Cormac & Clanton: Oh Where Oh Where Can You Be?

Now that El Borak has finally gotten the volume he so richly deserves, and with Dark Agnes getting her due soon, two other Howard heroes are overdue for new, complete collections: Cormac Mac Art and Wild Bill Clanton

The most recent collection of Cormac Mac Art stories was published 15 years ago as part of the Baen collection of eight Howard paperbacks. Howard completed two Cormac Mac Art tales, “Swords of the Northern Sea” and “The Night of the Wolf.” Two other stories, “Tigers of the Sea” and “The Temple of Abomination” were left incomplete and later finished by Richard L. Tierney. None of Howard’s Cormac Mac Art stories were published during his lifetime. Tigers of the Sea was the first collection published in 1974, spawning six pastiches by Andrew Offutt and Keith Taylor.

The four Cormac Mac Art stories would make for a slim volume; a good match with them would be the Black Turlogh O’Brian stories. While the O’Brien stories have appeared individually in print recently, there has never been complete collection in one single volume. There are two complete O’Brien stories (“The Dark Man and “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth”), plus O’Brien is a minor character in “Spears of Contarf” and its supernatural twin “The Grey God Passes.” He is also featured in an incomplete draft titled “The Shadow of the Hun” and a short fragment.  It should be noted that “The Dark Man and “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth” have appeared side by side several times, most recently in the hardcover edition of Wildside’s People of the Dark.

I can see Del Rey possibly doing a collection of the Cormac Mac Art yarns, the Turlogh O’Brian stories, with a number of other miscellaneous Celtic/Northern tales rounding out the volume, much as Joe Marek, Howard scholar and publisher of the extremely rare The “New” Howard Reader, has it listed on his website. The website is a bit out of date, but you can get the gist of what he is saying regarding a possible collection of the Celtic/Northern Howard stories.

Wild Bill Clanton is a different story. The “spicies” have a somewhat limited audience and The Robert E. Howard Foundation Press would be a likely candidate to publish the Clanton stories, along with other “spicy” tales and miscellaneous erotica. This is mainly because Clanton is not exactly a lovable little fuzzball, being a pirate, gunrunner, pearl-poacher, slaver, general all around scoundrel and having a nasty habit of mistreating women.  According to Patrice Louinet, the manuscripts are “spicier” than the published stories; they were toned done for publication in Spicy-Adventure Stories.  So a textually accurate Clanton would make him even a less likely candidate for a mass market book.  “Spicy” indeed.

Five Clanton stories were published in Spicy-Adventure Stories during Howard’s lifetime and shortly after his death, with a sixth being discovered years later among his papers. A collection Howard’s “spicies” appeared only one time in book form in the 1983 Ace paperback The She Devil.  In addition to the six Clanton yarns, two other “spicy” stories were included (“Guns of Khartum” and “Daughters of Feud”).  Most of the Clanton stories have popped-up in print recently, notably in the Girasol pulp replicas. Joe Marek also complied a possible list of contents for a Clanton volume.

So, if Del Rey elects to do another volume after the publication of Dark Agnes and Other Historical Adventures next year, I believe the most likely candidate would be Cormac Mac Art and Other Celtic Adventures. As for the Clanton book, no doubt it is on Rob Roehm’s drawing board or rattling around inside that fertile brain of his.