It's... problematic. Between the factual inaccuracies (like how Howard apparently never traveled out of his "own back yard") and the not very complimentary statements like this:
So what's my point? Simply this--he did the best he could, and with nothing but drive and imagination he created a whole new genre. And those are tools anyone reading this blog has to some degree. We often talk about what the books reviewed here mean to boys, and whether or not boys would like them; in this case, I want to use The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian as a challenge to cultivate your own drive and imagination, and apply it to creating something new. If an isolated young man in the middle of the Texas oil fields can create sword and sorcery, then what might you create?
It basically comes across like he's saying anyone reading this blog might do something better than REH. It's the old "REH's work was immature, imagine what he could've done when he was older" thing.
I think Mr Bledsoe needs to give the books another read, myself. With lines like these:
Yet it's also clearly the work of a young man. Most characters other than Conan are defined by a single quality, and are either good or evil, with little middle ground. In The Phoenix on the Sword and The Scarlet Citadel, Conan is the middle-aged king of Aquilonia, but none of the wounds and injuries he suffers as a younger man tell on him. There's no mention of any aches or pains, and the scars are simply marks of past adventures. Only an inexperienced young man in his twenties would imagine this as middle age. And his women, while not exactly shrinking violets (the pirate queen Belit trysts with Conan on deck, in full view of her crew), are also nothing like actual human beings, being once again defined by two simplistic qualities: how beautiful they are, and how quickly Conan gets them. Had Howard lived, I imagine his Conan stories would have grown in sophistication and depth to reflect his own life experience.
I have to wonder if he's reading the same stories I am. Did he somehow miss how the villains of "The Phoenix on the Sword" all had independent, understandable motivations beyond "they're evil because they're evil"? If Conan was feeling aches and pains, he would be distracted and vulnerable - and dead. Luckily, Conan's made of sterner stuff than the average soft-bellied middle-aged civilized man. Gotta love Howard's women being "nothing like human beings": in fairness, he has clearly not read "Red Nails," "The People of the Black Circle," "The Black Stranger," The Hour of the Dragon or the other Conan stories with the best women, but at the same time, even in TCoCtC, women do not exist for Conan to "get them."
It all seems to smack of back-handed compliments. Yet early in the article, Bledsoe says "Much as Tolkein did for epic fantasy, Howard set the initial bar so high that few have equalled, let alone surpassed what he accomplished." Yet if few have equalled Howard, how could you possibly expect the readers of the blog to approach it? Confusing.
I appreciate the good things Bledsoe says about Howard, but the inaccurate information and facile readings (seriously, not all middle-aged men who've been in the wars have nagging injuries, and it's quite clear Conan's a barbarian with pretty impressive healing qualities of his own) undermine it. Hopefully he'll go back and pore over the stories with a more discerning eye, and read the other two Del Reys. Maybe then he'll see just how much Howard has to offer beyond musing on "what could have been."