I'll be in touch about giclee prints from El Borak. It'll be after the end of the month; have to wait till the eagle screams.
Some thoughts on the book:
1. The artwork more closely matches the text than in any previous Del Rey with the exception of Gianni's work in SK and the Bloody Crown of Conan. This matters. Being forced to burn a good image because Kirby O'Donnell is shown with a pistol when he has none in the story may be frustrating to the artist, but it keeps faith with the integrity of REH and with the the reader.
2. You know the period and it shows. The images feel authentic and real.
3. The Daughter of Erlik Khan may have the most breakneck pacing of any Howard story. Serious drive.
4. One thing that is consistently overlooked by superficial readers of Howard's characters is that they really suffer. Yes, their savage vitality sees them through where other men would fall, but they are not superhuman. El Borak in particular takes a hell of a beating in these stories, reeling with exhaustion, getting his head near stove in. This lends his characters — admittedly superior specimens that they are a greater "realism." And there are historical antecedents among similar types of men: Hugh Glass surviving a mauling by a grizzly and crawling for a hundred miles to seek revenge. The frontiersman Simon Kenton surviving a tomahawk blow to the head and being tied naked and backwards on a horse and turned loose to bash through the Ohio Valley forest... the list goes on.
I think the secret of REH's ongoing appeal (besides sheer storytelling prowess) is that even if one cannot match Conan's physique or El Borak's preternatural swiftness, we can all aspire to that never-say-die grit that is much more fundamental to the characters than their pure physical prowess.
5. I find it interesting — and a bit amusing — the lengths Howard goes to to relieve Gordon of his firearms so that he is forced to go blade-to-blade with his foes. Part of me wants to see him pull an Indiana Jones and bring a gun to a sword fight.
I am not one to consider REH the greatest writer who ever lived. He's not, by a long shot. Others are his match as storytellers. But Howard is the man who inspired me to write and thus set my feet on the path that I have followed for the past 20 years. Lovecraft knew his secret: that Howard is in every one of his stories. There is no substitute for passion and Howard's leaps off the page. Art that matches that and lives up to it is remarkable, so you oughta be proud of yourself.
P.S. The folks at the conan.com forum seem to really like the work as well.
Long post, but you asked for it...