Robert E. Howard's Kirby O'Donnell

Kirby O'Donnell is a character that presents the typical black Irish look Howard was so fond of with his adventurers. Unlike many other characters of Howard's,  Kirby isn't a towering slab of muscle and he's even shorter than Howard's more common Conan types, but he's an adventurer through and through: tough, resourceful and always looking for something to do.

In the case of Kirby O'Donnell that something to do, is treasure hunting, no ifs or buts, just treasure hunting. The three stories he stars in all have him on the tail of some treasure, but as luck has it, he always loses it, usually of his own volition. O'Donnell is also travelling incognito through the lands, in a disguise of a Kurdish trader, even speaking a flawless language. 

Two of the stories, the Treasure of Tartary and Swords of Shahrazar are part of the same continuation. In the Treasure of Tartary O'Donnell is looking for a fabled riches of Shahrazar, only to find out that the Russians are up to no good and are planning to cause turmoil in Afganistan, where he toils in very much like Howard's other character El Borak.

Swords of Shahrazar ties up what began in the Treasures of Tartary. The city itself has fallen into the hands of Turkomans and O'Donnell has managed to get a foot in after he saved a life of their leader. At the same time, Kirby is being played by the Russian agent, who is still trying to make things go his way.

The third, and the last story, the Curse of the Crimson God, has Kirby looking for a jewel-crusted god idol, worth a fortune. This is a stand-alone story, with no connection towards the two previous ones other than it has Kirby looking for treasure and making deals with people he knows he can't trust. And despite he has luck in adventure, he has none with the actual treasure.

It's really a shame Howard didn't write more Kirby O'Donnell stories, as the character had potential, even more so than El Borak, Thurlough O'Brien or Cormack Fitzgeoffrey. Despite he does at first feel yet another stereotypical Howard hero,  the setting of him being a treasure hunter makes him a bit more interesting, as he exists in a world where throats are cut easily because of greed and mistrust between fellow adventurers.

The three stories he was in lay an interesting base, which could have potentially become something more, perhaps even full-length novel worth. But sadly enough, that never did happen.

Out of the more obscure characters of Howards, Kirby O'Donnell is well worth a look. While the stories don't break any new ground for Howard, they still are well-written adventures.