Richard L. Tierney

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Richard L. Tierney
BornRichard Louis Tierney
(1936-08-07) August 7, 1936 (age 83)
Spencer, Iowa
OccupationPoet, novelist, short story writer
NationalityUnited States
Genrepoetry, fantasy, horror

Richard Louis Tierney (born August 7, 1936) is an American writer, poet and scholar of H. P. Lovecraft. He is the coauthor (with David C. Smith) of a series of Red Sonja novels, featuring cover art by Boris Vallejo. Some of his standalone novels utilize the mythology of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.

Life and work[edit]


Tierney was born in Spencer, Iowa. His family moved to Mason City in 1942 where he went through the public school system until completing high school. Tierney read two of H.P. Lovecraft's stories ("The Rats in the Walls" and "The Dunwich Horror") in the anthology Great Tales of Horror and the Supernatural edited by Wise and Frazer (1949) at the age of eleven, but was not especially impressed by them since there were no conventional ghosts in the stories. A few years later, aged 15, he read Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time" in Donald A. Wollheim's Viking Portable Novels of Science and was hooked. At around the same age (15 or 16), he was inspired to write poetry by August Derleth's fantasy verse anthology Dark of the Moon: Poems of Fantasy and the Macabre which he read several times in the Mason City Public Library. While he had been a devotee of the poems of Edgar Allan Poe before that, he was especially inspired by the H. P. Lovecraft poems in the anthology (particularly the "Fungi from Yuggoth" and also the poems by Donald Wandrei, Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long and others).

Tierney's first novel, The Winds of Zarr, which combined H. P. Lovecraft (including a Lovecraft-style deity named Zathog - see List of Great Old Ones), Robert E. Howard, time travel and ancient astronauts, and is set in Egypt during the New Kingdom, was penned in 1959 when Tierney was aged 23, but did not see print until 1975.

Early career: 1960s and 1970s[edit]

Poetry, Lovecraft studies and art[edit]

Tierney graduated from Iowa State College in Ames in 1961 with a bachelor's degree in entomology and worked for many years (1958–71) for the U.S. Forest Service in several western states and Alaska. Tierney has written widely on a variety of esoteric topics, such as the legends concerning Mount Shasta and Amne Machin. Well versed in Meso-American archaeology, during his time working for the Forest Service he spent four winters in Mexico, Central and South America visiting ancient Amerind ruins, (1962–66) photographing many of the most remote mountain and jungle sites—a background he uses in his later Cthulhu Mythos novel The House of the Toad (1993).

August Derleth published some of Tierney's weird sonnets in The Arkham Collector and Tierney also began to submit verse to fantasy/horror markets such as Nyctalops. His first collection of weird verse appeared under the title Dreams and Damnations, a slim volume issued by The Strange Company in 1975, which included a few of his translations for Charles Baudelaire. Ultimately Tierney's weird verse of the period was issued as Collected Poems (Richard L. Tierney) (Arkham House, 1981) (see below).

Tierney lived in the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was good friends with the pulp writer E. Hoffmann Price with whom he corresponded extensively. Later in the 1970s, he lived for nearly nine years in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis–Saint Paul), which brought him in frequent contact with horror/fantasy writers such as Carl Jacobi and Donald Wandrei.

In 1972, he moved to Minneapolis to take up writing as a vocation. He made his mark in Lovecraft studies at this time by authoring the essay "The Derleth Mythos", first published in 1972 in Meade and Penny Frierson's HPL (Birmingham, Al: The Editors, 1972, 1975) and reprinted in 1976 in Darrell Schweitzer's Essays Lovecraftian (Baltimore, MD: TK Graphics). The essay famously separates the ideas of Lovecraft from the later elaborations by August Derleth. Essentially, Tierney argues that Lovecraft's cosmic outlook in his fiction was not intended to convey a "good vs evil" approach. Thus Derleth's version of the Cthulhu Mythos, which promotes the "good vs evil" concept, is untrue to Lovecraft's fictional philosophies.

Tierney frequently appeared in the fan press with his cartoons, many drawn from the amateur press association the Esoteric Order of Dagon; a collection of these drawings appeared as Esoterica Mundi in a 50-copy limited edition from Tom Reid in 1976. In the 1970s, Tienrey devoted himself as well to casting more artistically serious ceramic figurines in a fantastic style similar to Clark Ashton Smith's famous rock carvings.

Robert E. Howard completions[edit]

Tierney has completed several story fragments left by Robert E. Howard. In the seventies Tierney edited two volumes of Howard's works for publisher Donald M. Grant - Tigers of the Sea (1973) and Hawks of Outremer (1979). In Tigers of the Sea the title story and "The Temple of Abomination" are posthumous collaborations of Tierney with Howard. In Hawks of Outremer, the story "The Slave Princess" is the sole posthumous collaboration by Tierney with Howard.

In 1975, Silver Scarab press published Tierney's early novel The Winds of Zarr'.

In the late 1970s, Tierney was contacted by editor Philip Rahman (publisher of the Fedogan & Bremer line) who had read Tierney's tale "From Beyond the Stars" in Kirby McCauley's anthology Night Chills (1975), which takes place in NE Iowa. The two became friends and eventually he published Tierney's Cthulhu Mythos novel The House of the Toad (1993). Philip's brother, Glenn Rahman, urged Tierney to collaborate with him on The Gardens of Lucullus which eventually appeared in 2001.

Other Collaborations[edit]

Tierney has collaborated on short fiction with authors including Laurence J. Cornford, Robert M. Price and Glenn Arthur Rahmann. Apart from the 'posthumous collaborations' with Robert E. Howard listed above, Tierney has also posthumously collaborated with Clark Ashton Smith ("Utressor" in Robert M. Price, ed. The Book of Eibon (Chaosium, 2002)) and with Edgar Allan Poe ("The Light-House" in Nyctalops 14 (March 1978) and reprinted in Etchings & Odysseys 2 (May 1983)).

Later career: 1980s to 21st century[edit]

In 1981, he returned to Mason City to take care of his mother, Margaret, now deceased. The same year Arkham House published his volume of weird verse, Collected Poems, a volume which critic S. T. Joshi has said "established Tierney as one of the leading weird poets of his generation." Joshi has commented that some of the poems feature the misanthropic bitterness of Ambrose Bierce.

Red Sonja series[edit]

For Ace Books, with his frequent collaborator David C. Smith, Tierney co-authored a series of seven novels loosely based on a Robert E. Howard character Red Sonja (a female super-heroine warring against the Turks in 17th century Eastern Europe). Red Sonja's character was loosely based on Red Sonya (note different spelling) of Rogatino in Robert E. Howard's short story "The Shadow of the Vulture" (The Magic Carpet, January 1934), which Roy Thomas rewrote as a Conan story for Marvel Comics Conan the Barbarian #23 (1973). Thomas also somewhat based Red Sonja on another Howard character, Dark Agnes de Chastillon, a sword woman in 16th-century France. For the Red Sonja series, Tierney and Smith were paid $1,000 per book and set the stories in the Hyborian Age, 15,000 years ago. Ace Books published the series in the early 1980s.

Simon Magus/Simon of Gitta series[edit]

A long-running series of stories (begun in the mid-1980s) by Tierney featuring Simon of Gitta, a character based on the Gnostic heresiarch Simon Magus is collected in The Scroll of Thoth (1997).

The Biblical figure of Simon Magus is a great figure in the Western mystery tradition. A meticulous researcher, Tierney studied the Roman era and Gnosticism for this series featuring the magician-warrior. Simon of Gitta also features in Tierney's novels The Gardens of Lucullus (with Glenn Rahman) and The Drums of Chaos.

Simon is a Samaritan ex-gladiator whose sorcerous abilities allow him to survive encounters with an array of evil priests, emperors and hideous creatures. His quest for his true love Helen drives Simon and plays an instrumental part in the tales. Some of the stories pay tribute to H.P. Lovecraft, while a story such as "The Blade of the Slayer" is a tribute to Karl Edward Wagner's tales of the swordsman Kane. Magus meets up with Shub-Niggurath (the evil goddess), searches for the Ring of Set, and has several other dark adventures.

The Drums of Chaos (2008) is the author's magnum opus: an epic alternate history dark fantasy Cthulhu Mythos novel featuring Tierney's best-known characters, Simon of Gitta and John Taggart. Set in the Holy Land during the time of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, Simon of Gitta is on mission to avenge the deaths of his parents, seeking revenge in blood against the Roman officials who committed the murders. As he travels the Holy Lands with his mentor Dositheus, and their student Menander, they become entangled in a complex plot designed to call down a monstrous alien entity to herald a new aeon on Earth. John Taggart, the time traveler from Tierney's The Winds of Zarr becomes involved with Simon of Gitta, as their separate quests converge toward a common goal of saving the very Earth.

Recent work[edit]

Tierney has continued to publish weird verse, with the volume Savage Menace and Other Poems of Horror (2010) collecting all his verse subsequent to Collected Poems. In the 1980s he collaborated on one poem, "The Coming of Juss", with Dale C, Donaldson; Tierney has recently collaborated on verse with poets including Charles Lovecraft and Leigh Blackmore.

Robert M. Price gives an audio reading of Tierney's poem "Petition: To Tsathoggua" on the audio CD Strange Aeons (UK: Rainfall Records, 2001).

His prose poem "Autumn Chill" is included in Stephen Jones (ed), Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 22 (Robinson, 2011) - only the second poem to ever appear in this horror anthology series. It is also included in Mammoth Books Presents Unexpected Encounters, an e-book containing four of the works from the Robinson anthology. The work can also be found online in an audio reading by Will Hart.

Tierney is a member of the Unitarians. He finds writing a chore but is sometimes inspired by listening to classical music or film scores. He remains married to Helen Tierney and has a son (Jeriel Tierney).


Tierney was nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association's Grandmaster Award for 2010.[1]

Standalone novels[edit]

Red Sonja series (with David C. Smith)[edit]

The heroine is the Hyrkanian warrior Red Sonja. The character is loosely based on Red Sonya created by Robert E. Howard

  • #1 The Ring of Ikribu (Ace 1981) (Adapted to comics by Roy Thomas and Esteban Maroto in The Savage Sword of Conan issues 230-3). Smith has written an unproduced screenplay for this novel.
  • #2 Demon Night (Ace 1982)
  • #3 When Hell Laughs (Ace 1982)
  • #4 Endithor's Daughter (Ace 1982) (German ed: Endithor's Tochter)
  • #5 Against the Prince of Hell (Ace 1983)
  • #6 Star of Doom (Ace 1983)

The Red Sonja novels have been reprinted in German by Heyne Verlag (1990).

Simon of Gitta series[edit]

  • Scroll of Thoth: Simon Magus and the Great Old Ones (Chaosium, 1997) collects all 12 Simon Magus stories solely written by Richard L. Tierney. A partial list of original publication locations and dates is on-line at the Crypt of Cthulhu archive Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.

Not included in this collection are:

Short stories[edit]

  • Tigers of the Sea (Zebra Books, 1975), with Robert E. Howard (posthumous collaboration), featuring Cormac Mac Art. Tierney also includes Cthulhu Mythos elements in this work.


  • Dreams and Damnations: Poems (Madison, WI: The Strange Co., 1975). Pp. 82. Limited ed, 100 copies. Illustrated by James Faulkenberg. [2]
  • Collected Poems: Nightmares and Visions (Arkham House, 1981)
  • The Blob That Gobbled Abdul and Other Poems and Songs (Mason City: Sidecar Preservation Society, 2000, rpt 2002). Limited to 100, and 50 numbered copies. Intro by Ramsey Campbell. Pp. 20, and 24.
  • Savage Menace and Other Poems of Horror (P'rea Press, 2010). Preface by S.T. Joshi. Illustrated by Andrew J McKiernan. Pp. 132. ISBN 978-0-9804625-5-5.


  • Tierney, Richard L. "The Derleth Mythos"[3]
  • Eng, Steve. "Richard L. Tierney: Arcane Sonneteer" (as part of "Three Poets of Horror: Tierney, Brieding and Brennan", in Darrell Schweitzer, ed. Discovering Modern Horror Fiction II. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1988.
  • Herrron, Don. "Richard L(ouis) Tierney" in S.T. Joshi and Stefan Dzemianowicz (eds), Supernatural Literature of the World, Westport & London: Greenwood press, 2005 (3 vols) pp 1116–1117.
  • Joshi, S. T. (2008).  Tierney is discussed in "Some Contemporaries" chapter 7 in Emperors of Dreams: Some Notes on Weird Poetry. Sydney: P'rea Press. ISBN 978-0-9804625-3-1 (pbk) and ISBN 978-0-9804625-4-8 (hbk).
  • Joshi, S. T. (1999). Sixty Years of Arkham House: A History and Bibliography. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. p. 149. ISBN 0-87054-176-5.
  • Lovecraft, Charles (2008). Richard L. Tierney: A Bibliographical Checklist. Sydney, Australia: P'rea Press. pp. xv, 48. ISBN 978-0-9804625-0-0.

External links[edit]