Kirby O’Donnell is a fictional character created by American author Robert E. Howard. He is an American treasure hunter who operates in early-twentieth century Afghanistan disguised as a Kurdish merchant named “Ali el Ghazi.” O’Donnell appears in three stories written by Howard, two of which were published during his lifetime. The stories featuring Kirby O’Donnell are noted for their blend of historical adventure, action, and intrigue.

In the stories, O’Donnell is described as a man of lithe but powerful physique, with black hair and blue eyes, and relying more on agility and wits than strength. He carries a set of distinctive weapons, including a scimitar with a bronze hawk-head on the pommel and a “kindhjal.” O’Donnell’s pursuit of hidden treasures sets him apart from other Howard characters, such as El Borak, who are more concerned with maintaining justice and stability in Afghanistan.

The first Kirby O’Donnell story, “Swords of Shahrazar” (later retitled “The Treasure of Shaibar Khan”), was published in the pulp magazine Top-Notch in October 1934. In this story, O’Donnell is seeking the treasure of Shaibar Khan, the Uzbek ruler of the forbidden city of Shahrazar. The sequel to this story, “The Treasure of Tartary” (originally titled “Gold From Tartary”), was published in the pulp magazine Thrilling Adventures in January 1935. In this story, O’Donnell is searching the forbidden city of Shahrazar for the lost treasure of Khuwarezm, which was hidden to protect it from Genghis Khan.

The third Kirby O’Donnell story, “The Curse of the Crimson God” (originally titled “The Trail of the Bloodstained God”), was not published during Howard’s lifetime. It was later discovered among Howard’s papers and posthumously edited by L. Sprague de Camp. The story features O’Donnell in pursuit of thieves who have stolen from him a treasure map that points the way to the precious idol called The Bloodstained God.

In Howard’s stories, O’Donnell is a fascinating character who operates in a complex and dangerous world. His adventures take him to exotic locations, where he battles treacherous enemies and overcomes impossible obstacles. Despite the limited number of stories featuring Kirby O’Donnell, the character has continued to capture the imagination of readers and inspire other writers in the decades since Howard’s death.

Complete list of stories featuring Kirby O'Donnell

The Curse of the Crimson God

The Curse of the crimson God. Originally a Kirby O’Donnell story titled ‘The Trail of the Blood-Stained God’. It was re-written by L. Sprague de Camp into a Conan story titled ‘The Bloodstained God’.

Kirby O'DonnellHistorical Adventures
Gold from Tartary

A Kirby O’Donnell tale.

Kirby O'DonnellDesert Adventure, Historical Adventures
Gold from Tatary

A Kirby O’Donnell tale.

Kirby O'DonnellDesert Adventure, Historical Adventures
Swords of Shahrazar

Swords of Shahrazar” is a direct sequel to “The Treasures of Tartary”, following Kirby O’Donnell only days later. The story starts with a recap of “The Treasures of Tartary”, then brings us up to date.

Kirby O'Donnell1934-10-00Desert Adventure, Historical Adventures$124.90
The Trail of the Blood-Stained God

The Trail of the Blood-Stained God. Cross Plains Library has an original draft of this story.

Kirby O'DonnellDesert Adventure, Historical Adventures
Treasure of Shaibar Khan

Treasure of Shaibar Khan.

Alternate title: SWORDS OF SHARAZAR.

Kirby O'Donnell
The Treasures of Tartary


Kirby O’Donnell is an American treasure hunter, created by Howard, in early-twentieth-century Afghanistan disguised as a Kurdish merchant, “Ali el Ghazi”. Howard only wrote three stories about O’Donnell, one of which was not published within his lifetime.

Kirby O'Donnell1935-01-00Desert Adventure, Historical Adventures$42.50
Untitled fragment (Feel the edge, dog, and move not!)

UNTITLED FRAGMENT (Feel the edge, dog, and move not!).

SWORDS OF SHAHRAZAR was originally offered to VI Cooper for THRILLING ADVENTURES, somebody asked for a rewrite, and REH rewrote the opening significantly. It was then offered again to Cooper, who turned it down, and it was subsequently sold to Miller with TOP-NOTCH.

Kirby O'Donnell

Publications featuring Kirby O'Donnell

Only three stories written about Kirby O’Donnell are:

  1. “The Treasure of Tartary” (published in Thrilling Adventures in January 1935)
  2. “Swords of Shahrazar” (published in Top-Notch in October 1934)
  3. “The Curse of the Crimson God” (published posthumously in 1955 as “The Blood-Stained God” in Tales of Conan, and later republished in 1976 in the collection Swords of Shahrazar)

It’s worth noting that “Swords of Shahrazar” is actually a sequel to “The Treasures of Tartary,” despite being published before it.

Here is a more extensive list of publications featuring Kirby O’Donnell. 

Swords of Shahrazar by Ken Kelly