I’m still enjoying the Fafhrd & Gray Mouser stories, but I think the “fix-up” nature of the volumes may be to their detriment.
I’m thinking I’d much rather read these as individual stories, each on their own and by their own merits, rather than shoe-horned into a continuity.
Unlike Howard’s Conan Stories which were hammered and shaped into some sort of continuity by those who anthologized them, Leiber was writing the novelizations and fix-ups with a mind for his continuity and doing his best to arc-weld stories that were sometimes written out of order into a continuous arc. And I think that the stories may suffer by it.
For one thing, it gives the impression of Fritz Leiber as being like the asshole DM who is always angling for a TPK and then, when he doesn’t get it, he has an NPC steal all of the players’ loot without even bothering to roll for it. Honestly, I prefer the “characters frittered away their wealth between stories” approach to “the spoils of the last adventure were promptly stolen” that Leiber uses. In Swords Against Wizardry, a short bridging story is used to explain why they would go on the Quarmall adventure right after their big Stardock score. Well, because they got conned and lost everything. On its own Two Best Thieves in Lankhmar isn’t bad, but it’s annoying because I feel as cheated as Fafhrd and Mouser – the grueling Stardock adventure suddenly becomes for nothing (aside from a quick lay from a couple of weird invisible ladies).
I don’t really need to know why Fafhrd and Mouser go on their next adventure. Like I said, it’s easy enough to assume that they squander their wealth on drink and dumb largess without having to go into an explanation of how they kept losing their money after each heist.
At least in Quarmall it appears there may finally be some Wizards for our duo the bare their Swords Against (Swords Against Mountains just doesn’t pack the same punch, and I’m sure that even by 1960s standards Swords Against Lesbians might have been deemed less than appropriate).
While there were a couple really good 60s stories in Swords Against Death, I think that the few from the 40s were my favorites. They were great short adventures and each stood nicely on its own. Honestly, the weakest parts (despite the excellent writing) of Swords Against Death (itself a repackaging of the much earlier “Two Sought Adventure”, tweaked for continuity shoe-horning) were the bridging pieces that fit those earliest adventures into the canonical continuity that Leiber had been welding together in the 60s.