Archive for the 'Farnsworth Wright' Category

IMG_0001When I was no bigger than an Innsmouth tadpole I thought Weird Tales was the magazine for high literary thrills.  I haunted used bookstores, undoubtedly making a pest of myself, seeking any anthology containing yarns from “The Unique Magazine.”

Sure, in the reading of these precious books I stumbled upon some writing that was pretty awful, but I thought what the hell, it couldn’t be bad; it was published in Weird Tales right?  As my reading tastes grew a little more discerning I realized that this old pulp, great as it had been, had a few things wrong with it.

Some of the writers were just plain hacks, leagues away in literary ability from Howard, Lovecraft, or Clark Ashton Smith.  I figured editor Farnsworth Wright had probably gotten his head stuck in his nether regions when he refused to publish such classics as “The Shadow over Innsmouth” and “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter.”  And, of course, when he took magazine space for a reprinting of Frankenstein—something any reader of Weird Tales probably already had in his or her library, I thought Wright was just plain wrong.  Some of the artwork was pretty sad also, resembling grade school chalk drawings by wild-eyed children.

But, one of the best things the pulp ever did, and this is comparable to the publishing of Howard and Lovecraft, is when Wright introduced Finlay to the readership.

Now, on the 100th anniversary of Finlay’s birth, I’m sure he’ll be honored all across the Internet, and that’s a fine thing.  My humble little post can’t begin to do justice to a talent as great as Finlay’s but I couldn’t let the day go by without some sort of recognition on my part.  The beauty, and grace, of great illustration is evident in almost every piece Finlay produced, from bold, colorful magazine covers to a drawing for Howard’s “Skull-Face”, shown above.  In a class all by himself, his work was always, always,  of high quality, and frequently—very frequently—better than the story he was illustrating.

IMGWeird Tales was a great pulp, because, in spite of some of the egregious mistakes Wright was known to make, the old mag had a pretty good stable of talent, and some of the best horror/fantasy stories ever written first appeared inside the covers.   Damn near 100 years old itself Weird Tales continues to have a wide following and devotees of fantasy still meet to argue the merits of the Windy City Grab-Bag, as HPL once satirically referred to it.  It was like catching lightning in a bottle, and what a jolt Virgil Finlay gave the magazine, issue after issue. So take time to remember Mr. Finlay today—an artist whose imagination, and talent, places him as one of the greatest illustrators to ever put pen to paper.

The other Finlay displayed in this post is an example of his astrological drawings, and is part of my personal collection; something I purchased from his daughter a few years back.  Certainly not one of his greatest works, I still think it’s beautiful and it won’t be leaving my library without a fight.

The REHupa Barbarian Horde

Howard Days 2014 was another great success. Temperatures were quite moderate, though there was a hailstorm around Abilene that seriously damaged Chris Gruber’s car. There were many new faces there this year, evidently because of increased promotion on social media sites spearheaded by Jeff Shanks.

IMG_2928dThe theme this year was Howard History: Texas and Beyond. During the first panel, “In the Guise of Fiction,” Shanks and Al Harron discussed REH’s use of early history. Shanks said that Howard’s stories utilized the anthropological theory favored at the time, involving racial templates now known to pseudoscientific. REH was also inspired by Haggard and Burroughs, who were popular then. Harron opined that the Picts were Howard’s greatest creation, appearing in more different types of stories, both fantastic and historical, than any other of his creations. Historical fiction, e.g. by Mundy and Lamb, was quite popular. REH loved it and wrote as much as would sell, but he put a gritty, bloody spin on it that was more colorful and realistic than that of other authors. Shanks mentioned that Howard employed Wells’s The Outline of History and as many other authoritative references as he had access to. His first goal was to get into the adventure pulps, but he often had to add a weird element to sell his stories; this practice peaked with his submissions to Oriental Tales and Weird Tales. Harron said Conan incorporated historical and fantastic elements. Cormac Fitzgeoffrey is Harron’s favorite Crusades character. Shanks said that REH pioneered a dark, cynical, violent interpretation of history, which has made the stories age well and resonate with today’s readers, unlike a lot of other writers such as Doyle. But historical fiction requires a lot of research, so he set Kull and Conan in an earlier, hypothetical Hyborian Age that freed up Howard to write his own kind of fiction. Harron stated that “Shadow of the Vulture” starring Red Sonya was another groundbreaking character, being a strong female protagonist and warrior, with no romantic links to other characters. It was also anchored in historical characters and settings. Harron’s favorite female character is Dark Agnes, especially in “Sword Woman.” She is unique in having an origin story, though REH only able to get Red Sonya published. He and C. L. Moore conceived of their strong heroines independently. Shanks said that Howard was influenced in his historical fiction by Arthur Macon’s dark stories about fairies portrayed as malevolent little people. He said that REH did a lot of anthropological world-building, incorporating migrations which turned out to be very important historically, as we know now. Howard was also doing westerns, historical and weird, near the end. An audience member added that REH admired Jack London and may have just been emulating London’s racial theories, though these were somewhat behind anthropological theory of the time, however popular they were then. Another person pointed out how the race Howard regarded as superior changed with time and publishing venue.

10453434_10204295624973680_482758632251404194_nIn an interview by Rusty Burke, Guest of Honor Patrice Louinet said that he first got interested in REH through French translations of Marvel comics. He was the first to do pre-doctoral and doctoral theses based on Howard. He visited the U.S. to do the associated research, joined REHupa, and met legendary Howard scholar and collector Glenn Lord, who got him interested in examining REH’s typescripts of stories and letters. He found he could date transcripts from typewriter artifacts and REH’s idiosyncratic spellings. Burke also led him into looking at the Conan typescripts and recommended him to be editor of the Wandering Star Conan pure-text editions. The time-ordering of Howard’s stories is critical to understanding him as a writer, which is also why reading the Conan tales in the order they were written (as in the WS books) is so revelatory. Dating the transcripts was essential to determining which were the most authoritative versions to use in the pure-text books. Thus, there would be no de Campian Conan saga. REH used Conan as a catalyst to the plot and to tell the kind of story he wanted to tell. Louinet’s first professional publication was “The Birth of Conan” in The Dark Man. Reading Howard in English made him realize how bad the existing French translations were, so he started translating the stories himself. He thinks that Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright’s suggestions often improved REH’s stories. Louinet is now working on a documentary on REH and is a consultant on a Howard-related board game. He has done many interviews about REH, including ones on television. He won a Special Award from France’s Imaginales (Imaginary World) Convention for his Howard work. He has published 10 REH books in France and has another one coming out. In France, Howard was a cult figure in the ‘80s, was forgotten in the ‘90s, and is now popular and recognized as a pioneer fantasist. Lovecraft started becoming mainstream there in the ‘60s and has been helped by a Cthulhu video game. Clark Ashton Smith is unknown. The French do not like westerns. Working as a translator gave Louinet the most insight into REH’s maturation as a writer. Howard’s earlier work is bursting with ideas, but he later learned how to control that without losing anything. “The Dark Man” and “Kings of the Night” of 1930 are about when he became a mature writer. Louinet plans to do another doctoral dissertation on REH.

rsz_dscn0324The Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards were given to: (1) Jeff Shanks for the Outstanding Print Essay “History, Horror, and Heroic Fantasy: Robert E. Howard and the Creation of the Sword and Sorcery Subgenre”; (2) Bill Cavalier, Rob Roehm, and Paul Herman for the Outstanding Periodical The REH Foundation Newsletter; (3) Brian Leno, Patrice Louinet, Rob Roehm, Damon Sasser, and Keith Taylor for the Outstanding Web Site REH: Two-Gun Raconteur; (4) Rob Roehm for the Outstanding Online Essay “The Business”; (5) Patrick Burger as Emerging Scholar; (6) Ben Friberg for the Outstanding Achievement of filming REH Days panels, as he was doing for this event and selling DVDs of last year’s; (7) Tom Gianni for Artistic Achievement; (8) Patrice Louinet for Lifetime Achievement; and (9) Paul Herman for Outstanding Service. Karl Edward Wagner is next year’s nominee for Lifetime Achievement.

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arkham-darkminddarkheart

[Part 11 is here.]

By February 1962, Alvin Fick had completed his side of The Howard Collector #2, and by the beginning of March, copies were landing in mailboxes. Besides the rare Howard material, the first issue had included a verse index. The second issue contained Glenn’s listing of Howard’s fiction. These listings of Howard’s works, as well as Glenn’s use of Tevis Clyde Smith’s “Incidents” in #2, prodded Smith into his archives. On April 22, 1962 he wrote to Glenn:

Perhaps you’ll enjoy this rare little souvenir [The All-Around Magazine]. I set most of the type by hand, and the printing was done on a hand press that defied not only me but two employees from a semi-weekly newspaper who tried to get an impression.

I haven’t written because I’ve been extra busy since your last letter. There is information I wish to send you for the next copy of THE HOWARD COLLECTOR when I can get around to it—information that I believe that you’ll be able to use.

I think that you have an unusually good magazine in COLLECTOR, and I hope that you continue its publication.

1962 04-22 TCS to GL

Besides information from Smith, which came in slowly, Glenn was still on the hunt. On April 6, 1962, Leo Margulies, then publisher at Renown Publications and owner of Weird Tales, wrote the following to Lord after reviewing the Weird Tales records:

All that I was able to unearth were a series of seven cards—evidently Weird Tales kept a very careful record of all their purchases. And on those cards was a list of every story and verse they purchased from Mr. Howard. They indicated as his name and address: Robert Ervin Howard, L. B. 313, Cross Plains, Texas—and the notation that he died June 4 [sic.], 1936. “Send checks to his father, Dr. I. M. Howard, Cross Plains.” The cards also indicate that some of the stories were used in “os” (presumably Oriental Stories) and in “mc” (presumably Magic Carpet.) There was no correspondence whatsoever between Mr. Howard and Mr. Farnsworth Wright.

And E. Hoffmann Price was still good for a nugget or two. On June 11, he sent Glenn a postcard:

I mailed Mrs. Howard’s scrapbook to you Friday via insured parcel post. Keep it, & with my compliments. Far better it be in your hands, or those of any other aficionado, than in mine.

Meanwhile, Fick informed Glenn that he would no longer be able to produce The Howard Collector, though he could get the covers for #3 done. And, due to slow sales, Glenn was thinking about discontinuing it, anyway. But orders slowly came in and, by May 22, Glenn was talking to Donald M. Grant about printing. On that day, Grant wrote to Lord: “I’ll help you any way that I can on THE HOWARD COLLECTOR. However, please realize that I am not a printer by trade, and my equipment is entirely offset. [. . .] If you are agreeable to offset work and will not press for the completed job, in turn I would fit the COLLECTOR into my spare time and hold the cost to a minimum.” Grant wrote again on September 21, acknowledging receipt of the typescript for THC #3, and on October 15, saying that “The layout and first draft for THC #3 are complete. It will run 36 pages plus the cover (and the covers have arrived from Alvin Fick in good order; they will have to be trimmed a shade, but otherwise they look fine).” After a series of problems with his equipment, Grant was finally able to send proof copies to Glenn on November 20; and, despite its “Autumn 1962” date, the finished product wasn’t sent to Glenn until December 27, 1962, with copies reaching subscribers in January 1963.

Besides The Howard Collector, the only other Howard publishing to occur in 1962 was “The Grey God Passes” which appeared in the Arkham House collection Dark Mind, Dark Heart. On November 9, Arkham House top dog August Derleth wrote to Glenn:

I don’t think Oscar [Friend] is well. I have the contract in on THE DARK MAN & OTHERS, and the writing on it is very shaky indeed—like that of an old or very sick man. [. . .] I don’t believe either [Clark Ashton] Smith’s letters to HPL or Howard’s to HPL exist, no matter what you’ve heard. HPL used the backs of letters to write on, did occasionally keep scattered letters for some particular reference; but we have no reason to believe he kept entire correspondences.

On December 12, Clyde Smith wrote to Glenn: “I will have some interesting material for you for 4th issue, including some public domain stuff I know that you don’t have, and never heard of, and will be of interest. I unearthed it recently.” These items were more of Howard’s tales from The Tattler and his poems from the Daniel Baker Collegian.

With information from a variety of sources coming in regularly, a new printer for The Howard Collector, and a forthcoming Howard collection from Arkham House, 1963 was looking like it would be a great year for Howard fans. For one in particular, it would be the start of a life-changing series of events.

[Part 13, Conclusion, is here.]

Girodet's version of the death of AtalaWhile vacationing in New Orleans in June of 1932, H. P. Lovecraft wrote a letter to Robert E. Howard and expressed his fascination with the countryside. “In general, I think the Natchez country has the finest subtropical scenery I have ever beheld,” and he added that the landscape reminded him of François-René de Chateaubriand’s Atala.  

This short novel, published in 1801, became an immensely popular story, and was an inspiration for many writers, including Victor Hugo, who claimed that he wanted “to be Chateaubriand or nothing!” Artists, such as Girodet de Roussy-Trioson and Rodolpho Amoedo, found the death scene in Atala irresistible—the Girodet rendering is on the pictured postcard. Perhaps the greatest illustrator of all time, Gustave Doré, (whose signed business card is pictured) used his artistic talents to grace the pages of an 1863 edition, was has been reprinted many times.

It’s a very sentimental story, told in flowery language, and concerns the love between a Natchez Indian, Chactas, and Atala, an Indian maiden whose father, Simagan, is chieftain of a tribe that is presently at war with Chactas’ people. However, as the story progresses we discover that her real father is actually an “old Castilian” named Lopez, and Atala’s mother, even after she returns to her tribe and marries Simagan, continues to adhere to Lopez’ Christian faith.

Autographed business card of the great artistChactas is taken prisoner, but, though an enemy of her people, Atala still helps him to escape, and the two vanish into the wilderness together—and of course fall in love. However, it’s a love that can never be consummated. Atala’s mother, after a difficult pregnancy and delivery, is worried that her newborn child might die, so she makes a vow to the “Queen of the Angels,” asking her to spare Atala’s life and, for doing so, she consecrates Atala’s virginity to her, which is, no doubt, kind of a raw deal for the two young lovers. Years later, when the mother is dying, she reminds her daughter of the promise and Atala reaffirms that she will never lose her chastity, thereby keeping her mother’s vow.

A woman of her word, Atala knows now that she can never marry Chactas, so she takes poison—evidently self-murder is acceptable, as long as she keeps hold of that virginity. Seemingly it takes forever before Atala finally dies, amidst much weeping and sentimentality. I apologize for this fairly brutal summarization of Chateaubriand’s classic work, but if there ever was a sleep-inducing volume this is it. Seems like just picking it up to skim it for the purposes of this blog made me drowsy—admittedly this may say more about my reading skills than the story telling ability of Chateaubriand.

Classic work by FrazettaNow the reason this work should hold some importance for Howard fans should be fairly obvious—did REH arrive at Atali, the name of the Frost-Giant’s Daughter, through Atala? Atali is one of my favorite Howard female characters, and she certainly is one of the most deadly—and the most beautiful.

“The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is right at the top of the list of my most reread Conan stories, right up there with “Rogues in the House” and “The Tower of the Elephant.” Amazingly, in March 1932 (3 months before the Lovecraft letter) Howard submitted this yarn to Weird Tales and had it rejected by Farnsworth Wright—Wright had to have been hit with a dumb stick that day.

So, does Atali owe something to Chateaubriand? It’s hard to deny, even after admitting that Atali, the naked murderess, is completely opposite to Atala, the chaste Indian maiden. Undoubtedly I’ll be rereading Howard’s story of Ymir and Conan again, but Chateaubriand will sit on my library shelves, untouched I’m sure—unless I decide it’s time to get some sleep.

The Robert E. Howard Foundation has just announced on their website that pre-orders are now being taken for Mark Finn’s new edition of Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. In this new edition, Mark takes a broadsword to many of those tired, outdated myths that have grown up around Howard and his fictional creations. Armed with twenty-five years of research and a wealth of historical documents, Finn paints a very different picture from the one that millions of fans of Conan have been sold throughout the years.

Using quotes from Howard’s own letters, first-hand accounts, interviews, and meticulous research, Mark shows that Howard was, in fact, a product of his time and place in rural Texas, and that his legendary fiction was shaped by Texas history, folklore, and Howard’s incomparable imagination.

The updated and expanded second edition is more complete and up-to-date with new information discovered since the book was initially published in 2006, as well as more detailed examinations of some of Howard’s most famous and important characters and stories.

Mark was kind enough to take time out from his busy schedule to answer some questions on his new edition of Blood & Thunder and give us all some insight into what this updated Howard biography is all about.

TGR: First, why a new edition of Blood & Thunder?

Mark: Oh, well, it’s no secret amongst the movers and shakers of Howard studies and Howard fandom that there are some errors, both technical and factual, in the first edition. All unintentional, of course, but remember, I had to write it while the Centennial loomed nigh. So, I went fast, and Monkeybrain went fast, and we all pulled together and got it out in time for the World Fantasy Convention, which was in October of that year. Any later and we would have missed the deadline. So, unintentionally, some errors crept in from earlier drafts, and some wonky sentences didn’t get fixed.

And then, in 2006, Don Herron rediscovered Doc Howard’s medical books. And then Rob Roehm started uncovering tidbits here and there (and he’s still doing it). And then in 2007 or 2008, I forget which, Patrice Louinet managed to pinpoint when Howard and his family were in New Orleans, and the serendipitous discovery that led to, and oh, hell, there’s new stuff now! So, I was already keeping an error file, for fixing, and I kept my slush pile and my notes for some things I either decided not to include for space or time purposes, and all at once, it occurred to me: a second edition! That would fix everything!

And that’s how it all got started. It took a while for me, because I was shopping the hardcover hither and yon. For a while, I entertained the notion that Del Rey would release it along with their other REH books, but that fell through. In any case, I’m very happy that the Foundation picked up the ball, because it guarantees better control over keeping it available.

TGR: The new edition has a great cover. Tell me about the design. Who came up with the idea of using that classic photo of Howard wielding the gun and knife?

Mark: Oh, that was all Keegan, man! (laughs) He gets carte blanche, these days, you know? I’m sure he was thinking about how it would look with the other REH books on the shelf, but also, I know he wanted to use a photo of REH–but not the same two or three that seem to grace the covers of so many projects in the last 30 years. That picture is one of the posed photographs that he took with Vinson and Smith, and I always figured that they set them up intentionally as either reference for a story or as something to illustrate a project that never materialized. Of course, we’ll never know, but that picture is definitely one of the pics you don’t see very often. Good choice, I thought.

TGR: During the five years between the first and second editions, what new information about Howard’s life has emerged, if any?

Mark: You know, it’s not anything huge and world-shaking…I mean, there’s no bombshells. But what has come to light is a lot of what I’d call secondary and ancillary material. It’s all stuff to hold up to the light and say, “okay, what effect could this possibly have had on X part of REH’s life?” Doc Howard’s incessant, intricate geometric doodles in his medical books, The Axe-Man of New Orleans, conversations with Lovecraft, an interesting wrinkle on the day of Howard’s suicide… lots of little things. But given how little we actually know about the Howard family, even that stuff is pretty cool, I’d say.

TGR: With the passage of time between your two versions of Blood & Thunder have you formed any new opinions about Howard or his writings?

Mark: There are two new theses in B&T 2nd ed. One is about the Breck Elkins stories that I didn’t have time or room to include in the first edition. The second is something I’d been driving toward for a while, and that has to do with the Conan stories. We may have talked about it in Cross Plains this year, but basically, I make the charge that Conan was written for specific commercial considerations in Weird Tales. That’s not to say he phoned them in, but he was pitching specifically to Wright. And that’s why there’s things in the Conan stories that don’t jibe with the rest of Howard’s work–things like his mercurial attitudes about damsels in distress. I contend that the scholars and fans have been looking at it the wrong way: Conan is the anomaly. If you take those stories out of the picture, suddenly Howard becomes a proto-feminist. Put them back in, and he’s just another pulp author indulging in macho sex fantasies. That’s just an example, but I think you get what I’m saying.

TGR: Is there anything you found particularly challenging in updating the original edition?

Mark: Oh, god yes! I had to spend another year and a half with a book I’d already spent a year with earlier. It was, at times, torturous. Especially since I had to rewrite specific passages. I had to literally throw myself back into a mindset six years gone. Very difficult, very challenging. That said, some of the rewriting was a lot of fun. I loved adding in the new bits. That’s a fun creative challenge, to make sure it still flows from point to point and doesn’t get bogged down. I wanted to keep the book accessible and readable.

TGR: This second edition is nearly twice the size of the first. That is a lot of additional wordage. What does it contain?

Mark: Thirty five thousand additional words. It’s got a new index, notes on the chapters, all of the extra stuff mentioned earlier, new material in the Conan and Breck Elkins chapters, cleaned up sentences, new facts and pieces of info about a number of things, and all chapters save the first two have something new and different in them. It’s a true second edition, or as I’ve been calling it, my “director’s cut.”

TGR: There are still a group of folks out there who believe de Camp’s Dark Valley Destiny is the definitive Howard biography. Do you think this new edition of B&T will change their minds?

Mark: Nope. Not a bit. Take John Howe, for example. No, really, take him! He called the first book “pretentious to read” and “inaccurate.” Here’s a guy who came to B&T with a chip on his shoulder. There’s no other way he could have found that book pretentious. And as for “inaccurate,” that just a code-word for “I didn’t agree with his conclusions.” Whatever. You can’t make a horse drink. However, there are a lot of people who want to read about REH and can’t find Dark Valley Destiny anymore. So, good. Here’s Blood & Thunder instead. I think that’s kind of akin to burning the hydra’s head after you’ve cut it off. It’s still there, but it’s not very effective anymore.

TGR: I know is kind of early for this question, but you believe this new edition is the final word on Howard’s life and works or do you foresee yourself revisiting the topic a few years down the road?

Mark: Definitely not. The final word, I mean. I know there are at least two more books being talked about or worked on, and they will each have their own take, based on their experiences. I will say this, though: With this edition, I’ve included every theory, thesis, or idea I’ve ever had about REH, since the age of 15. That itch has finally been thoroughly scratched. I don’t see myself revisiting the biography again, but I’ll never say never. And it won’t keep me from writing more about the boxing and the westerns, or whatever I’m on about these days in Howard studies.

TGR: If there was one thing you would for readers of this new edition to walk away with, what would it be?

Mark: Everything de Camp ever told you about Howard is wrong. That’s what I want. A sense of anger and betrayal at the man who purported to know. I soft-pedaled de Camp in the first edition. Now the gloves are off. The second edition is much meaner to de Camp and E. Hoffmann Price, and I make pains to explain why.

Judging from Mark’s answers, this is going to be a humdinger of a Howard biography — chock-full of good stuff not in the first edition. I’ve already ordered my copy and encourage everyone who is interested to to the same.  With a 150 copy print run, it is sure to sellout fast.

In my last post I expressed my disappointment in Frank Owen’s short story, “Singapore Nights,” which had appeared in the first issue of Oriental Stories. This dissatisfaction kind of bothered me, because Howard seems to have liked Owen, and had respect for his fellow pulp author’s writing ability. So, to be somewhat fair, I journeyed to the February-March Oriental Stories (this issue also included Howard and Tevis Clyde Smith’s “Red Blades of Black Cathay”) and read Owen’s “Della Wu, Chinese Courtezan.” Owen must have liked his story—he used it to title his 1931 collection Della Wu, Chinese Courtezan: and Other Love Tales.

I was hoping this yarn would give me a different view of Owen, and it did. I thought this tale was very good, much better than “Singapore Nights.” It’s a simple, leisurely paced story dealing with revenge, and while I gave a synopsis of “Singapore Nights,” I won’t be doing the same with this yarn. Read this one for yourselves, I hope you’ll like it.

In the Oriental Stories letters column—“The Souk”—Farnsworth Wright declares that the Howard and Smith tale took first place and “Della Wu” tied for second with S. B. H. Hurst’s “William.” The most entertaining letter mailed into “The Souk” that issue came from Henry S. Whitehead, one of the most talented writers to ever work for Weird Tales. He writes that “Red Blades of Black Cathay” is one of the best action-adventure yarns he’s ever read, and ends up calling it “a real corncracker!” But it’s what he writes about Owen’s tales that is really interesting, declaring that “Della Wu, Chinese Courtezan” is far better than “Singapore Nights” or “The China Kid” (which had appeared in the December-January 1931 issue), and he says that these two stories were “utter pieces of junk.” He further states that “Della Wu” is “delightful, well-written, and has back again the curious little lambent flame which made one or two of his earlier productions so acceptable.” Even Wright expresses surprise that Owen’s tale ended so high in the reader’s polls, stating that it isn’t really an “action-adventure” story.

I was pleased enough by Owen’s tale to pick up a copy of the Gnome Press Porcelain Magician (1948) which has a few of this author’s stories for Weird Tales. I also did a little research on Owen before writing these posts and was surprised to learn of one of his pseudonyms.

Anyone who has ever paged through old issues of Weird Tales will be familiar with the name “Hung Long Tom.” Beginning in 1930 Hung Long penned a number of poems for Weird Tales, Oriental Stories and Magic Carpet Magazine. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database informed me that Hung Long Tom was in reality Frank Owen.

Not wishing to get too crass I wonder why in the world Owen picked that cognomen. Hung Long Tom seems like a name that would be encountered in a bad Chinese pornographic movie, not in the pages of a pulp magazine in the thirties. So, because I can always erect and stretch a theory beyond all probability I remembered that D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was released in 1928 and then underwent all kinds of censorship. The lady’s lover, Oliver Mellors, has a name for his sexual appendage—he calls it “John Thomas.” So I’m wondering if it’s at all possible that Owen was sticking up for a censored fellow writer by creating the name Hung Long Tom, an inside joke-reference to John Thomas. Then, to further complicate everything, I remembered that a pseudonym Farnsworth Wright used was Francis Hard, and while this is supposedly a tip of the hat to his maternal grandmother, I’m not so easily persuaded. Never know what might get uncovered when you’re digging into old pulp magazines.

This entry filed under Farnsworth Wright, Tevis Clyde Smith, Weird Tales.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 the last year of his life, money was a big issue in Howard’s life – his mother’s health was declining rapidly and the medical bills were piling up. Also, Weird Tales owned him over $1,000 and Editor Farnsworth Wright was not giving in to Howard’s urgent pleas for at least some money to be sent to him. Considering the team of Howard and Conan were one of the biggest draws for the magazine, it is perplexing that Wright could not come up with the money that was owed to Howard. Consequently, he was exploring new markets, looking for ways to increase his income. He had already hired fellow pulp writer Otis Adelbert Kline as his literary agent and a suggestion from another pulp writer and friend put him on the trail of a new market.

In this letter to  H. P. Lovecraft, dated December 5, 1935, Howard boasts of cracking that new market and suggests HPL give the market a try as well:

In my efforts to make new markets I’ve been “splashing the field” as Price calls it. One market I tried was Spicy Adventures, a sex magazine to which Ed is the star contributor. I sold the first yarn I tried, but doubt if I could make that market regularly, as it requires a deft, jaunty style foreign to my natural style. However, I’ll probably try it again. Why don’t you give it a whirl? You can use a pen name if you like; I did, and I think most of its contributors do. The maximum length is about 5000 words. That sort of yarn is easy to write, if not to sell. If they reject it, you’ve only wasted a day or so. If they accept it, you’re fifty bucks to the good, and they pay promptly. They like good strong plots, but the sex element is a cinch; any man can write that part of it. Just write up one of your own sex adventures, altered to fit the plot. That’s the way I did with the yarn I sold them.

No one knows if Lovecraft fainted when he read Howard’s suggestion that he try his hand at writing a story for a “sex magazine,” but for certain the Gentleman from Providence, with his Victorian morals, was not too keen on the idea.

As Howard notes, E. Hoffmann Price was a star contributor to Spicy-Adventure Stories and unlike most contributors, Price was bold enough to use his own name rather than a pseudonym for his “spicy” work. Indeed the spicys were Price’s single largest pulp market; over 150 of his yarns were published in them throughout the years.

The first “spicy” pulp appeared on newsstands in April 1934 with the publication of the first issue of Spicy Detective Stories. The publisher that released this first “spicy” was Modern Publications, based in Delaware, possibly for tax and censorship purposes, with main offices in New York. Soon the company’s name was changed to the unlikely name of Culture Publications. Spicy-Adventure Stories appeared in November 1934, with Spicy Mystery Stories’ first issue premiering in mid-1935. December 1936 saw the publication of Spicy Western Stories, which rounded out the “spicy” line.

The publishing staff was a shady bunch, to say the least, starting with Frank Armer, an editor and a publisher who had previously self-published the Ramer Review and Zeppelin Stories. The Donefeld family, led by Harry Donenfeld, was the printer and primary financial backer for Culture Publications. Back during Prohibition, it was suspected that some pulp publishers were used to launder money for the bootleggers. The Donenfelds and their Donny Press seemed to be high on this list.

This same publishing family helped usher in the golden age of comics when they acquired National Allied Publications, a company that owned them a great deal of money. That company later became DC Comics and soon Superman and Batman comics were rolling off their presses.

It’s tough to nail-down the start of the Armer/Donenfeld publishing empire, but it may have begin in 1932 with the acquisition the defunct  publisher of Spicy Stories, Pep and La Paree, straight sex magazines along the lines of Paris NightsGay Life and Venus. Shortly before the first issue of Spicy Detective Stories appeared, another detective magazine, Super-Detective Stories, edited by Armer, appeared with the promise of additional Super magazines to come. However, this venture was soon abandoned in favor of the Spicy line of magazines. Super-Detective Stories was discontinued after 15 issues, but resumed publication in 1940.

Due to censorship concerns and obscenity issues with the U.S. Post Office, Harry Donenfeld’s publishing empire used several names at during its history. In addition to Culture Publications, other names used included D. M. Publishing, Trojan Publishing and Arrow Publications. The location of business offices changed just as frequently. Indeed, the red hot spicys had as many detractors as they did fans. But, bottom-line, they were popular and flying off the newsstand racks. 

The recipe for the “spicy” pulps was to take fairly tried and true genre stories and mix in the ingredient of sex. This gave the spicy line a whole new slant on the pulps — spicys were racy and titillating, pushing the envelope of decency and providing the reader with a new experience by blending the spicy element with the standard pulp fare of adventures in faraway lands, hardboiled detectives, sinister and menacing manifestations and cowboy shoot-em’ ups.

A strict set of guidelines for writers was drawn up by editor Frank Armer. These included women could not be fully nude (unless they were a corpse!) and had to retain at least some article of clothing, even if it was some small piece of tattered lingerie. Descriptions of women’s nipples and areola were strictly forbidden – the same rule applied to the pubic area. The man had to remain fully clothed and no sexual descriptions were allowed of men’s bodies. Action in the sex scene between the man and woman had end at the point of consummation. Long-term relationships between the male and female characters were forbidden — these were strictly one-night stands, leaving the hero free to bed other women in subsequent adventures.

Overwhelmingly, the sex in the spicy magazines was very tame by today’s standards. The “spicy” element in the stories came from several sources: the heroines scanty undergarments, her willingness or unwillingness to give herself to the hero, her enticing bedchamber and her luscious “charms.” After a bit of foreplay and kissing, sexual contact was indicated by a sentence trailing off in ellipses (…). This was followed by a prudent line drop before the yarn resumed in the ensuing paragraph. This left any actual sexual activity the reader’s imagination.

In reality, the spicy pulps were selling the sizzle with no steak to back it up. While the bright color cover paintings and the interior illustrations suggested that the magazine’s contents were filled with steamy sex, in reality the actual stories came up short in fulfilling that promise. Despite the tameness of the sexual element, they were widely condemned by straight-laced critics as an insult to decency and frequently sold from under newsstand counters.

The spicy pulps were just what the doctor ordered for Howard, providing him with a dependable stream of revenue that he urgently needed. Spicys were considerably more expensive than their non-spicy counterparts with, a cover price of 25 cents versus 10 cents for most of the regular pulps. No doubt this higher cover price pumped in a lot of cash and allowed the publisher to pay a good wage and pay it promptly. Plus, the spicy authors were paid upon editorial acceptance of their stories, rather than on publication as was the case with Weird Tales and many other pulps. The stories could be no longer than 5500 words, not leaving much room for character development, but that was not the spicys’ aim. After getting the hang of the formula and story length, Howard seemed comfortable writing spicy yarns – no doubt he planned to splash further into the market by branching out to Spicy Mystery and Spicy Detective.

To protect their names in other markets, many spicy authors used pen names for their walk on the wild side. E. Hoffmann Price usually used his own name, but also used “Hamlin Daly” in instances where he wanted to place two stories in the same issue. Ditto for Henry Kuttner, though I don’t what pseudonyms he used when he had two yarns in the same issue. Hugh B. Cave wrote as “Justin Case,” Victor Rousseau Emmanuel wrote as “Lew Merrill” and “Clive Trent,” while Howard Wandrei (the brother of Donald Wandrei, who co-founded the publishing company Arkham House with August Derleth) wrote as “W.R. Rainey.” The most prolific of the spicy authors was Robert Leslie Bellum, who wrote under his own name and at least six pseudonyms. So Howard picked the name “Sam Walser” – the name of someone he erroneously thought was his ancestor – for his spicy writing alter-ego. Howard now needed a hero for his spicy yarns.

Even though he did not realize it at the time, Wild Bill Clanton would be the last series character he would create. Clanton was certainly a different kind of cat for Howard. The reckless adventuer was not exactly the type of guy a girl would bring home to meet her parents. He was a pirate, gunrunner, pearl-poacher, blackbirder (aka slaver), brawler extraordinaire and general all around scoundrel, having a penchant for mistreating women.

This is how pulp expert Morgan Holmes describes Clanton in his article “The Saga of Wild Bill Clanton and Two-Gun Bob: The Spicy Robert E. Howard” (Windy City Pulp Stories #9, 2009):

Clanton is a cross between Howard’s earlier character Sailor Steve Costigan, who had appeared in Fiction House’s Fight Stories, and Conan of Cimmeria. Known for everything from pearl diving to piracy, Clanton is good with his fists like Costigan, but also crafty, much in the same way Conan would insert himself into a situation and manipulate events to his own benefit.

The first Wild Bill Clanton yarn was written in September 1935 and published as “She Devil,” the cover story for the April 1936 issue of Spicy-Adventure Stories. Originally titled “The Girl on the Hell-Ship,” the editor re-titled the yarn to match a stock cover painting he wanted to use. Rather than depicting a girl on a ship in the South Pacific, the cover shows a bar in Alaska or some other cold environ, with rough looking male customers wearing furs and other heavy clothing. A scantily clad, young brunette girl dances in their midst, coyly raising a shot glass.

The plot of “She Devil” is one that Howard had used previously in the Conan story, “The Pool of the Black One” (Weird Tales, October 1933). Here is a summary of the plot from Charles Hoffman’s “Blood Lust: Robert E. Howard’s Spicy Adventures” (The Cimmerian, V2N5):

Like Clanton, Conan appears after swimming to a ship, having abandoned a leaky boat. Both protagonists were in that situation as the result of earlier predicaments. Aboard ship, Conan meets the pirate captain, Zaporavo, who has abandoned his usual trade to sail into unknown waters. Zaporavo, like the tyrannical Bully Harrigan encountered by Clanton, broods over maps and charts as he searches for some mysterious treasure kept secret from the crew. In both stories, the captain meets his fate after landfall on an island. Conan and Clanton assume command of their respective ships, which must take flight from the island’s dangers. Conan also appropriates Zaporavo’s sultry mistress, Sancha. Sancha is from Zingara, Howard’s Hyborian Age counterpart of seventeenth-century Spain. Like Raquel O’Shane, she is possessed of fiery Latin blood.

In the above excerpt from the HPL letter, Howard groused that writing for the spicys “requires a deft, jaunty style foreign to my natural style.” Despite his misgivings, Howard was able to capture that jaunty style for his first effort. However, he stumbled somewhat with his follow-up story, “Ship in Mutiny,” a sequel to “The Girl on the Hell Ship.”

To be continued…

A Shameless Spicy Plug

Coming late next month from the REH Foundation Press is Spicy Adventures. This 211 page volume collects all of Howard’s “spicys” and is the first time many of these stories have appeared in hardback. In addition to all of the complete tales, this volume contains a large miscellanea section with drafts and synopsizes that allow readers to glimpse Howard’s creative process. A standout cover by Jim and Ruth Keegan completes the package. Pre-orders are now being accepted at the Foundation’s website.

Read: Part II / Part III / Part IV / Part V

It has been six months since the TGR Facebook page was launched and thus far the page has picked up 126 followers. You will find items on the Facebook that do not appear on the blog, usually because while the topics might be of interest, they don’t rate full-blown blog posts. Notices are also posted every time a new post goes up here on the TGR blog.

I realize some folks are wary of the whole “social media” phenomenon, but it does have its merits, along with its drawbacks. Bottom line, it is a great way to keep up with what is happening in real time. If you are not already a follower of the TGR Facebook page, here are a few items posted during the past 30 days you’ve missed out on:

C. L. Moore — First Lady of Science Fantasy

After editor Farnsworth Wright had finished reading an unsolicited manuscript entitled “Shambleau,” he closed the Weird Tales office in honor of “C. L. Moore Day.” For the next six years, Catherine Lucille Moore contributed her own brand of sensual and colorful adventures to “The Unique Magazine,” all featuring her interplanetary rogue Northwest Smith or Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female protagonists of sword-and-sorcery fiction.

A correspondent of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert Bloch, Moore married writer Henry Kuttner in 1940. Together, they collaborated on many stories. Among her rare non-collaborative efforts following her marriage are “Judgment Night,” “There Shall Be Darkness,” “The Children’s Hour,” and “Vintage Season” for Astounding Science-Fiction, Startling Stories, Strange Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and others.

Complete story at  the PulpFest 2011 website.

On an Underwood #5

This fan blog is devoted to Robert E. Howard, the Texas tale-spinner, and all his works of fiction: Sword & Sorcery, Westerns, Boxing, Pirates, Desert Adventures, Horror, poetry, sonnets, and his letters.
You can find items of interest posted at this blog daily, such as this quote from a Solomon Kane story:

“Then he turned his head again to the hills. A finish fighter was Solomon Kane. Along that grim skyline dwelt some evil foe to the sons of men, and that mere fact was as much a challenge to the Puritan as had ever been a glove thrown in his face by some hot-headed gallant of Devon.”

– Robert E. Howard, “Wings in the Night”

New Issue of The Dark Man Coming Next Month

The contents for Vol. 6, No. 1 of The Dark Man have been announced: “Faction and Fiction in Barack the Barbarian” by Jeffrey Kahan, “Gloria” by Rusty Burke and Rob Roehm, “Theosophy and the Thurian Age: Robert E. Howard and the Works of William Scott-Elliot” by Jeff Shanks, plus a letters column. Additional information (cover price, etc.) will be forthcoming – editor Mark Hall is shooting for publication in August.

The Dark Man is an academic journal devoted to the study, discussion, and criticism of the life and literary works of Robert Ervin Howard (1906-1936). The journal is intended to provide a scholarly forum for the study of Howard’s legacy, literary achievement, influences, and the impact he has had on other writers and popular culture.

Visit The Dark Man website.

New Radio Play Adapting REH’s “The Valley of the Lost”

REH fan Matthew Clark and his crew have a new Howard radio play based on “The Valley of the Lost” up on the KBOO website:

After surviving a bloody ambush, as result a long running feud between families on the open ranges of West Texas, and with the murderous McQuil clan in hot pursuit, John Reynolds hides out in what is known as a ‘haunted valley’. To say anything more than this, would spoil the enjoyment of this amazing tale by Robert E. Howard.

This new adaptation can be heard on the KBOO website.

Also, as previously noted here on the blog, Matthew has done adaptations of “Pigeons From Hell” and “Wild Water.”

The Keegans win the REH Foundation’s Rankin Award

The Keegans recently posted on their blog about winning a Robert E. Howard Foundation Award:

In 2009, one of our Adventures of Two-Gun Bob strips was devoted to Rankin — and, except for the hand in panel 2, it was entirely composed of Rankin’s own illustrations from Howard’s stories.

We weren’t able to be in Cross Plains for the awards presentation this year, but we received a pleasant surprise package last week from the Foundation. Along with several wonderful new books, the box included … the first Rankin Award. We were both really flattered to have won — especially with such amazing artists as Tim Bradstreet and Tomás Giorello also in nomination.

Another great Rankin nominee, “Indiana” Bill Cavalier, designed the handsome award plaque. He tells us that it’s laser engraved into bamboo!

The Whole Wide World: Reviewed by Roger Ebert

To commemorate Vincent D’Onofrio’s birthday, which was June 30th, here is Ebert’s review of TWWW.

The pulp magazines that flourished from the 1920s through the 1950s were one of the great trashy entertainment mediums of our century. I got in at the end of the period, as the big-format classic pulps like Thrilling Wonder Stories were being pushed aside by television, and replaced on the newsstands by more respectable digest-sized mags like Analog, Galaxy and F&SF. But I haunted used book stores and brought home old pulps in cardboard boxes strapped to the back of my bike, and late into the night I’d read their breathless stories, and feel faint stirrings of unfamiliar emotions as I examined their covers, on which desperate women in big titanium brassieres squirmed in the tentacles of bug-eyed monsters.

The Whole Wide World is based on a 1988 memoir of Howard, written by a woman named Novalyne Price Ellis, who was a retired Texas school teacher when the Conan boom came along. Disturbed by portraits of Howard as some kind of loony loner, she wrote the book to recall her own romance with Howard more than 50 years earlier. Her memories have served him well, even though he probably was loony, and a loner given to statements like “the road I walk, I walk alone,” which are not designed to inspire confidence in the bosom of a potential fiancee.

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