I’m rather partial to Sword & Sorcery novels, and for me the greatest of all Sword & Sorcery writers was Robert E. Howard. His stories are immensely entertaining, and astonishingly dark and doom-laden.
One of his better known creations is the Puritan swordsman and adventurer Solomon Kane. He’s kind of like a 17th century gothic Batman, righting wrongs and pursuing obsessive vengeance. None of Howard’s characters are particularly happy, and Kane is no exception. He does, however, have a purpose in life which he pursues with single-minded zeal.
I’ve just finished a collection of Howard’s stories about Kane, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane. I don’t think the overall standard is quite as high as that of the Conan tales, but there are still some absolute gems to be found here. My favourites are Hills of the Dead and the astoundingly gloomy Wings in the Night. If you have a taste for this sort of thing then you must read the Solomon Kane stories. If you’ve never read Robert E. Howard and want to give him a try then you’re better off starting with the Conan stories.