In my debut novel, The Scare, I’ve been accused by Kirkus Review of overwriting: “…a tedious torrent of overwriting…” is how they put it to be precise. And I agree! The Scare is overwritten. But what overwriting! It’s a darned good story with great characters, which is all that matters. Heck, my style is to overwrite. So is Stephen King’s and Larry McMurtry’s and they’re both doing just fine. Another guy who was big on overwriting, and who was around decades before King and McMurtry, was Robert Ervin Howard, aka Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian. That’s right, Conan the Barbarian wasn’t created by some facile, overpaid Hollywood screenwriter fresh out of an Ivy League school, he was created in 1932 by a full grown Texan. In Howard’s day, not only was overwriting not frowned upon, it was King, just like Conan became! The 30s was the age of pulp fiction, no, not that terribly overrated movie by that terribly overrated director, but wonderful stories that could be found in the inexpensive fiction magazines that flourished from 1896 through the 1950s. The term pulp derived from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. Pulps were most often priced at ten cents per magazine and were the successor to the penny dreadfuls, dime novels and short fiction magazines of the 19th century. Many respected writers wrote for the pulps before they became respected, some of them, like Howard, became respected pulp writers. And yet Howard overwrote. In fact, he beautifully overwrote. And you know what? It’s great stuff. There’s not a thing wrong with it. Not back when it was written and not now. Howard’s stuff was so great it’s never been out of print. It’s been adapted into comic books, made into movies, copied endlessly. Some of today’s best writers have even written their own original Conan novels: Robert Jordan, Steve Perry, L. Sprague de Camp, to name a few. Conan the Barbarian is his own industry today. Not a bad achievement for a character created by a man in 1932 who was an inveterate over writer. In “Queen of the Black Coast” one of Howard’s greatest stories, his overwriting shone brightly:
As they moved out over the glassy blue deep, Belit came to the poop.
Her eyes were burning like those of a she-panther in the dark as she
tore off her ornaments, her sandals and her silken girdle and cast
them at his feet. Rising on tiptoe, arms stretched upward, a quivering
line of naked white, she cried to the desperate horde: “Wolves of the
blue sea, behold ye now the dance–the mating-dance of Belit, whose
fathers were kings of Askalon!”
And she danced, like the spin of a desert whirlwind, like the leaping
of a quenchless flame, like the urge of creation and the urge of
death. Her white feet spurned the bloodstained deck and dying men
forgot death as they gazed frozen at her. Then, as the white stars
glimmered through the blue velvet dusk, making her whirling body a
blur of ivory fire, with a wild cry she threw herself at Conan’s feet,
and the blind flood of the Cimmerian’s desire swept all else away as
he crushed her panting form against the black plates of his corseleted
There is no denying that Howard’s overwriting was a pure art form, and although my own overwriting may be nowhere as good, to be accused of it is a thing to be proud of and shouted from the highest rooftops. Or from the humble keys of my laptop. And so I proudly shout it.
Author of The Scare
About the Author:
I am the author of the edgy, modern Gothic zombie tale The Scare and the Young Adult comedy/drama Girlfriend Trouble, about a boy who meets and falls in love with a girl who stutters. I adapted both novels from my own screenplays. I also co-wrote the indie film The Devil Inside starring Danny Trejo.
Before deciding to write books, I worked in the entertainment industry in Australia, England and the United States, starting as a location assistant for the drama unit of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where I worked with Kylie Minogue before she became a star. I then moved to Pinewood Studios in London and worked for independent film producer Elliott Kastner on such films as Angel Heart starring Robert DeNiro, Homeboy starring Mickey Rourke, and a remake of The Blob. I was also involved in the development of Jericho which was written by and set to star the late Marlon Brando. Brando personally selected me to assist with casting suggestions for the film, which sadly, was never made.
In 1991 I moved to Los Angeles and worked in film & television for twenty years, spending my last five in the Business & Legal Affairs department of DreamWorks Studios, which was based at Steven Spielberg’s Amblin compound on the back lot of Universal Studios.
I returned to Australia in August 2012 to complete my third novel, a thunderously violent slightly sci-fi tale of how the Old West wasn’t.