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Last year when I was lining up the contents for TGR #14, I almost typed up an e-mail to Steve Tompkins. He had been contributing an essay to every other issue of TGR for several years. Of course, I quickly realized Stave was no longer with us and that got me to reflecting on his untimely death on March 23, 2009.
After eating a meal at a Burger King restaurant, Steve developed a severe case of food poisoning that soon led to hospitalization. A few days later he suffered a heart attack and died.
When the news spread of his death, shock, sadness and grief set in among his family, friends and fans. Tributes to Steve flooded the internet in the days and weeks following his death. One tribute in particular that comes to mind is Deuce Richardson’s “His Like Will Not Be Here Again” at The Cimmerian blog.
For many years prior to his death, Steve wrote an astounding number of defining essays on Howard and his writing. He was published in a who’s who of Howard journals and magazines: The Cimmerian (both blog and journal), The Chronicler of Cross Plains, The Dark Man, REH: Two-Gun Raconteur and The Robert E. Howard Companion.
His writings appeared in three Del Rey books, Kull, Exile of Atlantis and Grim Lands: The Best of Robert E. Howard, Volume II, El Borak and Other Desert Adventures, and in two collections of Howardian essays, The Barbaric Triumph and The Robert E. Howard Reader. He also edited the Bison book titled The Black Stranger and Other American Tales.
TGR #13 features a collection of eleven special tributes to Steve — you can read those tributes here. Also, Steve’s blog postings are archived at The Cimmerian website and you can read his final contribution to TGR, “Black Stranger, White Wolflord or Not Out of the Woods Yet” here.
At age 48 Steve was still a young man, with many more years left to be lived. While there will be no more insight on a number of topics from Steve, he did leave behind a huge body of work that will live on both on the web and in print.
Since his death life has gone on, as has Howardom. New scholars have emerged and old Howard hands have continued to expound on REH and his writings via the internet and in print. But there is still that huge, unfilled void left when Steve passed away — a void I dare say will always be with us.