The Business, Part 9: 1959

[Part 8 is here.]

At the end of 1958, Glenn Lord was collecting, and seeking information on, Robert E. Howard’s published and unpublished material. He wrote the following to Oscar J. Friend on November 28, 1958:

I wonder if you might sometime supply me with the titles of the Howard stories that you have, signifying the ones that you believe to have been previously published. This would be very helpful in an otherwise uncertain indexing and would in fact be mutually beneficial as I am collecting the magazines containing Howard stories and would be able to loan you copies of stories not in your files should the need arise.

Besides Friend, Lord had feelers out in both the fan and professional communities. By the beginning of 1959, he was even receiving information from overseas regarding foreign publications, but it appears that his major interest was in tracking down unpublished material.

On January 12, 1959, Stuart M. Boland responded to one of Glenn’s earlier letters:

I corresponded with Bob for quite some time before his demise—also with his father. I have not located the missives, but if recollection and reminiscence will help, I can give you some rather colorful data concerning the letters we exchanged on European topics, art culture, archeology and anthropology, ecology and the Dark Ages. I was abroad for the goodly part of a year (1935) and wrote from Yugoslavia, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Azores, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, England, Scotland, Ireland, Austria, Portugal, Belgium, Greece, Holland, Switzerland, and all the usual areas of the Grand Tour. I also wrote from North Africa, (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, etc.) ditto Asia Minor, Turkey, Palestine, etc. He replied via American Express “post haste” and asked about Pompeii, Bosco Reali, Herculaneum, Rhodes, Olympus, Palmyra, Orvieto, Palermo, etc. I corresponded with H. P. Lovecraft also on Latin American cultures: Mayas, Zapotecs, Aztecs, Incas, etc.

Glenn wrote back, apparently asking for copies of the letters, and Boland responded on February 1st: “All I can give you is a ‘Remembrance of Robert Howard’ based on what I recall of his correspondence. Laney had all the original papers and missives.” Of course, by this time, Francis T. Laney, publisher of The Acolyte, was dead.

Glenn wrote to Laney’s widow and received a letter back, dated February 6: “As soon as I can find a bit of time I’ll get into Francis’ files and see if the tear sheets of Howard’s material and the Lovecraft correspondence is there.” Two months later, April 25, she wrote again: “I have at last gone through all Mr. Laney’s effects. I did not find either the tear sheets or the Howard-Lovecraft correspondence. I am sorry. Neither did I find reference or correspondence which would have indicated where they might be.” This lead was a dead end.

Meanwhile, Lord continued his correspondence with Lenore Preece, telling her that former Junto contributor Truett Vinson was living near her in Austin. Preece replied on January 19, 1959, saying that it was “quite a surprise to learn that Truett is in Austin.” She is hesitant to contact him and adds that she thinks “it would be best for you to write him directly.” She closes by saying that of his friends, “Truett and Clyde knew Bob better than anyone.”

Glenn sent Lenore some information on Howard and she responded on February 2: “I shall be very happy when I can reciprocate to some extent by sending you copies of my remaining material.” And this:

I do hope you can get something from Truett. Bob wrote so voluminously, surely someone must have preserved a few of his writings or letters. I would be reluctant to turn loose of the letters I have unless I were quite convinced there was no chance of their publication in book form.

Preece wrote again on April 6, hoping Glenn would send her copies of Howard’s letters to August Derleth, which Glenn had discovered were in the State of Wisconsin Historical Society’s archives. [Note: Amra editor George Scithers had just found this stash as well; he and Lord joined forces to acquire copies and Scithers published several excerpts from the letters in his fanzine.] She also promised to keep looking for Howard material—“I sent several appeals to Norbert P. Sydow [a Junto contributor] to look through his (inaccessible) papers but was unable to bring it about. However, my sister is in touch with him; and I feel quite sure that if he ever goes through his souvenirs, he will loan me anything of Bob’s he has.”—as well as sending what she already has: “I am sending you copies of the Bob Howard letters you do not have. Also, two sketches. That about concludes the inventory except for a few sketches by Bob and his comments on The Junto. I do not think you would be particularly interested in them; but if at any time you are, let me know.”

The letters she sent were from Howard to her brother, Harold Preece. Lenore added a post script to the above letter:

You will note the letter of 9-18-29 contains some racial prejudice against the Negroes. After Buchenwald and Belsen it seems to me that racial prejudice is too robust a dish for civilized people. If you send anybody a copy of Bob’s letter, will you please delete this reference? Bob would no doubt have changed his views with more maturity.

At some point during this time, Glenn had contacted Tevis Clyde Smith. Glenn told me that his first contacts with Smith were not productive; Smith was guarded and standoffish. Glenn wrote to Lenore Preece about him and she responded on September 2:

I think Clyde’s idea of writing down his reminiscences very worthwhile. At one time in Bob’s life, Truett and Clyde were his closest friends. I wish Truett and Norris [Chambers] would also record their impressions. However, I can’t agree that Clyde was Bob’s only close friend with writing ability. Booth Mooney and Harold considered themselves close friends, and both have written books. Their concept preceded Bob’s death and posthumous recognition.

And Glenn wasn’t the only person acquiring rare Howard material. Earlier that year, George H. Scithers had visited Ed Price. On January 26, 1959, he wrote to Oscar Friend: “While going through some of Robert E. Howard’s tear sheets—now in the hands of E. Hoffmann Price—I came across a couple of unpublished fragments of Howard’s work:” these were “But the Hills Were Ancient Then” and the untitled fragment that begins “The wind from the Mediterranean . . .” He transcribed both pieces for Friend and then continued: “By now, you should have gotten a copy of AMRA, Volume 2 number 1, which, by an arrangement with George Heap, I am publishing for the time being. I would like very much to obtain your permission to publish these two fragments.”

Learning of these finds, Lord wrote to Scithers, who responded with a postcard postmarked May 28: “As far as I know, Price has nothing else of Howard’s.” The two items he’d found appeared consecutively in the November and December issues of Amra in 1959. The only other Howard publishing that year was a reprint of “The Cairn on the Headland” in the Donald A. Wollheim edited Ace paperback, The Macabre Reader, which appeared on Newsstands in or before April of that year.

That summer, Lord and his wife vacationed in California and Glenn finally met Price face-to-face, as well as George Scithers and Clark Ashton Smith. On August 23, Price wrote to Glenn, thanking him for stopping by, and included the following comments:

My inclination is to divide the Howard tear sheets among the collectors & students I know. That would be better than letting the pages fall apart, from age & chemical deterioration, unshared by those who, like yourself, [are] as keenly interested in REH’s writings. The letters from REH to HPL must be in the hands of someone who prefers to keep rather than return. Totaling literally a ream of paper, those letters could not have remained hidden in the Lamasery, after all the reshuffling of recent months.

[. . .] Howard had mentioned Tevis Clyde Smith, either in letters or during my visits to Cross Plains. I wish that I could have met him.

Either during his trip or shortly thereafter, Glenn acquired copies of Howard’s letters to Clark Ashton Smith. Sometime in September or October, Smith wrote Glenn a note. On a card dated only “1959” Smith says, “The letters from Howard were all I could locate of his. I suppose they were formal because we wrote so few and had never met.”

Following his visit with Price and Smith, Glenn started contacting other members of the Lovecraft circle who might have corresponded with Howard, including Frank Belknap Long, Bernard Dwyer, and Wilfred B. Talman. On September 22, Talman responded to Glenn’s inquiry:

I never had any extensive correspondence with Bob Howard. Perhaps there were as many as two or three letters of any length and any consequence, other than what perfunctory communications might have passed between us when he submitted “The Ghost of Camp Colorado” at my suggestion to The Texaco Star. I remember only one letter that was of any length or significance and was at all personal. I probably still have it with all my correspondence I have saved in very general chronological order for close to 40 years, but it would be a chore to find it. You’re welcome to it if you think it would be any addition, but it would not be well to get your hopes up about its having any value as to content. It may or may not have accompanying it a snapshot he sent at the time—I think it was a simple picture in Western attire.

On November 24, he received the following from Dwyer’s brother: “I am sorry I mislaid your letter, but must tell you that my brother passed away some time ago, and I do not know about the correspondence you were interested in.”

Earlier in the year, Glenn had started wondering about how to disseminate the information he was acquiring. Through his collecting activities he had met an amateur with a private press, Alvin Fick. On October 8, Fick wrote to Lord:

Your Robert E. Howard bibliography project is very intriguing. I am certainly susceptible to this type of printing commitment for my private press, in view of my interest in Howard and my bookish outlook in general. How many pages and how many copies do you anticipate?

Eventually, Fick would become the printer of a new Howard publication.

Finally, 1959 marks the first hint (that I’m aware of) of Howard’s future comic book success in English language publications. Howard’s “Queen of the Black Coast” had earlier been spun into a lengthy, unauthorized series of Mexican comic books (see Jeffrey Shanks’ blog), but prior to Oscar Friend’s April 19 letter to Kuykendall, there’s not much mention of Howard in the comics. Friend’s letter has this:

I have just completed a two-year lease for $15 for THE VALLEY OF THE WORM with a Mr. Gilbert Kane to make a cartoon pix of it, and I herewith include my check for $13.50 in payment thereof.

Unless I’m missing something (I’m not all that up to date on the comics), this interpretation didn’t see print until the April 1973 issue of Supernatural Thrillers (#3) published by Marvel Comics.

[Part 10 is here.]