Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft were frequent correspondents while both – along with Clark Ashton Smith – were steady writers for Weird Tales. Lovecraft, of course, created the Cthulhu Mythos with its grotesque alien super-beings from beyond, often worshipped as gods by misguided or degenerate humans. Howard and Smith, also of course, added references to the beings of the Mythos and the ghastly Necronomicon to their own stories, as well as inventing other bizarre books of occult, forbidden lore. (Like Smith’s Book of Eibon.)

REH, to judge by a letter he wrote to Tevis Clyde Smith around September 1930, for a little while thought there might actually be real cults of Cthulhu and the other entities Lovecraft created, worshipped in odd places in the real world. He had encountered references to them in the writings of a Dr. De Castro and thought they were independent allusions. Lovecraft set him straight instead of kidding him along. REH wrote ruefully, “I got a letter from Lovecraft wherein he tells me, much to my chagrin, that Cthulhu, R’lyeh, Yuggoth, Yog-Sothoth, and so on are figments of his own imagination.”

Lovecraft, as quoted by Howard, had written:

The reason for its echoes in Dr. De Castro’s work is that the latter gentleman is a revision-client of mine – into whose tales I have stuck these glancing references for sheer fun. If any other clients of mine get work placed in W.T., you will perhaps find a still wider spread of the cult of Azathoth, Cthulhu, and the Great Old Ones.

The Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred is likewise something which must be yet written in order to possess objective reality. Abdul is a favorite dream-character of mine – indeed, that is what I used to call myself when I was five years old and a transported devotee of Andrew Lang’s version of the Arabian Nights. A few years ago I prepared a mock-erudite synopsis of Abdul’s life, and of the posthumous vicissitudes and translations of his hideous and unmentionable work Al Azif (called – some blighting Greek word – by the Byzantine (something) Theodoras Philetas, who translated it into late Greek in A.D. 900!) – a synopsis which I shall follow in future references to the dark and accursed thing. Long has alluded to the Necronomicon in some things of his – in fact, I think it is rather good fun to have this artificial mythology given an air of verisimilitude (?) by aside citation.

Howard joined in the game with a will. He created Unaussprechlichen Kulten, also known as the “Black Book” or Nameless Cults, written by the German von Junzt, who was evidently a devotee of the Necronomicon before he ever produced his own damnable occult work. In REH’s story “The Children of the Night”, one of the characters remarks that von Junzt was among the few people “who could read the Necronomicon in the original Greek translation.” As for von Junzt’s Nameless Cults, it was “regarded as the ravings of a maniac.” Von Junzt had “spent the full forty-five years of his life prying into strange places and discovering secret and abysmal things.” (“The Thing on the Roof”)

Since he was found strangled in a barred and bolted room in the year 1840, he must have been born in 1795. (The dates REH gives for his life in “The Black Stone” confirm that.) The battle of Waterloo was fought when he was twenty, and the Napoleonic Wars had raged all over Europe during his boyhood. He perished so weirdly when, in England, Queen Victoria had sat on the throne for three years, and only just married her cousin, Prince Albert. In the U.S.A., Martin van Buren, former Secretary of State under Andrew Jackson, was the nation’s eighth president – during the worst financial depression it had seen until then. More relevantly, Edgar Allan Poe, then aged thirty-one, had just had his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque published. He would have appreciated von Junzt.

The German’s death occurred six months after he had returned from “mysterious” travels in Mongolia. Nameless Cults had been first printed in Dusseldorf in 1839. He’d probably been absent in Mongolia at the time, so whatever he discovered there – and which may have precipitated his death – it wouldn’t have been recorded in his magnum opus. We’re informed in “The Black Stone” that he worked unceasingly on a manuscript for months before his death. That probably did deal with the results of his last journey. When he was found strangled in that locked and bolted room, the papers had been shredded and scattered about, perhaps by the same “taloned fingers” that had throttled him. His closest friend, who was unwise enough to spend hours piecing the rags of torn paper together and reading what was written on them, promptly burned them and committed suicide with a razor.

The narrator of “The Thing on the Roof” says of a dubious scholar who has approached him for a favor, “He might almost as well have asked me for the original Greek translation of the Necronomicon, making it clear that this is so rare as to be unobtainable. Even von Junzt’s Nameless Cults, we’re told in “The Black Stone”, has only half-a-dozen copies of the original, unexpurgated German edition remaining in the world, and that was published in the age of print, in the nineteenth century. The Necronomicon, on the other hand, was translated into Greek and re-titled by a Byzantine scholar circa 950 CE. At least H.P. Lovecraft assured his readers of this in his “History of the Necronomicon, which he wrote in 1927. He should have known.

It was originally in Arabic, and known as “Al Azif.” According to Lovecraft’s (fictional) history of the book, its author was “a mad poet of Sanaa, in Yemen, who is said to have flourished during the period of the Ommiad caliphs, circa 700 CE.” During his last years he lived in Damascus. It was there that he wrote “Al Azif.” He died or disappeared in 738. There are “terrible and conflicting” versions of his end. One 12th-century biographer of his wrote solemnly that he had been seized in daylight by an invisible monster and eaten alive before a crowd of witnesses.

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While preparing the text for the upcoming Lone Scout of Letters, a collection of material honoring Herbert C. Klatt, I managed to get a hold of one of his relatives. She provided some great data as well as the contact information for another Klatt relative. Through their willingness to share information and photos, the Klatt collection has grown in size and scope, and should answer just about all the questions any Howard fan might have about the gent from Aleman, Texas. (His graduation program from the Aleman school is seen above.)

While certainly interested in items relevant to Klatt (especially the pictures), I was, of course, primarily interested in finding out if any of his papers survived, especially letters. On April 26, 1925, Truett Vinson wrote to Clyde Smith and told him that “H. Klatt is now corresponding with Robert.” In his May 27, 1925 letter to Smith, Klatt himself says, “It seems that I know you as well as I do Truett. So many references to you in Truett’s and Bob’s letters.” From this point until Klatt’s death in May 1928, a stream of letters flowed from Howard’s typewriter in Cross Plains to Klatt’s farm in Hamilton County.

On July 7, 1925, Howard asked Smith, “Did Klatt ever write you? He owes me a letter, too.” And there are several other mentions of Klatt sprinkled throughout the surviving correspondence. There’s also the post-Christmas 1925 visit that Klatt made to Brownwood, immortalized (and fictionized) in Post Oaks and Sand Roughs. Also at this time, Klatt was corresponding with Harold Preece and, later, Booth Mooney. While it would be fantastic if Howard’s letters to Klatt survived, I don’t doubt that Preece’s and Mooney’s letters mentioned Howard a time or two. And what about Vinson? By all indications, he and Klatt had been writing to each other since as early as 1923. Klatt’s relatives might be sitting on a gold mine of Howardian information!

Nope.

While both of the relatives I spoke to were uncertain about what, if any, of Klatt’s papers were kept after his death, both were certain of one thing: they were lost by 1944. That April, a tornado ran through Hamilton County and left the Klatt’s two-story, “German designed” house upside down in the yard. (The photo above was taken in nearby Pottsville after the same storm went through.) Klatt’s mother survived the storm by clinging to a crab-apple bush outside. Herbert’s room had been upstairs, and the tornado scattered everything. For weeks afterward, neighbors would drop off items that they’d found in the fields. If Herbert and his family had saved the letters from his contemporaries, the storm did not.

So, another dead end. I don’t know where the single Howard letter to Klatt that we have came from—perhaps it was a draft that found its way into his trunk—but I know we won’t be getting any others. I am happy, though, to have met such nice Texas folks who were willing to share what they know about Herbert C. Klatt.

Glenn Lord, the Godfather of Howard Fandom, will turning the big eight-oh next month. As was the case in the past few years, a group of Howard fans will be celebrating it with him.  This is also a big year for Glenn’s seminal Howard journal, The Howard Collector — the first issue appeared 50 years ago.

Glenn literally built, stone by stone, the foundation upon which present day Howard Fandom resides. In 1956, fresh out of the Army, Glenn searched the country for Howard stories, poems, and letters. In the process, he became the ultimate Howard collector. Having been at it for some 55 years, today Glenn possesses world’s largest collection of Howard books, publications and original manuscripts. In addition to his collection, Glenn is also known for his outstanding work as literary agent for the owners of Howard’s literary works, a position he held for some 32 years, from 1965 to 1997.

As for the celebration, here are the details from the Master of Ceremonies, Paul Herman:

We will again be celebrating the birth of Glenn Lord. This year is especially special as it will be his 80th birthday!

We’ll be getting together on Saturday, November 19, 2PM, at The Monument Inn Restaurant, in La Porte, Texas, just to the east of Houston. Glenn and his blushing bride of way too many years will be on hand to chat it up, swap lies, and eat some very good seafood. They always enjoy meeting the fans, shaking hands, and signing books. Dennis McHaney’s fine book Anniversary would certainly make a nice item to get signed, for instance . . .

For those thinking about coming in early, I know at least two REHF board members are going to be spending Friday night at Quality Inn & Suites, Galveston. Rooms can be had for as little as $65, right across the street from the beach and the Gulf of Mexico, a view from every room. A fun Friday night enjoying the night life of Galveston is expected. Anybody that would like to come join us, please do!

So if you can make it, head on down and spend some time with a true living Howard legend and help us celebrate this milestone event in his life.

11/05/2011 Update: It is not too late to make plans to attend Glenn’s birthday bash on the 19th. If you can make it, e-mail Paul and RSVP. If you can’t come, then please mail Glenn your birthday wishes to him at P.O. Box 775, Pasadena, TX 77501.

This entry filed under Collecting Howard, Glenn Lord, Howard Fandom, News.

Nobody who follows this weblog at all will be likely to dispute that Robert E. Howard had few equals when it came to writing a fast-paced, gripping story with passion and energy that drew the reader along from beginning to end. He could also evoke a scene so vividly that you could see it and hear it. This blogger is about to consider his work from a different angle; his passion for history.

He displayed it even in his out-and-out fantasies, most of all the Conan stories. For those he devised a prehistoric world on a bigger, more colorful scale than ours and wrote a carefully thought out, crafted essay describing its history, catastrophes and migrations, so that he’d be able to keep the background consistent. He even had the scruples to explain in writing that he wasn’t putting forward any theories in opposition to accepted anthropology or archaeology; he was just creating a fictional background for some fiction yarns.

Conan’s world is a bigger-than-life stage with bigger-than-life versions of ancient and medieval countries. The readers find them familiar enough to enter with no trouble, but the writer has none of the restrictions imposed by known history. The nation of Aquilonia is England of the High Middle Ages, basically, with armored knights and a lion battle-standard, though the names are Latin. The Bossonian Marches, with their tough peasants skilled in archery, are the Welsh Marches. The province of Poitain, with its “beautiful women and ferocious warriors,” filled with “hot southern blood” and “quick jealous pride,” is medieval Gascony (in the fourteenth century subject to England), with touches of the U.S.A.’s southern states. And Poitain, significantly, was once an independent realm.

Zingara is medieval Spain. Stygia is ancient Egypt with snake worship and evil magic added. Turan would appear to be the Ottoman Turkish Empire with a dash of Sassanid Persia. The long-lasting conflict between Aquilonia and its neighbor kingdom, Nemedia, might as well be the Hundred Years’ War. The Cimmerians – of course – are prehistoric Irish Gaels.

Howard wrote quite a number of stories with a background of our world’s actual history, though. They featured his heroes Solomon Kane, Turlogh O’Brien, Dark Agnes and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey – and the fifth-century Gaelic pirate Cormac Mac Art, for that matter. Others were not part of any series, like “Sowers of the Thunder,” “Lord of Samarcand,” and “The Shadow of the Vulture.”

With regard to “Sowers of the Thunder,” he wrote to Wilfred Talman in April of 1931:

That reminds me; I just recently got a letter from Farnsworth who’s just read Lamb’s book on the later crusades, and wants me to write a tale dealing with Baibars the Panther; do you know anything about him? I’ll conceal my ignorance with a flare of action, as usual. Just in case you ever want to write to me, send it to my usual address. I wont be here long.

REH was a decided fan of Harold Lamb’s writing, wild adventure with sword-swinging heroes, Cossacks, Crusaders and the like. Lamb also wrote a two-volume history of the Crusades that REH would almost certainly have read, and a biography of Genghis Khan. Howard’s “ignorance” wasn’t nearly as great as he said, though he was well aware that he didn’t live at the scholarly hub of the nation. Circa January 1932 he wrote to H.P. Lovecraft, “Understand, my historical readings in my childhood were scattered and sketchy, owing to the fact that I lived in the country where such books were scarce.”

I know how he felt. This blogger lived in Tasmania as a kid, and the history we were taught in high school was practically blank between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Renaissance. The Byzantine Empire? The one that bridged the gap between the Western Empire and the Renaissance, lasted a thousand years, and gave Imperial Russia its religion? Didn’t exist. The only mention of it I heard in high school was in English classes; Yeats’ poem, “Sailing to Byzantium.” The Crusades got a passing mention, but other than that the brilliant human story was more than sketchy. Japan? Central America? Africa? Forget it. The only references to Africa were made in connection with explorers and missionaries like Livingstone, Mungo Park and Mary Kingsley. The most vivid accounts of history I read were in books like The Three Musketeers.

REH early became an avid reader of what history he could find, however. And he filled in the gaps splendidly from his imagination and story-teller’s instinct, as when he produced the story about Baibars he mentions to Talman, above – “Sowers of the Thunder.” Baibars was a thirteenth-century mamluk, a slave-soldier of Turkish origin, who rose to become Sultan of Egypt and ruled from 1260 to 1277. A warrior of iron toughness, he’s said to have swum the Nile daily in full armor to stay fit. Just REH’s type of character.

In “Sowers of the Thunder,” he meets his dangerous equal in Red Cahal O’Donnell, a failed Irish king. Cahal is fictional; Baibars al-Bunduqdari isn’t. In REH’s story, Cahal and Baibars first meet (in spring of 1243) while the latter is disguised as a common traveler, and then at the fearful sack of Jerusalem by Khawarezmi Turks in 1244. This wouldn’t seem to be historical, since Baibars was most likely born around 1223. He was twenty-one, and a member of the Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt’s bodyguard, at the most, in 1244 – not a general of mamluks. That Sultan, As-Salih Ayyub, really did call upon a great host of Khawarezmians to retake Jerusalem for him from his Abbasid rivals, but he couldn’t control them and the savages carried out a hideous sack of the Holy City which REH describes. The one real discrepancy in this yarn is that REH makes Baibars about a decade older than he was, and that may not have been REH’s mistake. There might have been no definite knowledge of Baibars’ birth year in the 1930s.

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While reading the November 1930 issue of Weird Tales that contained his “Kings of the Night,” Howard took notice of a poem by Alice I’Anson and quickly sent a letter of comment to the magazine, which was published in the January 1931 issue’s installment of  “The Eyrie”:

I was particularly fascinated by the poem by Alice I’Anson in the latest issue… The writer must surely live in Mexico, for I believe that only one familiar with that ancient land could so reflect the slumbering soul of prehistoric Aztec-land as she has done. There is a difference in a poem written on some subject by one afar off and a poem written on the same subject by one familiar with the very heart of that subject. I have put it very clumsily, but Teotihuacán breathes the cultural essence, spirit and soul of Mexico.

Editor Farnsworth Wright did confirm for Howard that indeed Ms. I’Anson resided in Mexico City. Here is her poem:

Teotihuacán

by Alice I’Anson

I sing of pagan rites that long ago
Ruled the great city lying far below
The twin volcanoes’ hoary bridge of snow –
I sing the Song of Teotihuacán!

Deep is the womb of Time in which I see
The drama of dead idolatry! –
I hear old voices chanting now in me
The mystic Song of Teotihuacán!

“The red dawn shimmers on Tezcoco’s lake,
O City of the Priests, awake, awake!
It is another Feast Day of the Snake,
The Serpent God of Teotihuacán!

“Behold the flaming signal in the skies!
The dawn is red!—today a victim dies!
O hear, O hear his agonizing cries,
Great Serpent God of Teotihuacán!

“Upon the stone his writhing form is laid—
His blood spurts redly from the ‘itxli’ blade—
With his dripping heart an offering is made,
To the mighty God of Teotihuacán!”

Shadows of centuries! still they grow apace
While Mystery hovers o’er the solemn place
Whose ruins whisper in this year of grace:
“Where is the God of Teotihuacán?”

O Souls that cross again the yawning deep
While round these monuments the lizards creep,
I feel your ghostly contact as you keep
Your vigils in old Teotihuacán!

O Spirit Guardians of this grim terrain,
Has Karma bound us with the selfsame chain?
Did I, too, worship at that gory fane
Long years agone . . . in Teotihuacán?

No wonder Howard admired the poem — with its ancient civilization theme, grisly human sacrifice, bloodthirsty serpent god and reincarnation slant —  it was right up his alley. There is not a lot of information floating around about the lady poet who got the attention of Ol’ Two-Gun with her poem, but a small amount of information is available.

Alice I’Anson, born in San Francisco on January 15, 1872, was the oldest of three children. Her parents were Miles and Elizabeth I’Anson and her younger siblings were Beatrice I’Anson (born 1875) and Miles I’Anson (born 1876).

Around 1875, her father Miles I’Anson was photographed at a studio in Valparaiso, Chile all decked out as a gold prospector – he was on his way to join the California Gold Rush where he worked as a mining engineer in until 1891. Miles was also a poet, which probably inspired Alice to write her own poems. Miles had a book of gold-mining themed poems published in 1891 titled A Vision of Misery Hill in New York and London. One of the poems pays homage to his daughter, Alice:

Where Alice Is

by Miles I’Anson

Come with me, O charming maid,
To the forest’s vernal shade
Where no strife or malice is,
And no cares of life invade; —
Peace shall reign where Alice is!

Come and seek the Dryad’s home
In the wildwood trellises;
Or by the ocean’s roar and foam
Blithely let us live and roam; —
Joy shall reign where Alice is!

Come where lilies, blossoming,
Lifting their fragrant chalices
To each living, loving thing
Pulsing with the life of Spring;
Love shall reign where Alice is!

So like Elfin king and queen,
Monarchs of a blest demesne,
Throned in leafy palaces
Love and Joy and Peace, I ween,
Shall be mine and Alice’s!

Little is known about Ms. I’Anson’s writing career, other than she was a poet and had poems published in several anthologies.  She did have five poems published in the Unique Magazine from 1930 through 1932, several letters published in “The Eyrie” and at least one of her poems appeared in Oriental Stories. The last of her poems to appear in Weird Tales was in the May 1932 issue, which featured Howard’s “Horror from the Mound.” That final poem also had an ancient Aztec theme and is presented below.

Shadows of Chapultepec

by Alice I’Anson

O Wood of Dreams! what misted centuries
Have wrapped their spell around your stately trees!
Veiled by the hanging moss, my spirit sees
Majestic halls, with jade and turquoise bright
And sculptured walls that catch the moon’s pale light,
Fantasmagoria of the Haunted Night!
I breathe the smoke of sacrificial fires
Where stark gray pyramids like funeral pyres
Loom darkly underneath these lofty spires …
And here and there symbolic serpents twine;
Their eyes of black and glistening “ixtli” shine
From moss-grown trunks and loops of twisted vine!
The drip of fountain marks the passing hours,
And creeping myrtle, loneliest of flowers,
Drapes with its amaranth bloom the fadeless bowers!
There is strange music in the silvery haze
That floats like incense in cathedral ways
Through these weird “sambras,” this enchanted maze;
For day and night I hear the measured tread
Of mighty warriors numbered with the Dead
Long folded in some dark and leaf-strewn bed!
The lordly Tzins! the chieftains of their race!
In all their spectral grandeur, I can trace
Pride that has dwindled to pathetic grace!
They mourn the glory and the pageantry
Of the dead Past they never more shall see
Save in the ghostly Wood of Memory!

According to a U.S. Consulate document, Ms. I’Anson died of heart failure on June 5, 1931 in Mexico City; she was 59 years old. I’ve read a few other places where she died in 1932, but I’d say given this document, the correct year is 1931. I seriously doubt, even with the huge population of Mexico City, that there were two Alice I’Ansons who resided in that city and submitted poems to Weird Tales.

At the time of her death, she had been living in Mexico for a little over four years and shared a house with her sister. Ms. Anson was buried in the American Cemetery and survived by her sister Beatrice and brother Miles.

This entry filed under Farnsworth Wright, Weird Tales.

In his unfinished essay, “Men of Iron,” Robert E. Howard mentions that he’s going to tell us of five “iron men”—Joe Grim, Battling Nelson, Tom Sharkey, Mike Boden and Joe Goddard. But before he introduces us to these warriors he states that he going to begin by informing us of Jim Jeffries, “one of the two iron men who achieved a title.” Going back to his list, we can see that this second man “who achieved a title” was Battling Nelson, who won the lightweight championship in 1905, but then lost it in 1906, only to regain it in 1908.

This iron man’s full name was Oscar Battling Matthew Nelson and he was born in Denmark on June 5th 1882—his nickname was “the Durable Dane.” His family immigrated to the United States shortly thereafter, and Nelson was raised near Chicago. In his autobiography, The Life, Battles and Career of Battling Nelson  (1908), Nelson tells us quite a bit about himself, and he’s not the most modest champion to ever hold the belt, nor the most politically correct. He praises his mathematical ability, writing that he went to school “off and on” until he was sixteen and that he had “all of the other kids in [his] class beaten to a frazzle when it came to mathematics.” The really bad part of the book is Nelson’s treatment of black fighters. One of the illustrations in the book portrays him standing by his “colored morgue,” with the bodies of the black fighters he has defeated arranged in coffins. He boasts “no black man ever defeated me” conveniently forgetting that Joe Gans bested him in 42 rounds on September 3rd, 1906. Nelson lost this fight on a foul, but many observers stated that he hit Gans with a low blow to save himself from being knocked out. He complains that he was forced to fight a black man on St. Patrick’s Day, and then apologizes to his Irish friends for doing so.

Battling Nelson is one of the greatest lightweights—but after reading his book I was amazed at just how prejudiced he was. There are many more examples of this within his autobiography and I’ve only related the “milder” ones—some are just downright mean and don’t need to be reprinted here. He did come back and defeat Gans twice after the first lost, knocking that great fighter out in the 17th round, and then two months later in the 21st.

Jack London called Nelson the “Abysmal Brute” and our fighter was pretty proud of that. After Nelson beat Jimmy Britt for the championship London published an article in the San Francisco Examiner and clarified what he meant by his new nickname for the Battler—and this piece is reprinted in Nelson’s book. “It is,” London writes, “this abysmal brute that we see in a man in a Berserker rage or in a jealous spell of anger. We see it in a horse, tied by too short a rope, frantic, dragging backward and hanging itself. We see it in the bull, bellowing and blindly charging a red shirtwaist…” London also described it this way—“By abysmal brute I mean the basic life that resides deeper than the brain and intellect in living things. It is itself the very staff of life—movement; and it is saturated with a blind and illimitable desire to exist.”

Nelson and GansNelson, like a lot of fighters from the turn of the century (and like most iron men), suffered in later life from too many blows to the head, and he was eventually committed to a Chicago hospital as being insane and died on February 7th, 1954, mumbling incoherently to himself.

In the Ace Jessel story, “Double Cross,” Howard’s black fighter is the victim of a horrible foul and when he falls to the canvass the lights go out and the bell rings, giving him a chance to recover. A somewhat similar situation happened when Nelson fought Young Scotty on June 6th, 1903. Every time Nelson knocked his opponent down the lights went out, giving Young Scotty much needed time to gather his wits. Nelson stated that he “knocked Scotty out about half a dozen times” and that “the lights were turned off purposely to save” this beaten fighter.

Nelson was very much a product of his hard times and Howard recognized that fighters, after all, are only human. In “The Right Hook” REH lists that Kid McCoy is “doing time in San Quentin,” and that John L. Sullivan is “guzzling booze in a bowery saloon,” while Jack Dempsey is “bouncing bums in a third-rate saloon.” He adds—“You don’t fool me. I know what you’ve been. I know what some of you are. But curse you, I admire you. Whatever else you were, you were what you were.” He could have been describing Nelson.

Friend of TGR, bookseller Terence McVicker, passed this bit of news on to me:

I’m sure you know that I’ve been selling REH material since the early 1970’s and was one of the first dealers to specialize in Robert E. Howard material. Well, September 13, past, I attended the Jerry Weist Auction of Fantasy & Science Fiction at Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills. One of the Lots was #31091 – the REH poetry booklets, printed by Roy A. Squires – consisting of The Road to Rome, Black Dawn, The Gold and the Grey, Altars & Jesters: An Opium Dream and Up John Kane! and Other Poems. All matched numbers, #18, housed in a leather-backed tray case of which only 25 were produced. The price, including the 19.5% buyer’s premium, came to $3,585.00. A record high for this set. I just thought you and the REH collectors would like to know this “costly” information.

Roy A. Squires published a number of handcrafted poetry booklets featuring the works of a who’s who of weird writers during the 1960s and 1970s, which are much sought after by collectors the world over. Squires published a total of six booklets featuring Howard poems from 1972 — 1977. With the economy being the way it is these days, looks likes rare books might be a good place to put your money.

This entry filed under Collecting Howard, Howard's Poetry, News.

Now gather round me, children,
There’s a story I would tell
About Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw
Oklahoma knew him well.

— Woody Guthrie, “The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd”

Depression-era outlaws were partly produced by the mass unemployment, fury and despair of their times. There were enough of them to make a social phenomenon, not just an aberration. Often they came out of the poorest sections of the country. There was Dillinger, his sometime associate Baby Face Nelson, Ma Barker and her sons (‘the Bloody Barkers”) Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, George “Machine Gun” Kelly — and Pretty Boy Floyd.

REH took an interest in them, as he did in other desperadoes. He wrote to H.P. Lovecraft:

At present Oklahoma is being ravaged by a thug called “Pretty-boy” Floyd, who seems to be a reversion to the old-time outlaw type. He has eleven men to his credit, seven or eight or which are officers of the law, which probably accounts for the failure of the authorities to apprehend him. It’s a lot easier to beat a confession of some sort out of some harmless poor devil than it is to nab a young desperado who wears a steel bullet-proof vest, and draws and shoots like lightning with either hand. (Letter of 24th May 1932.)

Whether or not REH was right about the rest, he seems to have been right on the money with his view of Floyd as a “reversion to the old-time outlaw type.” Charles Arthur Floyd was born on February 3rd, 1904, in Georgia. He came from a family of revival-meeting Baptists and grew up on hard work and the Bible, as one of (eventually) eight children. As a kid he was a good-humored joker, and like the other boys around, he reveled in the stories of the old-time outlaws like Jesse James, the Younger Brothers, and most of all, train and bank robber Henry Starr, a long-time outlaw whose record included a presidential pardon from rough-riding, trust-busting Theodore Roosevelt. Nobody guessed in his childhood just how thoroughly he’d follow in their footsteps.

His parents, Walter Lee and Minnie Floyd, were a farming couple who moved to Oklahoma when he was seven, to take up tenant farming in the green Cookson Hills, their crops corn and cotton. Walter Floyd was a bulldog for work, and he made his family one of the most prosperous in the area. He even had a car, which wasn’t common in Oklahoma before World War I. In 1915 he moved to the town of Akins, where the farming soil was more fertile, and continued to prosper. He managed to buy a truck and made good hauling freight locally. After that he opened a general store.

The Cookson Hills had been part of Choctaw Indian Territory in the old days, and the local brand of beer was called “Choctaw.” Young Charlie Floyd was fond of it, to the extent that he was soon wearing the nickname “Choc.” There was nothing vicious or violent about him as a kid; in fact, there seems to have been nothing about him that wasn’t completely normal.

He began turning towards the wild side when he travelled around picking crops with a work crew at the age of fifteen. Some of the other workers were roughneck vagabonds, hard drinkers, gamblers, skirt-chasers, some hiding from the law, and Charlie had to learn how to handle himself in a brawl to avoid getting bullied – something to which, easy-going or not, he was never willing to submit. REH would have fully agreed with him.

In 1922, Charlie and a mate broke into the Akins post office and made off with the colossal haul of a few dollars in dimes from the counter. Still, it was a post office, and that made it a federal rap, but they got away with it because the witnesses – local people who liked the lads – didn’t show in court. Charlie went to work on a farm after that, and then in an oil field, which may have turned him further away from his father’s honest example. Oil workers weren’t shrinking violets. REH’s letters hold various anecdotes about oil field bullies and head-breaking fights. One of his better known quotes is, “One thing about an oil boom – it’ll show a kid that life’s a pretty rotten thing faster than anything else I can think of.”

It probably wasn’t half as bad as the brute labor of picking cotton, which Charlie Floyd did after his stint in the oil fields. It was hell and he dreamed of a larger, wilder life. But he also met a girl named Ruby Hargraves, tall and dark with Cherokee blood, sixteen years old to his twenty, and married her in June of 1924. A son soon arrived, a boy “Choc” Floyd had wished to name after Jack Dempsey, but his wife demurred, and they compromised on “Dempsey” as the middle name. Like many other young married couples of the time, they found it rough making ends meet, and Charlie still dreamed of a wild life and plenty of easy cash. He encountered a nineteen-year-old two-gun thief named John Hilderbrand, who fancied himself both slick and impossible for women to resist, and promised “Choc” that as Hilderbrand’s partner in crime he could send his wife and son more money than he’d ever imagined.

Charlie went for it. They started small, robbing food stores and service stations, and then carried out their first really professional heist, an armored car payroll robbery that netted $11,500 to be split three ways. Unfortunately they were still green enough to buy a pricey new car and cruise the streets in it, tooting at girls, which attracted police attention. Charlie Floyd went down for five years, and the newspapers gave him the nickname “Pretty Boy” at that time – a moniker he always hated.

Woody Guthrie’s “Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd” doesn’t mention that. It says he became an outlaw after going to Shawnee with his wife, and taking exception to some foul language used in her presence by a deputy sheriff. In the well-known words of the song, he grabbed a log chain, the deputy grabbed a gun, and the lawman got the worst of it, after which Pretty Boy had to make for the tall timber. That appears to be more romantic than the facts. Some later verses of the ballad, though they paint a glamorous picture of the outlaw, also describe his generosity to the poor. Pretty Boy WAS a multiple killer, and his victims did include lawmen, among them one patrolman cop and one Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent. Still, he wasn’t as vicious as the Barkers, or Francis “Two Gun” Crowley, who was described as being willing to “kill at the drop of a hat,” and went to the electric chair at twenty. The Kansas City Massacre, the worst of the crimes Floyd was alleged to have committed, seems to have occurred when he was actually nowhere near.

He didn’t like prison any too well, and swore he’d never go there again. However, his wife divorced him while he was inside, and he may have felt he had nothing to lose after that. One of the few friends he made in the joint was bank robber Alfred “Red” Lovett, who told him bleakly that there was no going back now. “You’ll never find a decent job in a decent world. All you’ve got is your own kind.”

Charlie served his time without bitching or making trouble, got out, and headed for Kansas City with Lovett. Kansas City’s political machine was under the control of Thomas J. Prendergast, so crooked he made Pretty Boy and Lovett look like models of probity. Red Lovett introduced Pretty Boy around to the no-nonsense professional crooks of the town. Lovett was no tool of the machine’s, though; he liked his independence and didn’t trust the big boys of Kansas City. Pretty Boy followed his example, as his own nature inclined him to do, anyhow; he also didn’t care to be a puppet. But he liked the wide-open, nothing barred milieu of Kansas City. It had indeed, as the song said, “gone about as far as it could go.”

Being an ex-con, he was hassled by police and questioned over every holdup that took place. The questioning probably wasn’t gentle. This was 1929. Pretty Boy was discovering that Red Lovett hadn’t misled him about the slim chances of going back.

In November he returned to his home region of the Cookson Hills for a sad purpose; he had to attend his father Walter’s funeral. Walter Floyd had been killed by a fellow townsman, Jim Mills, in a petty dispute over the price of some lumber. Only days after Walter’s funeral, while Pretty Boy was still in town, Jim Mills disappeared without trace and was never seen again. Hiding a body in those boondocks would have presented no problem to a man who’d known the area from boyhood. Pretty Boy Floyd left for Kansas City again with no-one hindering him. But this writer feels morally sure he knew in exact detail what had befallen his father’s killer.

In Kansas City he joined the Jim Bradley gang. He’d known Bradley in prison and they got along. Bradley, Pretty Boy and seasoned bank robber Nathan King, with professional thief Nellie Maxwell (her specialty was shoplifting) went to Ohio and pulled a number of bank jobs there, but in Akron their luck ran out and they were captured. Bradley had shot down a police officer who tried to arrest him, and he drew the death sentence for murder. Floyd and King were given fifteen years each in the Ohio State Penitentiary. Pretty Boy, true to his oath that he’d never do time again, escaped from the train on his journey to prison, through the astoundingly simple ploy of asking to have his handcuffs removed while he went to the train toilet. He vamoosed out the window and was gone. “Astoundingly simple” would seem to have described his guards as well.

He made his way back to Kansas City to hide out. He knew it wouldn’t be a haven for very long. When he’d first arrived there, he’d stayed at a boarding house recommended by his friend Red Lovett. A former Sunday School teacher ran it, “Mother” Sadie Ash, but her Sunday School days were long over. Her two sons were small-time dope peddlers and bootleggers. Her establishment catered to criminals just out of jail, or keeping a low profile because the law was too interested in them for comfort. Pretty Boy had become the lover of Wallace Ash’s wife Beulah, nicknamed “Juanita”, who had divorced Wallace in the end, and now Charlie Floyd was back in town, they resumed their affair.

The Ash brothers were no friends of his. That didn’t worry Pretty Boy in the slightest. He became partners with a gunman named Miller, who had recently broken jail himself and was hotter than bubbling cheese, but Pretty Boy liked his nerve. Besides, and conveniently, the other Ash brother’s wife Rose (Juanita’s sister) had also left her husband, and taken up with Miller. The two robbers decided to get out of Kansas City forthwith and pull a series of jobs elsewhere.

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This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft.

In a letter to H.P. Lovecraft dated March 2, 1932, Howard recounts the tale of a wild, wide open town south of the Rio Grande that flourished during the Civil War only to be washed out to sea a few years after the war ended:

But to get back to the Valley. It’s more historical than most people realize. There, for instance, were the famous ports of Clarksville and Bagdad, at the mouth of the Rio Grande; Bagdad, founded by the Spaniards about 1780, reached the pinnacle of her lurid glory during the Civil War, when the trade of the world flowed through her fingers — cotton, armaments, slaves. It was on the Mexican side of the river, Clarksville on the American. There were more than fifteen thousand people in Bagdad when the thirsty gulf rose and drank her, and her sister city, in a single night. When the dawn rose calm and clear over the waves, it was as if the sites of those river towns had been swept with a titanic broom. So a Catholic priest had prophesied, for men said it was the wickedest city in the world, with its criminals, cut-throats, pirates, smugglers, renegades and the scum of the Seven Seas. That was in 1867.

As Howard notes above, on October 7, 1867 an intense hurricane struck the mouth of the Rio Grande with great fury and devastated the towns of Clarksville and Bagdad. The twin cities were situated on the coastline, just about twenty miles to the east of their larger counterparts, Brownsville (pop. 25,000) on the Texas side of the river and Matamoros (pop. 60,000) on the Mexican side.

In 1846, Clarksville sprang from a temporary U.S. Army camp used during the Mexican War. The town was named for William Clark, a civilian who established a country store and was an agent for the various steamship lines that used the small Texas port. During the early days of the Civil War, the town prospered on the trade of the Southern blockade-runners However, in 1863 the strategic port was captured by Union soldiers who held it until the end of the war.

Bagdad, Tamaulipas, Mexico was established in 1848 on the south bank of the mouth of the Río Grande. The port city was major player in the Civil War and of vital importance to the Confederacy in its struggle against the Union, even though few people realize it even existed. Suffering greatly under the Union blockade, the Southerners needed a way to get their valuable cotton crop to Europe where it commanded a high price.

By routing their cotton through Bagdad, the Southerners could keep a steady stream of revenue flowing. The Union dare not start a war with Mexico and did not want to interfere with their trade with the Europeans even though they were fully aware of how Southern cotton was getting to European buyers. Bagdad may as well have been in Texas. It had more Southerners living in it than Mexicans, many of them refugees from invaded Southern cities.

Cotton from East Texas and other parts of the South was transported across the Rio Grande to Bagdad. At Bagdad, the cotton was loaded on to shallow draft boats that carried the cotton to the mouth of the Rio Grande, which was choked with sand bars and shallow waters. Once there, the cotton bales were loaded on to waiting ships in the Gulf. It has been reported that as many as 300 foreign ships were anchored waiting for the South’s cash crop.

Until cotton times, Bagdad had been a deplorable collection of fishermen’s shanties. In just a few months, all this changed. To this town a motley group of the dregs of the world found their way in great numbers, augmented by the intermittent visits of soldiers from the French, Austrian, Belgian and Mexican armies. The town was filled with peddlers, gamblers, swindlers and smugglers, prostitutes and thieves.

Business was so good that simple laborers made up to $10.00 per day in cash and the owners of skiffs and lighters (small craft carrying cargo through the treacherous surf to large ocean going vessels anchored offshore) could demand upwards of $40.00 per day in pay.

The New York Herald described Bagdad as:

 . . .an excrescence of the war. Here congregated . . . blockade runners, desperadoes, the vile of both sexes; adventurers . . . numberless groggeries and houses of worse fame. [Where the] decencies of civilized life were forgotten, and vice in its worst form held high carnival . . . while in the low, dirty looking buildings . . . were amassed millions [in] gold and silver.” A blockade runner once described Bagdad as a place where everyone was trying to grab what he could by using whatever scheme possible to make money out of crisis.

In fact, Father P.F. Parisot wrote in his Reminiscences of a Texas Missionary, “The cosmopolitan city of Bagdad was a veritable Babel, a Babylon, a whirlpool of business, pleasure and sin.” The reverend was an Oblate priest who ministered to the citizens of south Texas during the 1950s – 1860s. Indeed, the city was awash in money, with saloon and hotel businesses booming, there were ten stagecoaches running daily between Matamoras and Bagdad.

In 1865 Bagdad had over 200 structures inside a northward bend of the river. The port was large and it was not unusual to see over 100 vessels waiting offshore for entry to the harbor to deliver or load goods. In April of 1865, Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox ended the port’s usefulness. The next few years were very tumultuous for the city, with bandits, deserters from both armies and desperadoes roaming the area at will. Banks were not safe and most of the citizens hid their valuables close at hand.

In early October 1967, a storm was brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. The winds along the coast and the rising tides were the first warning signs for the townspeople in Clarksville and Bagdad that something big was coming their way. There was little they could do but seek shelter on higher ground when thunder, lightning and black clouds foretold the coming of a life changing event.

Here is another excerpt from Father Parisot’s Reminiscences of a Texas Missionary describing the storm. The story picks up with the approaching storm, which arrived just as a large new convent was being completed. Father Parisot gives a firsthand account of the destruction. While Howard states it was a priest who foretold of the destruction of the twin cities, in this eyewitness acount it was not a priest but an Irish woman:

The aspect of the future was certainly bright, when a dark and heavy cloud appeared in the North. When it burst, a strong wind arose and the rain poured down in torrents. Through the day the wind became stronger and stronger. In the evening it became more violent. The hammer was heard all over the city. The doors and windows were fastened and barred: everything forebode a terrible calamity. For three days previous an Irish woman had foretold the destruction of the twin cities, crying out in the streets, “Woe to Brownsville, woe to Matamoros!” She was looked upon as a crazy woman and locked up in jail as a disturber of the peace.

At 10 p. m. October [7th], 1867, a terrific hurricane shook the city to its very foundations. It seemed rather like a tremendous earthquake, which it would be useless to try to describe. Suffice it to say that the next morning the two cities were an unsightly heap of ruins. The prophetess of woe was killed under the fallen walls of the jail.

At daybreak, I went out to survey the havoc made by the cyclone. My first anxiety was about the convent and its inmates. I found the new and costly building a heap of ruins, the chapel and the old convent terribly shattered and cracked: so damaged as to render them unsafe for habitation. At the beginning of the hurricane the nuns with their boarders had taken refuge in the chapel; where, with uplifted hands, they cried out for mercy and protection. One boarder was missing. Where was she? One of the Sisters ran up stairs and found the girl sound asleep in her cot. The child, seven years of age, was wholly unconscious of the danger she had been exposed to. The Sister wrapped her up in a shawl and brought her safe to the chapel. One minute later, say the nuns, the dormitory, where the little girl had been found sleeping, came down with a tremendous crash. There is certainly a special providence for innocent souls.

Since he was a voracious reader, one has to wonder if Howard read the priest’s account – it was published by a small San Antonio press in 1899 – and incorrectly remembered the account of the prediction of doom for Bagdad.

In fact, the entire Texas coast was affected by the massive storm, with Galveston getting hit hard on October 8th as the storm hugged the coastline and moved north from far south Texas. It is regarded as the first “million dollar” hurricane in Texas. Following the storm, in an editorial in the Brownsville Ranchero newspaper, the editor posed the question, “What would happen if a similar storm struck Galveston directly as it had the lower coast?” Eerily, that speculation would come true on September 8, 1900 when Galveston took a direct hit from a hurricane packing 145 winds and a storm surge of 16 feet which nearly wiped the island off the race of the earth and resulted in over 8,000 deaths.

Not a single house was left standing in Bagdad and only three houses survived in Clarksville. Some 70 people were killed on the Texas side of the river and an unknown number perished in Mexico when the 14 foot waves washed over the two towns sweeping everything out to sea, sinking five steamers and numerous smaller vessels.

Bagdad was quickly abandoned, and a later storm in 1874 finished off what was left of Clarksville for good. Today, only few glass shards, scattered bricks and rusty metal relics buried in the sand are all that remain of both towns. The population at their peaks totaled over 20,000. But like all other boomtowns, the twin cities were casualties of time and events beyond their control.

This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft, Howard's Texas.

artwork by Richard CorbenA few years ago I picked up a hardcover edition of L. Sprague de Camp’s short biography of Robert E. Howard, The Miscast Barbarian. As a bonus the seller included a typed, signed letter by de Camp, dating from November 29, 1977.

It’s an interesting epistle; noteworthy because de Camp is selling 24 post cards—all written by H. P. Lovecraft and mailed to Howard in-between the years 1930-35—and the opening bid is set at $500.00 for the set.

He informs his correspondent that, should no one bid on the cards at all, he then reserves the right to purchase them himself. He also states that he will receive no commission on these cards but that he will retain the right to use the material they contain. “I am offering these cards for sale on behalf of their owner, a living relative of Robert E. Howard,” he writes and probably as a bit of a tease he includes a photocopy of two of the cards; one from April 25, 1934, and the other from November 13, 1932.

Times have sure changed, my fellow collectors, as there are certainly no deals floating around now as sweet as that. Any one of those post cards today would bring more than what de Camp was asking on the opening bid for all of them, probably at least four times more. I own a couple of Lovecraft signatures, no letters or postcards, just the old gent’s autograph—the one reproduced below is on the back of an envelope addressed to Robert H. Barlow.

I won’t say what I ended up paying for it, but it was more than what de Camp was asking for the starting bid on a set of 24 letters—and letters they really should be called, because Lovecraft could fill a post card with more writing than most people could put on a piece of poster-sized paper. I have no idea where the bidding on this collection of post cards stopped, but I do know this is one of those moments when a time machine would sure come in handy.