When I read one of these books from the De Camp/Carter corpus, I try to remember that these were unusual. The glut of pastiches available to us today weren’t written yet. Fans of Conan only had Robert E. Howard’s original tales. The sword-swinging Cimmerian wasn’t yet quite the fantasy icon he is today (now THAT is understatement). So they were doing something new. The library of Conan tales was small and they were plowing relatively virgin soil.
Interestingly enough, he’s not a pirate this time out, and his buccaneering activities as a privateer for King Ferdrugo don’t really come into play much, except that he has a ready crew and ship available (which is certainly handy).
A nice aspect is the inclusion of Zarono and Thoth Amon, characters from Howard’s tales. Also, Sigurd and Juma are characters that appear in other de Camp and Carter stories. Bearing in mind that there weren’t very many Conan tales and the now prolific cast of characters, this was a treat to the fan.
On the Conan sex scale, this one is pretty modest. He becomes the love slave of an amazon queen (yes, seriously), but that’s about it.
What we do have is the standard quest for treasure and a damsel in distress. Basically, it’s a chase book. Conan chases a boat. Then he is chased. Then he chases it some more. Then he chases somebody else. There’s also a hurried voyage that is sort of a ‘chase after the fact.’ If you like Conan hurrying to and fro, you’ve got it here. Combat-wise, I’d say, for 90% of the book, it’s got the lowest body count of any novel-length tales in the entire saga. Possibly so even after the climax.
I rather enjoyed Conan the Buccaneer, though it isn’t a standout. Perhaps because it reflects a time before a relentless publishing schedule buried us in plot-thin Conan books (my last review was the execrable Conan the Indomitable). And, it does fill in Zaronos’ background. The fallen count is key player in Howard’s The Black Stranger, which was renamed (for the better) The Treasure of Tranicos by Carter/de Camp.
This one is definitely worth a read, but it doesn’t quite feel ‘weighty’ enough; though that certainly does not make it unique in that regard among stories of the muscle bound barbar.