But was it really that good?
No, but it was fun and it caught the imagination of the public, and that's all that's really required for a hit. Given the option between being good and selling books, this anthology sold books, and that makes is pretty good. At a time when squeaky clean heroes were in, this anthology walked in with nothing but ne'er do goods and outright villains, no heroes to be seen, and lots of interesting stories to tell.
These stories fight right into the sword and sorcery ethic of the late 70's, drawing from Leiber, Moorcock, and the like. This stuff is literally what Dungeons and Dragons was made from. It's should be no surprise that this series appeared at the same time as the A-Team and the film "Conan the Barbarian." The fantasy market hungered for grit.
Most of the stories read well, with some working better than others. I won't call any story out as best or worst, because I think that these stories appeal to different appetites. The question is worth asking, but I'm not interested in answering it.
All these years later, the stories stand up pretty well, with only the misogyny smacking me in the face. I'd say that the stories were supposed to be more misogynistic just to be edgy, but having read other 70's sword and sorcery, the misogyny is par for that time period. The female characters prove overwhelmingly whores, concubines, rape victims, and common harlots. Having the women prove equally thieves, conspirators, smugglers, opportunists, and other assorted bas-asses would have been welcome.
While I can't call the book a classic, it's easily a good enough collection.