I’d heard of the pulp fiction author Harold Lamb, not least as one of the inspirations behind Robert E Howard’s Conan stories, but had never read any of his work until I came across Wolf of the Steppes: The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume One on Amazon. This, the first of a four-volume collection of stories about Khlit the Cossack, is great, rip-roaring fun, but also written with a nicely economical style, some serious historical research and excellent plotting. I can do no better than quote some of the blurb:
In this first volume, Khlit infiltrates a hidden fortress of assassins, tracks down the tomb of Genghis Khan, flees the vengeance of a dead emperor, leads the Mongol horde against impossible odds, accompanies the stunning Mogul queen safely through the land of her enemies, and much more. This is the stuff of grand adventure, from the pen of an American Dumas.
It is very reminiscent of Conan, but without the fantasy elements and some of the more repetitive prose. Technically set later than the Mythic Russia time period, it actually works very well as an inspiration, beyond the odd reference to a gun. Well worth it, especially for anyone tempted to run a game set amongst the border Cossacks: raiders, adventurers and mortal foe of the Mongols.