REH Splashes the “Spicys” — Part II

Encouraged by his first sale to Spicy-Adventure Stories, Howard was soon at work on another spicy adventure. Like “She Devil” (aka “The Girl on the Hell Ship”), “Ship in Mutiny,” Howard’s second spicy effort was set in the South Pacific and featured Clanton’s love interest, Raquel O’Shane from the first yarn. However, “Mutiny,” written as a sequel to “She Devil,” was doomed from the start.

In “Mutiny,” Howard really turned up the heat, literally bringing the sexual tension to a boil. Howard used the device to build-up the overall suspense of the story and it worked, perhaps even too well. Remember that “jaunty’ style Editor Armer wanted? With all the tension, the jauntiness went out the window. Indeed, the story was so grim Howard could have easily rewritten it into a Conan story.

In the story, Clanton enjoys the sexual “charms” of an island princess named Lailu, but he returns to the arms of Raquel, violating one of the main edicts of the spicys – thou shalt not be monogamous. His bringing Raquel into the story surely raised Armer’s eyebrows and helped the story along toward rejection. Howard learned his lesson and forever banished Raquel from the Clanton stories.

The villain of the yarn is Tanoa is a half-breed who possesses both European and barbarian characteristics. At one point in the story, Clanton is in the clutches of Tanoa, who boasts: “We’ll find the girl and make her watch while I skin him alive! I’ll make a garment of his hide and force her to wear it always about her loins to remind her how her lover died!” This outburst of male-on-male sadomasochism may have been a bit much for Editor Armer to stomach. As I said above, pretty grim stuff.

When “Ship in Mutiny” didn’t sell, Howard kicked around the idea of reworking the story for Thrilling Adventures, but never got around to it during the short amount of time he had left to live. Thus, “Mutiny” remained the only unpublished Clanton until its appearance in The She Devil (Ace, 1983)

But as a professional writer, Howard did not dwell on the rejection and soon had another Clanton yarn ready for submission. With “Desert Blood,” Howard returned to the jaunty style that made “She Devil” a success. The story is also much lighter fare than the failed “Ship in Mutiny.”

Written in November 1935, “Desert Blood” is set in Tebessa, Algeria where Clanton is pursuing a local temptress Zouza while he waits for the sale of a cargo of rifles he has in his ship’s hold to be completed. While Zouza successfully rebuffs the advances of Clanton, she manages to convince him that only a man who has killed a lion is worthy of her “charms.” Clearly thinking with the wrong head, Clanton falls for this malarkey and agrees to go on a lion hunt in the middle of the desert. Leaving Zouza’s quarters, he runs into an American school teacher (Novalyne, is that you?) he has seen in his travels. The vacationing teacher, Augusta Evans, is somewhat snooty and quickly rebuffs Clanton’s advances. After striking out twice, the burly brawler hits the nearest dive to drown his sorrows.

Soon a drunken Clanton is riding off into the desert on the back of a mule, all part of a plot hatched by the scheming Zouza, a desert sheik Ahmed ibn Said, his henchmen and yet another seductress, Zulaykha. It seems the group is after that load of guns Clanton has on his ship.

This is certainly one of Howard’s spicier tales, featuring four different women for Clanton to woo. Clearly his favorite of the foursome was Aicha, a concubine of Ahmed ibn Said, one of the yarn’s villains:

He had forgotten Zouza; this girl had everything she had and more; she was vibrant with that intangible quality some call glamour, which sets the natural artist apart from the willing worker, however skilled and lovely.

All his life Clanton had been following his impulses, and now there was no revisiting the peremptory urge of his primitive nature. He saw in this girl’s eyes the same light he knew burned more fiercely in his own, and that was enough.

“To hell with Ahmed!” In sudden savage hunger he crushed her to him, found her red hot lips, until she caught fire from his ardour and her arms locked in equal fierceness about his neck, as she gave him kiss for kiss. There was a profusion of silk pillows in one corner. She yielded meltingly in his arms as he lifted her from her feet and carried her across the tent. The soft white gleam of her flesh in the mellow light made his head swim. Then for a time, Time stood still in the little striped tent.

Some time later the girl squirmed blissfully in Clanton’s arms, stretched her white arms luxuriously above her head and then threw them about his thick neck, laughing with pure joy. She kissed him with a gusto still not satiated in the slightest.

This encounter is only a brief respite from Clanton’s life and death predicament, with Ahmed and Shaykh Ali ibn Zahir after his shipment of guns meant the Berber chiefs and their fighters battling the French for control of Algeria. In El Borak-like fashion, Clanton’s sympathies lie with the Berbers fighting the imperialistic French.

The story concludes with Aicha saving Clanton by taking and wearing Augusta Evan’s garments as a disguise to distract the bad guys while Clanton makes good his escape.  The haughty schoolteacher gets her comeuppance by being put on a donkey and sent riding though the countryside wearing only a pair of eyeglasses.

An argument could be made that Howard was having a bit of fun at Novalyne Price’s expense by having his attractive schoolteacher character humiliated in such a way. No doubt Howard was still smarting from the betrayal by his best friend, Lindsey Tyson and his girlfriend, who were dating behind his back.

“Desert Blood” appeared in the June 1936 issue of Spicy-Adventure Stories – it is not known if Howard saw it in print before he died.

After writing “Desert Blood,” quickly started writing another spicy story, “The Purple Heart of Erlik.” The story centers around a pretty young woman who is blackmailed by a scoundrel named Duke Tremayne into stealing a valuable jewel. For this outing, Howard makes his spicy hero a real bastard. While he does not actually rape Arline Ellis, the story’s heroine, he sure seems to be giving it his best shot.

Clanton runs into Arline in Shanghai – again. It seems he’s been following her across the globe and tells her “…I came to Shanghai just because I heard you were here…” It sounds like Clanton has been stalking his lovely prey. He further states:

If I didn’t think you were so good-looking, I’d smack your ears back!…Now are you going to be nice or do I have to get rough?…Nobody interferes with anything that goes on in alleys behind dumps like the Bordeaux…Any woman caught here’s fair prey.

Apparently not a big believer that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, Clanton attempts to take her by force. In the ensuing struggle, Arline crowns him with a water pitcher, momentarily rendering him senseless as she makes good her escape.

It is interesting that in hiding behind the Sam Walser pseudonym, Howard could channel all his frustrations and negative thoughts into the character by pretty much making Clanton a bastard. With his problems collecting money he was owed from Weird Tales and his mother’s failing health, coupled with the stress of his failing relationship with Novalyne, he certainly needed some outlet for his anger.

Getting back to our heroine, who jumps from the frying pan into the fire when, impersonating an English noblewoman, she meets with Woon Yuen, yet another of Howard’s Oriental villains, who possesses the “Purple Heart of Erlik,” the jewel she has been sent to Shanghai to steal. Yuen, it seems, is a bigger bastard than Clanton, and after figuring out her game, he promptly rapes Arline and tosses her into an alley. Regaining his senses, Clanton comes to her rescue, deals with Tremayne and Woon Yeun, and gets his reward in the arms of Arline.

“The Purple Heart of Erlik,” along with “Desert Blood,” were quickly scooped up by Editor Armer for Spicy-Adventure, and with the year winding down, Howard accomplished his goal of breaking into new markets. He mentions the new markets he’s cracked in a December 17, 1935 letter to Robert H. Barlow:

In the past few months I have made three new markets, Western Aces, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Adventures. In addition to the magazines above mentioned my work has appeared in Ghost Stories, Argosy, Fight Stories, Oriental Stories, Sport Stories, Thrilling Adventures, Texaco Star, The Ring, Strange Detective, Super-Detective, Strange Tales, Frontier Times and Jack Dempsey’s Fight Magazine.

However, after successfully selling “Desert Blood” and “The Purple Heart of Erlik,” Howard falls off the spicy wagon again with two rejected non-Clanton spicy stories.

To be continued…

Don’t Dilly-Dally Around – Place Your Order Today!

The REH Foundation Press has already sold half the print-run of Spicy Adventures. The book is due out the end of September with a print run of 200 copies. 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 I / Part III / Part IV / Part V