. It's haunting and unforgettable. C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner were fabulous writers. Sadly, Kuttner died too young.