The Business, Part 7: 1957

[Part 6 is here.]

On February 4, 1957, agent for the Howard heirs Oscar J. Friend wrote to Glenn Lord, acknowledging “payment of the remaining balance” for use of Howard’s poems; this payment “cover[ed] in full the royalties due on a limited edition of 350 copies based on a retail price of $2.50 each.” The letter goes on to discuss the pitfalls of publishing, recognizing that “printing costs are very high and that no publisher is likely to bring down the price very handily based on so limited an edition.” Friend closes by offering some advice on who to contact regarding methods of distribution. On February 25th, the contract for “The Collected Poetical Works of Robert E. Howard” was prepared and a copy sent to Lord for signing.

Included with the contract was a letter of the same date, in which Friend tells Lord that he has “been unable to establish contact with the defunct Weird Tales and [editor] Mrs. McIlwraith. Further, I have had no reply from the Howard estate on possible old pictures of Howard or any existing and heretofore unpublished mss.” He closes by suggesting that Lord “send me a break-down of all your figures [. . .] and let me get bids for you from a couple of New York publishers before you commit yourself.”

Lord responded on February 28, saying that he “would be very glad to get any lower bids on the publishing of the collection; the prices in Houston are outrageous.” He provides Friend with his publishing specifications and the following:

Contract received and apparently all right, so am enclosing one copy and the due $100. I presume the title of the collection does not necessarily have to be “The Collected Poetical Works”—I plan to use “Always Comes Evening.” The same either way but the latter seems a better title. Also I plan to slightly change titles of 2 of the unpublished poems you sent—“Chant of the White Beard” to “Pagan Chant”; and “Rune of the Ancient One” to “Rune.” Mean about the same and a lot less cumbrous. If you should hear from the Howard Estate about a picture or unpublished MSS will include them if usable. If not, I’ll go ahead with what I have. I am still short a few poems—have promise of aid, but have not received any as yet.

The two unpublished poems Lord mentions are both from the then-unpublished “Men of the Shadows” which de Camp had found in the Agency files (see end of Part 4).

And the business of putting the poetry collection together continued. On March 4, 1957, Friend sent Kuykendall a royalty check for the poetry collection, saying that when “the book is ready I will see that you get author copies of same.” Meanwhile, Lord had contacted Frank Utpatel about doing the cover for the volume. Utpatel responded on March 14, explaining that he charged Arkhan House $35 for black and white work, and as “your jacket would be in somewhat the same vein the terms would be the same.” And on March 31, Glenn finally received copies of the poems from The Fantasy Fan from Larry Farsace.

Lord sent Friend a progress report on May 3, saying that he was “still short several poems.” He was also apparently tired of waiting around:

Did you ever hear from the Howard Estate? If not could you furnish me with the address as I have about decided to go out to Brownwood and Cross Plains in June. At Brownwood, I intend to look through the Memorial Library at Howard Payne College—that is, if the Library is still in the college library. May be able to find a picture of Howard there also.

Sometime before May 5, Lord had discovered Howard’s listing in Who’s Who Among North American Authors. On that day he wrote to the publishers of the Coleman Democrat-Voice, which was mentioned in Howard’s entry, asking about Howard-related items. The publishers responded, saying that “Many of the old files are in the back, and we would be glad for you to take a look at them.” Shortly after May 6, Lord received a note from Oscar Friend saying, “No, I have not had a word from Dr. P. M. Kuykendall, Ranger, Texas, administrator of the Howard estate. And no picture of Robert Howard. And, certainly, you may write to him and definitely look through the library at Brownwood. The best of luck to you.” As with so many things when researching Howard, Glenn discovered that you needed a man on the ground, or a large travel budget.

Also that May, some of his contacts finally started paying off. On the 28th, former editor of The Phantagraph Donald A. Wollheim responded to one of Lord’s inquiries: “I was pleased to receive your letter and to hear that you are going to do the Robert E. Howard poems in a single book. It has been long overdue! A good many years have passed since he died and I do not honestly believe I have encountered a writer since with his particular verve and vigor—certainly none who can manage to get it into poetic form as well as fictional style.” Included with his letter were typed copies of “Song at Midnight” and the verse heading from “Red Blades of Black Cathay.”

And on May 29, Sam Moskowitz wrote that he could type up the Weird Tales poems Glenn was lacking, if he still needed them, and gave him a new nugget of information:

A man who knew a great deal about Howard was E. Hoffmann Price, one of his closest friends. I am not completely sure, but I seem to remember reading something about Price dying recently. Derleth might conceivably know where to locate Price.

Lord received the same advice in a May 30 letter from Lee Baldwin: “Getting back to the verse book, have you tried E. Hoffmann Price, Redwood City, Calif?” In another letter (June 14), Baldwin suggests that Lord contact Thurston Torbett in Marlin, Texas, saying that “I wrote him about 10 or 11 years ago with relation to another matter. I was trying to establish some kind of coralation [sic.] with the death pattern of a lot of our best horror writers through a given period.” (Here’s one of Torbett’s letters from that exchange that Brian Leno posted a while ago.)

Glenn also received an offer of assistance from Dale Hart. Apparently at some earlier date, Glenn had asked for help from Hart. In a June 10, 1957 letter, Hart explains his reasons for not helping sooner, which included his doubts as to whether Glenn could “produce a worthy volume of verse to memorialize Robert E. Howard’s poetry” and the apathy toward the project he encountered at a New York convention, “Apathy—and, I might add, a little resentment toward you, an outsider in the clannish circles of old fans.” Despite these and other issues, Hart finally decided to offer his “whole-hearted support of the volume” and asked to accompany Glenn on his trip to the Post Oaks region. This request was too late, though, as by June 13, Glenn was already reporting what he had found in Cross Plains to Oscar Friend, which included the poem “The Tempter” and the location of a certain Trunk (see Glenn’s letter here).

Upon his return home, Glenn wrote to E. Hoffmann Price. Price replied on June 15:

Somewhere I have—or think I have!—a few feet of microfilm, from the effects of the late Robert H. Barlow, containing some Howard poems. I also have some tear sheets of magazine material, or think I have—the doubt arises because of a vague recollection of having loaned some material to Stuart W. Boland, of San Francisco.

Price goes on to say that he does have “a studio portrait of Howard” and “a studio shot of Howard as a small boy.”

While in Cross Plains, it appears that Lord heard about Norris Chambers, perhaps from Lindsey Tyson. Chambers was then living in Fort Worth, so Lord wrote to Hart over in Dallas to investigate. Hart told Lord in a June 15, 1957 note that he had spoken with Chambers and that he “has some poetry, mostly fragments from letters, which he is going to dig up for me.” On June 19, Lord sent the manuscript of Always Comes Evening to Oscar Friend for approval, but added that the contents might not be set: “There is a chance I might get something from a friend of Howard’s in Ft. Worth.”

On June 20, Dale Hart wrote to Glenn that “Norris Chambers is still digging up Howard stuff. I should be able to get a look at it this weekend.” Hart also suggests that the print-run for the poetry volume be increased and that he be allowed to write a Foreword or Introduction. Glenn agreed to this, and in a June 24 postcard Hart thanks him, and also says, “You may be sure that I shall annotate all material received from Chambers.”

In his June 25 letter to Friend, between talk of publishing details, Glenn informs the agent that he has “done everything possible to collect all of the Howard verse considering limited time (and finances).” And he was still looking. A July 9 postcard from Donald Wollheim shows that Lord had several irons in the fire: “Happening to be in the New York Public Library today, I took advantage of the occasion to look up a couple of your REH references. I found the volume Modern American Poetry: 1933 and the two poems therein,” which were “One Who Comes at Eventide” and “To a Woman.” Wollheim offers to copy them for Lord.

Meanwhile, Dale Hart had driven over to Fort Worth and met with Norris Chambers. He sent Glenn the results of that meeting on July 17: “I enclose five Robert Ervin Howard poems—‘Emancipation,’ ‘To a Woman,’ and three without titles, plus one fragment.” He also had more material, “written from margin to margin on some crumpled sheets,” and said that he would “have the devil’s own time copying it,” but would send along the results in a few days. He was “afraid to send the original through the mail” for obvious reasons. And on July 24 he sent “nine more Howard poems”: “A Song of the Don Cossacks,” “Babel,” “The Heart of the Sea’s Desire,” “Moon Shame,” “Niflheim,” “Laughter in the Gulfs,” and three untitled.

Throughout August Glenn was shopping around for printers and receiving advice from fans and professionals. On August 11, he sent Oscar Friend the mss., saying, “I believe that this will represent all material that will be in the book.” Lord worked with August Derleth to find a suitable printer and on September 1 informed Friend that due to costs, he was “forced to increase the price to $3 per copy and the edition to 500 copies.” Unfortunately, the printer Derleth had suggested, the George Banta Company, wrote to Lord on September 17, saying that they were “sorry to reply to your inquiry about the printing of Always Comes Evening in the negative.” And Glenn was still waiting for Dale Hart’s introduction.

For a while it looked like the only sort of Howard publishing that would occur in 1957 was the September issue of Fantastic Universe, which ran the first part of Nyberg and de Camp’s Return of Conan, published complete in Gnome Press’ book of the same title later that year. By November 21, even Dale Hart was wondering, “any news about the REH collection? Any delay, or is the book on schedule (as far as you know)?” But things had progressed and as early as December 10, copies of the book had been delivered to purchasers; on that day Larry Farsace wrote to Glenn: “what a pleasant surprise, the copy of the new book, Always Comes Evening, which arrived yesterday.”

In his Foreword to the volume, Glenn wrote the following:

I have included in this volume all verse by the late Robert Ervin Howard that could be located. However many of his poems were never published and it is highly probable that some were lost in the twenty-one years since his death.

Truer words were never spoken.

[Part 8 is here.]