The Hyborian Age

Since we are half way through 2015, I thought I’d pause and highlight the various Robert E. Howard books and publications that have appeared so far this year.

The latest and my personal favorite is the recent edition of “The Hyborian Age,” one of the rarest Howard items sought after by collectors. I’ve only seen one copy in person at that was at a behind the scenes tour at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin where a copy was being prepared for a public display of Howard materials. It was sight to behold. Of course I couldn’t actually handle it, but it was still a thrill just to see it.

Here is a description of the facsimile publication of the “Hyborian Age” from the Skelos Press website.

Skelos Press is proud to present a facsimile edition of one of the rarest and most valuable of all Conan and Robert E. Howard publications – the legendary 1938 chapbook The Hyborian Age published by LANY Cooperative. Originally compiled by Forrest J. Ackerman, Donald Wollheim, and several other notable fans of the time, this booklet contains the first full publication of Howard’s world-building essay “The Hyborian Age,” along with the first published map of Conan’s world. It also includes the first appearance of the famous essay “A Probable Outline of Conan’s Career” by P. Schuyler Miller and Dr. John D. Clark, as well as an introductory letter from H. P. Lovecraft. This modern facsimile edition includes a new introductory essay by Howard expert and pulp scholar Jeffrey Shanks discussing the history of this publication and the back-story behind “The Hyborian Age.”

This  facsimile edition is the next best thing to owning an original copy and a whole lot cheaper. You can purchase it from

girasol-WeirdTales-July1933Girasol Collectibles, which is ceasing publication of its pulp replicas, published its final two issues Weird Tales, both featuring a Howard story:  Volume 22 Number 1, July 1933 (“The Man on the Ground”) and Volume 25 Number 2, February 1935 (“The Grisly Horror”). These replicas, which allowed fans to read Howard’s stories as they first appeared, will be sorely missed by the many fans (myself included) who collected them.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t toss out a shameless plug for the new issue of the REH: Two-Gun Raconteur print journal, even though sales very been good for issue 18, I still have copies available.

An outfit called Fiction House Press has published four books of PD material, mostly lifted from the Gutenberg Australia website. Titles include Red Nails, A Gent from Bear Creek, The Devil In Iron (which includes “A Witch Shall Be Born” and “Jewels of Gwahlur”) and Queen of the Black Coast (which includes “The People of the Black Circle”). I  imagine everyone has these stories in one form or another already, but still outlets like Fiction House continue to publish them over and over again just because they can.

Le Guide Howard (The Howard Guide) by Patrice Louinet is a nice little volume that was published in April. It is currently available only in French, but Patrice is hard at work on an English version. Here is a description of the book (translated from the publisher’s website):

His texts have shaped the codes of fantasy. His characters (Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane …) marked generations of readers. For fifteen years, Robert E. Howard knows a true literary resurrection.

Free of interference of those who have appropriate after his death, his founding work is now accessible in all its strength through friendly editions of his work.

Written by Patrice Louinet, one of the biggest specialists in the world of Howard, this guide full of new information explores the many facets of a rich work, debunks the past prejudices, and gives us many reasons to (re) read again and again.


I. Ten myths about Howard
II. The twenty new need to have read (and why)
III. Biography
IV. Twenty other texts that also deserve your attention
V. Few terse words in ten other texts
VI. Conan, the real and imitation
VII. On Howard
VIII. Adaptations
IX. Around Howard
X. Dear Mr. Lovecraft
XI. Read Howard

So if you are like me and can’t read French, fear not because an English edition will soon be forthcoming.

Bobby Derie complied the Addenda and Index to The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, which was published by the REHF Press early this year. In addition to Addenda and Index, Derie created abstracts of all the letters in the three volumes on a Wikithulhu webpage. It’s a perfect tool for scholars and researchers to get a handle on what they are looking for. Here is the blurb for the book from the REHF website:

11594_10203070105425884_2880174201235088716_nThe Robert E. Howard Foundation Press is proud to present this long-awaited index to the three-volume The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard. Compiled by Bobby Derie, author of Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos, with a foreword and annotations by REHF Award-winning author Jeffrey Shanks, this important reference work provides a much-needed tool for researchers studying the correspondence of the father of sword and sorcery and the creator of Conan the Cimmerian. Also included are seventeen letters by Howard newly discovered since the publication of The Collected Letters, including several drafts of letters to H. P. Lovecraft, all wrapped up in fine cover by Jim & Ruth Keegan. This index is a must-have for fans and scholars wishing to explore the fascinating epistolary corpus of one of the greatest fantasy adventure writers of the 20th century.


Ordering details also appear on the webpage.

The fourth and final volume of Fists of Iron: The Collected Boxing Fiction of Robert E. Howard was published in April:

The REH Foundation Press is proud to present Fists of Iron, Round 4, the final volume of a four-volume series that presents the Collected Boxing Fiction of Robert E. Howard. This volume features the collected Kid Allison stories and measures in at 347 pages (plus introductory material). It will be printed in hardback with dust jacket, with the first printing limited to 200 copies, each individually numbered. Cover art by Tom Gianni and introduction by Mark Finn. Now shipping.

This volume rounds out the collection nicely and is a must have for any true Howard aficionado. Copies are still available. Also, a fifth companion volume is in the works.

Finally, if you a either a Friend of REH or a Legacy Circle member of The Robert E. Howard Foundation, three newsletters have been published so far this year, with two more planned. The REHF Newsletter appears quarterly.

As for the second half of the year, who knows what is in store for Howard fans. A lot of things are cooking, we’ll just have to wait and see what is served up.

IMGI was a fan of Earl Norem and his wonderful artwork before I even knew there was a writer named Robert E. Howard.

Mr. Norem passed away on June 19th, and this news, sad as it was, did serve to remind me how this talented man’s illustrations were very much a part of my childhood. I returned to the pleasant days when I was a very young boy, visiting bookstores at least once every week, hoping to have enough change to pick up the latest Turok, Son of Stone comic, or a boxing magazine, or a copy of Real West. 

This was before the Howard boom and one of my reading thrills was picking up true western mags, and my favorite was Real West, which, almost always—or so it seemed to me—sported a cover by Norem, just like the example pictured to the left.

Earl Norem helped develop my reading habits.  Beautiful artworkIMG_0002 could suck me into buying the periodical but once I got over the cover the only recourse left was to read the articles and that’s exactly what I did.  During this youth of mine I devoured lots of boxing and western history, and of course couldn’t get enough of the adventures of comic characters such as Turok and his pal Andar as they battled the “honkers” of Lost Valley.

All this pre-teen activity paved the way for Howard and his yarns of pugilists, gunslingers, and of past times that never were but should have been.

Some of this is due to Earl Norem and I owe him one of those debts that can never be paid.  A few years later I was amazed when I started seeing his covers to The Savage Sword of Conan.  I mean what the hell? Norem was a western artist, right?  I never knew until much later just how prolific this artistic juggernaut was.

During his lifetime of art Mr. Norem’s work appeared in men’s adventure magazines, Reader’s Digest and the venerable Field and Stream.  When I started collecting non-sport trading cards I found more Norem, most notably on the Mars Attacks! and Conan sets which were appearing and then taking away some of my hard earned dollars.  He also worked with Marvel on titles such as Tales of the Zombie and Planet of the Apes.  The list is damn near endless.  Always the work was top-notch and instantly recognizable as belonging to the hand of a master who could clearly draw a story as well as some writers could type it.

I am fortunate enough to have an original Norem in my poor man’s art gallery and I’ve included it here, even though my scanner has made it a bit blurry.  This is from Island of Danger, a story book he illustrated which starred the Fantastic Four.

Like I said, this guy could paint anything.  And he always did it well—he can’t be replaced.

One side note which may be of interest to Howard fans.  The copy of Real West displayed above contains an article by Howard pal Harold Preece, “The Sorry Saga of Charley Pierce.”


This year at Howard Days, I talked to a couple of people about my obsession with the minutia of Robert E. Howard’s life. While I am a firm believer that the more we know, the clearer the picture of the writer from Cross Plains will become, I still think some of the things that intrigue me are pretty far out in left field. But the folks I talked to said that they found these things interesting, too, and that I should keep on keeping on. Well, I’ve got a few things lined up that may change their minds. Read on, if you dare.

When I first became interested in Howard’s life he seemed to be characterized as kind of a lone nut, with only a couple of friends over in Brownwood and maybe one or two more in Cross Plains. But when you start digging, others emerge. Without mentioning any female companionship (we’ll get to that at a later time), Howard had more friends than just Clyde Smith, Truett Vinson, Dave Lee, and Lindsey Tyson.

Reading Howard’s correspondence and autobiographical writings reveals other friends, including Aud “Slue Foot” Cross, Winfred Brigner, and Ottie Gill, not to mention Harold Preece and E. Hoffmann Price who both visited Cross Plains on more than one occasion. The de Camp papers at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin contain interviews with other Howard pals like Austin Newton, Leroy Butler, and Tom Ray Wilson. Even Howard’s hometown newspaper, the Cross Plains Review, has items of interest like this one from July 25, 1924: “Earl Baker of Ballinger visited Robert Howard last week.” (Baker was a buddy from the Burkett days.) These were all people who came in and out of Howard’s life, friends of circumstance like we all have from time to time, while our core group remains somewhat stable. To this list we should add Ray Adams.

Not too long ago Patrice Louinet sent me a clipping from the November 16, 1923 edition of the Cross Plains Review:

1923 11-16 REH in CPR

One little clipping, and a question: did I know anything about Ray Adams. At the time, I’d never even heard of him, now I know more than anyone outside of his family needs to know. I’ll share the relevant bits here.

Alton Ray Adams was born in Eastland County, Texas, on October 11, 1905, the first child of William and Fannie. His father was a farmer. Sometime after the 1910 enumeration of the U.S. Census but before the end of the year 1919, the Adams family had moved to Cross Plains and gained two more members: Kermit and Bonnie. And if they hadn’t met earlier, Ray Adams and Robert E. Howard would have bumped into each other at the Methodist Church on Christmas Eve 1919 where they are both on the program giving readings, as reported on December 26.

1919 12-26 REH in CPR

Presumably, Adams attended school in Cross Plains and, since he was just a few months older, may have had classes with Robert E. Howard, whose family had moved to Cross Plains in 1919. If they attended school together, they don’t appear to have been in the same class: Adams is not listed with Howard in the graduating class of 1922 that appeared in the paper. But he is one of the young men, along with Howard, mentioned in the following July 28, 1922 item:

1922 07-28 REH in CPR

After the radio experiment, Robert E. Howard went off to Brownwood for another year of high school. Ray Adams moved back to Eastland County, Cisco to be precise. But the two appear to have been good enough friends that they tried to stay in touch. When Howard returned to Cross Plains in 1923, Adams visited at least once, as the clip at the head of this post indicates.

How long the pair remained friends is a mystery. Like many school friendships, it may have simply dwindled away, or perhaps they became pen pals, though I haven’t found reference to Adams in Howard’s surviving correspondence. Whatever the case, sometime before the death of his father, W. M. Adams in June 1934, Ray had moved to Montana. He died there in 1942.

1934 06-29 Family info in CPR(From the June 29, 1934 Cross Plains Review)


This entry filed under Howard Biography, Howard's School Days.


It’s been said that Howard Days only keeps getting better, and this year was certainly no exception.  It was a laid-back event seemingly enjoyed by all.  The turnout appeared to be about average, but extra local attendees packed the banquet tables.  The weather was clement and, though it was hot, it wasn’t extremely so.  It even rained late Saturday.  The spring rains had greened up the foliage, but unfortunately had driven so many snakes out of the ground that the Saturday evening barbecue had to be moved from the Caddo Peak Ranch to the Pavilion.  The Middleton family couldn’t be present, but it was nice that they continued their generous contribution to our event.

After the bus tour of Burkett and Cross Cut, the first Friday panel was held, as they all were, at the CP Library, where REHupan Ben Friberg videotaped them for posting on Youtube.  In keeping with the Howard/Lovecraft theme celebrating HPL’s 125th birthday this year, the panel “Conan vs. Cthulhu” featured REHupans Mark Finn and Jeff Shanks and short-story writer Scott Cupp.


As Finn explained, REH and HPL were longtime friends and correspondents.  Lovecraft especially was a prolific letter writer, penning over 100,000 letters to many correspondents, most of whom were of a very literary, erudite bent.  This correspondence preserves much of what we know of both men.  These exchanges were more beneficial to Howard because they helped him perfect his craft.  Their letters seem almost schizoid in nature, first because they seemed to follow two interweaving tracks, one answering the other’s previous letter point by point, and second because their exchanges could at times be friendly and encouraging, relating experiences and sharing clippings and postcards, and at other times be strident and contentious as they debated issues of a social, historical, or political nature.

Shanks opined that HPL should have paid more attention to REH’s suggestions and example, though they may have led him to insert some action in his “The Shadow over Innsmouth.”  They discussed concepts, entities, and backstory from their tales, even injecting references to them in their stories (such as REH’s reference to HPL’s Yog-Sothoth), making them cutting-edge pioneers in the now common art of crossover appearances and shared universes.  Cupp noted that each enjoyed writing about their native areas, which resulted in viewpoints that might be conflicting, but were always insightful.  Shanks cited a primary example of this being Howard’s stories “The Children of the Night” and “The Black Stone,” riffing off Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos stories.  Finn added that “Stone” is widely considered to be the best CM story not written by HPL.  Prior to writing it, REH had been talking about the drift and spread of mythic concepts in his letters.  Both men had gotten their ideas about Little People from anthropologist Margaret Murray and author Arthur Machen.  Lovecraft took this in the direction of regression toward fish-like creatures, while Howard employed it in portraying devolution of Picts and Turanians into savages, as in “Children.”  This type of theory is outdated now, but it had some scientific basis then.  The science behind these ideas fascinated them both.

REH did not write many Cthulhoid stories, recognizing it not to be his forte, but did include references to the CM in a lot of his tales, such as “The Tower of Elephant,” “Xuthal of the Dusk,” “A Witch Shall Be Born,” “The Scarlet Citadel,” “The Vale of Lost Women,” and “The Valley of the Worm.”  In “Men of the Shadows,” REH’s Lemurians descended from fish-men that he might have read about in HPL’s “Dagon.”  If so, this would be Lovecraft’s earliest influence on Howard.  HPL and REH name-dropped Tsathoggua into stories after first seeing it in a tale CAS had sent them prior to publication.  Shanks said that Howard owned Otto Augustus Wall’s book Sex and Sex Worship (Phallic Worship), using information from it in “Stone” and using it as the partial inspiration for his fictional book, Justin Geoffrey’s Unausspechlichen Kulten, much as Lovecraft had done with Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon.  REH may have been the first to write stories about Lovecraft’s fictional works like “The Call of Cthulhu” as if it were actual reality, which is common practice now.

Regarding the two authors’ famous barbarism vs civilization debate, Finn thinks it is significant that HPL lacked the frame of reference that REH had on the Western frontier, and so derided Howard’s views on such matters as the trampling on personal rights by policemen, as occurs in “The God in the Bowl.”  REH did send that typescript to HPL, and apparently even wrote “Pigeons from Hell” as a kind of answer to and parody of the latter’s New England horror fiction, showing that the South could be just as scary a setting for a horror story. As an advisor to the creators of the new Monolith Conan role-playing game, Shanks has been incorporating CM-related (as well as Clark Ashton Smith-related) ideas into it.  Howard added the sexual dimension to CM toad-like deities like Tsathoggua.  An audience member pointed out that recent updates by critics Kevin O’Brien and Bobby Derie have made the CM much sexier than it originally was.


Guest of Honor Mark Schultz was spotlighted in the second panel and of course later at the banquet.  He illustrated Wandering Star’s and Del Rey’s first volume of the Complete Conan, while other artists did the other volumes.  Schultz welcomed this, since each had his own interpretation of Conan, none being definitive.  He found art director Marcelo Anciano great to work with, in part because Anciano had a clear idea of what he wanted and provided a formal pattern for it.  Schultz has been drawing since childhood, starting with dinosaurs, then Tarzan, and finally Howard, whom he found was much deeper than Burroughs.  Schultz has always been fascinated with the fact that REH and HPL were dealing with the transition from the supernatural to the scientific.  Schultz first studied at Kutztown State University.  Then he went into comics because he liked illustrating stories, being an admirer of illustrators like Pyle, Wyeth, Cornwell, Frazetta, Williamson, and Wood.


Schultz’s first comics were the Xenozoic series, which he will be going back to in a new book.  For 10 years, he has been the primary writer on the Prince Valiant comic strip.  He wonders if Prince Valiant was inspired by Howard, though they may have been influenced by the same sources.  Schultz admits he is a slow, analytical worker and that a really productive artist would better know when to stop.  He finds it easy to adopt REH because the author is so sparse but dead-on in his descriptions.  In order to avoid Howard’s anachronisms, though, Schultz prefers to depict ancient, rather than medieval, armaments and forces.  The pulp artist he admires most is Hugh Rankin because of his moody, horrific interpretations, rather than focusing on musculature or action.  Schultz studies his intended subjects, but mainly goes with what is most effective dramatically.  He is careful to be as realistic and convincing as possible before he adds a fantastic element, much as REH did in his fiction.  His favorite comic artist is Wally Wood.

In his eloquent banquet speech, Schultz said he likes to illustrate science fact as well as science fiction and fantasy.  He really responds to the storytelling, adventure, atmosphere, weight of deep time, command of language, and personalization in Howard’s tales.  REH was using genres and tropes from old European fiction, while injecting his own dedication to individualism and love of freedom, making his stories far more layered and textured than one would expect from genre fiction.  Howard chose his descriptive words carefully and economically, which Schultz regards as a mark of true genius.  He has two new books coming out this summer: Portfolio and Storms at Sea.

Following presentation of the Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards, which has been covered elsewhere, there was a bus trip to REH’s grave in Brownwood’s Greenleaf Cemetery.

Scott Cupp’s wife made the interesting point that the Cross Plains Post Office has not been abolished, as so many rural post offices have been, because of the extra business provided by the REH Days pictorial cancellations and the mailing out of so many REH Foundation books.


During the traditional Fists at the Ice House talk Friday night, Finn, Gruber, and Shanks read parts of humorous Costigan and serious Kid Allison stories, as well as Howard’s historical commentary.  They then read boxing poems, even one in which Finn adopted the voice of Mohammed Ali.  They talked about REH’s motivations in writing his boxing stories, which were doubtless based in part on his personal experiences boxing with his friends at the CP ice house, not to mention his extensive knowledge of boxing history.  Afterward, many attendees went to the Pavilion to recite poetry or just talk.


The first Saturday panel was on the A Means to Freedom collection of Howard’s and Lovecraft’s letters to each another.  REHupan Rusty Burke noted that only REH’s letters survive, HPL’s letters having been accidentally burned by Dr. Howard in the early 1940s. Fortunately, Arkham House publisher August Derleth had transcribed the latter earlier.  The text of all the correspondence in the books was checked by David Schultz, while Burke and Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi did the research and annotations.  Burke said that HPL and REH were very different individuals.  Lovecraft affected an 18th-century New England gentleman, while Howard was proud of his Southwestern heritage.  Unlike HPL, REH was quick to take offense.  Panelist Jonas Prida remarked on the schizoid character of their correspondence and that each related their own life experiences regardless of whether they thought the other was actually interested in them.  Panelist Dierk Guenther said that Howard is an extremely unreliable informant, so at any one time it is difficult to tell if he is being serious or making fun of Lovecraft, which makes reading the correspondence interesting but frustrating.  Burke observed that they encouraged each other’s interests and efforts, but said it was so akin to goading that the two probably would not have maintained their friendship if they had ever met.  Prida added that they were very concerned, not only with the craft of writing, but how each could make a living as a writer.

Guenther said that REH was obviously very proud of being from Texas and was very knowledgeable about its history and culture.  Aside from “Vultures of Whapeton,” Guenther isn’t impressed with Howard’s straight westerns.  Asked if REH would have continued with westerns or returned to fantasy had he lived, Burke opined that it would probably have depended on sales, but thought he would have done more weird westerns like “Nekht Semerkeht.”  Prida said that, hard as it was to do (HPL couldn’t), Howard could bridge genres so as to appeal to another market if he couldn’t sell to a particular pulp.  As to whether they respected one another, Burke stated that their attitudes developed with time.  REH started out very deferential, but progressively became more argumentative and sarcastic.  HPL recognized the other’s skill, but thought his stories were too bloody and commercial.  In their political discussions, Lovecraft expressed admiration for Fascism as it preserved social order and favored mechanization as leading to a better, less toilsome life.  Howard strongly disagreed, prizing individual freedom and accomplishment.  Thus, they were diametrically opposed to one another regarding the relative importance of society vs. the individual.  As far as seeing themselves as literary figures, Burke said that HPL did so to some extent, though a lot of that was a pose, while REH knew what fiction was good and popular, but was more concerned with commercial success than literary recognition.  Guenther added that Howard did regard himself as a pioneer in regional writing.


REHupan Bill Cavalier introduced the Saturday panel on Fantasy Gaming by saying that, after starting to play Dungeons & Dragons in 1978 because it allowed him to be Conan, he discovered that REH had had more influence on the creation of D & D than any other author, as he confirmed with its creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.  Panelist Shanks explained that there have been several Conan role-playing and video games over the years, as well as the board game Age of Conan, but all these incorporated pastiche material and none had a Howardian feel.  Panelist and REHupan Patrice Louinet recently became an advisor to a French effort by Monolith Games to produce a Conan board game because he is an REH purist and wanted to make sure the game would be true to its source material, which he also wanted to promote the reading of.  The project involves the best designers available.  The Kickstarter campaign has raised $3.3 million, the largest amount ever pledged for a board game.  The game will debut at GenCon 2015 in July/August.


Shanks became advisor to Modiphius Games’ effort to create a Conan role-playing game because previous versions by TSR, GURPS, and Mongoose had incorporated pastiche material, and Modiphius wanted to return to the original pulp stories.  Shanks piqued their interest by describing Howard as “Burroughs meets Lovecraft.”  The Kickstarter support promises to be huge.  Shanks got them to call it Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed of.  He then enlisted Finn as a writer.  Panelist Finn said that they will produce supplement books for different phases of Conan’s life, each with different settings and rules.  Shanks got Louinet to help as an advisor and he himself is serving as art director.  Shanks will be able to select the artists, who will include Schultz, Kelly, Sanjulian, Truman, Giorello, and many others.  Finn added that they all got involved in these gaming projects because of the opportunity to pull in new Howard readers, while removing pastiche material.  Some content will have to be invented, but it will be kept as Howardian as possible.


Topping off the Saturday presentations was an interview of brothers Brad and Jeff Howard, whose great-grandfather was Dr. Howard’s brother, and Brad’s daughter Amanda.  They brought and displayed their Family Bible, which was published in 1857 and lists many ancestors going back to 1837, including REH and his parents, though it is not complete.  The book should give us significantly more information about the Howard family.  The Howards also brought their copy (only the 13th known) of the Jenkins 1937 edition of A Gent from Bear Creek, though it is in poor condition.  Louinet had first contacted the family in the course of his research into REH’s genealogy.


And for the final icing on the cake, Louinet — who has been researching Howard’s family history tirelessly for years — discovered three photos of Howard with the Butler children, who lived next door to the Howards, playing pirates, along with a photo of Hester and Patch. These have already appeared online. However, Louinet did not have the originals. Joe Henderson, son of the Butler’s daughter, came to Cross Plains on Saturday and brought the originals of the four photos, plus four more and presented them as a gift to Louinet. The four additional photos, three of which have never been seen before, include two featuring the Butler kids with Howard, the famous photo of Howard drinking out of a giant beer schooner and a photo of the Butler house with the Howard house in the background.

And so came to an end another unique and rewarding Howard Days celebration.


Photos courtesy of Russell Andrew, Rusty Burke, Rob Roehm, Jeff Shanks, Todd Vick and others


This afternoon the 2015 Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards ceremony was held at the Cross Plains Public Library. As in years past, the entertaining but crotchety duo of Rusty Burke and Bill Cavalier presided over the event. Here are the winners:

The Atlantean—Outstanding Achievement, Book By a Single Author:

Deke ParsonsJ.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and the Birth of Modern Fantasy (McFarland 2014)

The Hyrkanian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay (Print)

Jeffrey Shanks – “What the Thak?: Anthropological Oddities in Howard’s Works.” REH: Two-Gun Raconteur No. 17, June 2014.

The Cimmerian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay (Online)

Rob Roehm – “The Legend of the Trunk (8 parts)” REH: Two-Gun Raconteur blog

The Aquilonian—Outstanding Achievement, Periodical

Damon SasserREH: Two-Gun Raconteur No. 17

The Venarium  Award—Emerging Scholar

Karen Joan Kohoutek – Contributed an essay to the TGR blog on Howard’s use of Voodoo.

The Stygian—Outstanding Achievement, Website

Damon Sasser, et al. – REH: Two-Gun Raconteur (Website and Blog)

The Black River Award—Special Achievement

Ed Chaczyk  – Organizing and promoting the online drive to raise money for repairs to the Robert E. Howard house.

The Rankin Award—Artistic Achievement in the depiction of REH’s life and/or work

Tom Gianni – Cover art for Fists of Iron, Round 3 (REHF Press)

The Black Circle Award—Lifetime Achievement (at least 20 years)

Karl Edward Wagner (posthumous)

Black Circle Award Nominee for next year’s ballot

Roy Thomas

Congratulations to all the winners and I want to thank everyone who voted for and support REH: Two-Gun Raconteur, both the print journal and the blog/website. My thanks also go out the many contributors to the blog and journal who make it all possible.


In case you have not heard, Girasol Collectables is ceasing publication of its high-quality pulp replicas. Here is a post from Bill Thom’s Coming Attractions webpage on the end of an era.

That dreaded moment has come and the Girasol Pulp Replicas project is coming to a close.

We’ve stepped up production on the next three months of Replicas and we now have the final issues available to complete the sets of the Spider, Operator 5 and Terror Tales.

After this, no NEW Replicas will be added to the catalogue.

We will, for an as yet undetermined period, be keeping the existing catalogue available.

However, we may begin retiring the less-active Replicas at any time, so don’t delay if there are any you’re interested in!

Contact us before ordering large quantities to confirm availability.

For those of you accustomed to the monthly specials, you can still order that way if you prefer.

If you’re looking for individual titles, you can order them singly, or all together, whichever suits you best.

We’d like to thank everybody that has supported the project over the years, and we hope that the Replicas continue to provide reading and research enjoyment for years to come.

We do not anticipate taking on any other pulp reprint projects at this time and our Pulp Cover Gallery project is our only active item at present.

Girasol published a lot of replica issues of Weird Tales and other pulps Howard was published in. Their Weird Tales replicas included many of the Conan stories. So if you want to purchase some for the first time or get ones you are missing, now is the time before it is too late.

On the Howard Works website there is a complete list of everything published by Girasol Collectables with Howard fiction or poetry featured.


Last Sunday fantasy and science fiction fandom lost one of its greats. Chuck Miller of Underwood-Miller Inc. publishing passed away as a result of multiple organ failure at the age of 62.

The publishing partnership of Chuck and Tim Underwood began in 1976 and ended in 1994. During those 18 years the pair won numerous accolades for their books and publications, including being nominated for the World Fantasy Award in publishing five times, winning once in 1994. Chuck and Tim Underwood received a Milford Award for lifetime achievement in publishing that same year.

In addition to his publishing endevours, Chuck was a well known bookseller in Pennsylvania and a frequent dealer at various East Coast science fiction conventions. In recent years, he authored a number of “new pulp” adventures for Pro Se Productions, including a series of books featuring “The Black Centipede” and a vampire/Sherlock Holmes adventure published last year called Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires.


Back in the heady days of the 1970s Howard Boom, I came to know Chuck well and we corresponded quite frequently. He was a nice guy, always helpful and very generous. He sent me a review copy of the Howard book (Always Comes Evening) Underwood-Miller published and two chapbooks he published on his own (“Valley of the Lost” and “The Grey God Passes”). I recall Chuck sent me five copies of “The Grey God Passes,” all autographed by artist Walt Simonson, who illustrated the chapbook. Now that he is gone, I really regret losing touch with him.


Here is Chuck’s obituary:

Charles F. “Chuck” Miller, Jr., 62, of York, PA died on Sunday at Lancaster General Hospital.

Born in Columbia, PA, he was the son of the late Charles F., Sr. and Janet Wickenheiser Miller. Chuck was an independent book dealer and publisher and published over 150 books. He was a World Fantasy Award Winner in publishing science fiction. He was also nominated for the Hugo Award in science fiction publishing. He was a Graduate of Lancaster Catholic High School Class of 1970 and a Graduate of Millersville University Class of 1975 with a Bachelor of Education Degree.

Surviving is a Son: Kevin C. husband of Julie Miller of West Hempfield Twp., Daughters: Kathy F. Miller of Middletown, PA and Debora wife of Abe Bachman of Mountville, PA. 5 Grandchildren: Victoria, Mitchel, Taylor, Allison and Kara and his Best Friend: John husband of Patti Hartman of East Hempfield Twp. He was predeceased by a Brother: Chub Hilliard.

There will be a Visitation with the Family at the Clyde W. Kraft Funeral Home, Inc., 519 Walnut St., Columbia, PA on Friday, May 29, 2015 from 10:00 am – 11:00 am followed by remarks made by family members. Private Interment will be in Mountville Cemetery. The family requests that flowers be omitted. Memorial Contributions in Chuck’s memory may be made to the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic, 223 N. Lime St., Lancaster, PA 17602.

While not active in fandom or publishing in recent years, Chuck certainly made his mark on fantasy and science fiction publishing and will be missed by his many fans, friends and family members.

Photo of Chuck Miller © Andrew I. Porter.
Cover scans courtesy of Terence McVicker.
This entry filed under Howard Fandom, Howard's Fiction, Howard's Poetry, News.


“Well, now, the Emperor Charles has given them Malta, and all the rent he asks is one insignificant bird per annum, just as a matter of form. What could be more natural than for these immeasurably wealthy Knights to look around for some way of expressing their gratitude? Well, sir, that’s exactly what they did, and they hit on the happy thought of sending Charles for the first year’s tribute, not an insignificant live bird, but a glorious golden falcon encrusted from head to foot with the finest jewels in their coffers. And — remember, sir — they had fine ones, the finest out of Asia.” Gutman stopped whispering. His sleek dark eyes examined Spade’s face, which was placid. The fat man asked: “Well, sir, what do you think of that?”

“I don’t know.”

The fat man smiled complacently. “These are facts, historical facts, not schoolbook history, not Mr. Wells’s history, but history nevertheless.”

— Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

Dashiell Hammett’s famous detective novel was published in 1930, while Robert E. Howard’s “The Shadow of the Vulture” first saw print in the pages of  The Magic Carpet Magazine for January 1934. As Don Herron wrote of REH, “He came into the fiction magazine scene virtually on Hammett’s heels.”  The glorious jewelled falcon that everybody in Hammett’s novel – and the legendary film noir starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor – is chasing, was fashioned by slaves of the Order of Saint John in 1530.

Gottfried von Kalmbach, a former Knight of Saint John, and the hell-for-leather adventuress Red Sonya, were an active partnership in that year, following the 1529 siege of Vienna. They had not only survived, they had sent Sultan Suleyman their defiance and the head of his fiendish henchman, Mikhal Oglu, the Akinji leader known far and wide as the Vulture. Suleyman had failed to take Vienna and left thirty thousand of his soldiers dead outside its inadequate walls. Gottfried particularly enjoyed that knowledge. For him it partly compensated for the loss of Rhodes, and the bloody defeat at Mohacs in Hungary.

More importantly still, it meant that Suleyman would not conquer Austria and then move against Gottfried’s own homeland, Bavaria.

haseki-huerrem-sultan-roxelaneThis was splendid, but Gottfried knew the Sultan would now reckon it a matter of pride to destroy him. As for Sonya, she held a similar conviction about her sister, now the Sultan’s favourite, Roxelana, Haseki Sultan, also known as Khurrem the Joyous, the Laughing One. To Sonya she was a slut. They had been girls together, when Roxelana was Alexandra Lisowska, daughter of a priest; Sonya knew her ruthlessness and malice. Besides, it would seem desirable to her to have her relationship to the red-haired warrior woman remain secret, and nothing holds secrets better than a grave.

They turned their faces west.

Their first halting place was the Holy Roman Empire – actually, as has been pointed out again and again, an empire of the German states, then ruled by Charles V. The Archduke of Austria, Ferdinand, was Charles’s younger brother – and Gottfried despised him. The big drunkard entertained hopes of making some sort of peace with his father, who considered him a disgrace to their ancient line. He travelled with Sonya to the von Kalmbach castle near Regensburg in Bavaria, hoping his conduct at the Battle of Mohacs and at Vienna would make a difference.

It did not. Gottfried’s father, Graf Rudolph von Kalmbach, would not see him and said that Gottfried might be fed in the castle kitchen if he so desired, since the Graf “had never refused beggars.” Sonya, for perhaps the only time in her wild life, kept her temper and humbled herself before the old man, pleading with him to relent and at least see his scapegrace youngest son. She assured him that whatever else Gottfried had done, he had borne himself in battle like one of his breed, at Vienna and elsewhere. Never, at any time, had he shown himself to be any sort of weakling, coward or traitor.

“I am somewhat pleased by that, at least,” Rudolph said. “He may not have wholly forgotten that he carries von Kalmbach blood, but he was guilty of murder while still a youth, and when I sent him to redeem himself as a Knight Hospitaller, he broke his sacred vows again and again before they degraded him and struck his name from the Order’s rolls. If he had fought at Armageddon and slain the Devil, I could not forgive him those faults.”

Sonya did not upbraid him. He had received her and spoken her fair. He said nothing about her morals, or even looked askance at her, much less called her a camp follower and worse, as some men had – not that they lived long afterwards. She saw past his harsh face to the grief Gottfried had caused him. She thought him obdurate and cruel, but clearly it was no good. She could not move him.

When she rejoined Gottfried, she found him completely, silently sober – in him a more disturbing sign than if he’d been wrecking a tavern, roaring drunk. His mother and brothers had not seen him either. His sister Verene was the only one who did, braving their father’s displeasure.

MHB90654Gottfried and Sonya departed for Italy. They had both been there before – Sonya in Milan, where she had saved the Duke of Burgundy from Louise of Savoy’s assassins, and Gottfried at the sack of Rome, where Burgundy had died. This time they visited the Republic of Genoa, a first for both of them. Shortly after being thrown out of the Order of St. John, Gottfried had incurred the wrath of the great Genoese admiral, Andrea Doria, but since then Doria had changed his allegiance from the French king to the Emperor Charles. In the light of his deeds at Vienna, Gottfried had hopes that Doria would let bygones be bygones.

That legendary fighting seaman had become the greatest power in his home republic since Gottfried last crossed his path. Then, in 1524, Andrea Doria had been serving the French king Francis I, as commander of his Mediterranean fleet. He had ordered Gottfried von Kalmbach to be summarily hanged if taken, the Bavarian having plundered a Genoese ship. Since then Doria had become disenchanted with the French monarch’s meanness, like the Duke of Bourbon, and when his contract with France expired, in 1528, he entered the service of Francis’s foe, the Emperor Charles.

He had once helped place his native city under French domination. Now, with the help of some leading citizens, he briskly kicked the French out, establishing Genoa as a republic once more, under the aegis of the Empire. By the time Gottfried and Sonya arrived, Andrea Doria had reformed the constitution and ended the factional strife which weakened the city – a major achievement – by creating a new ruling class from the city’s main aristocratic families, twenty-eight “Alberghi” or clans. He declined the rule of Genoa, but the council appointed him “perpetual censor”, in the ancient Roman meaning of the title and not the modern one; the officer responsible for the census, and to an extent for state finances. Genoa awarded him two palaces, and the title “Liberator and Father of His Country” in addition.

Gottfried and Sonya found the city buzzing with news of the Bavarian’s former Order, the Hospitallers or Knights of St. John. The Emperor Charles had offered them a new base on his possession, Malta. His only conditions were that they devote themselves to fighting the Turks, which was their raison d’etre anyway, and garrison Tripoli in North Africa. The rent for the Maltese Islands was to be purely nominal; a falcon each year.

Kniphausen-HawkThe Knights decided to show their appreciation with, as Gutman tells Spade in The Maltese Falcon, a magnificent golden bird crusted with the finest jewels.  Naturally they kept the nature of the first tribute to the Emperor Charles a close secret.  So far as almost everybody knew, they were despatching an ordinary live peregrine falcon to Charles’s court.  Such would all subsequent rent-falcons be, and delivered to the Emperor’s Viceroy in Sicily, but not the first, priceless, one.  That was going to Genoa in the Knights’ own galleys.  Philippe Villiers de L’Isle Adam, the Grand Master, knew quite well that Sicilian Viceroys as a rule were incompetent, crooked, or both.

The payment was due on All Saint’s Day – November 1st – which was imminent.  The frustrated Turks had quit the siege of Vienna on October 14th the year before. Gottfried and Sonya had taken a well-deserved holiday after Vienna and the miserable visit to Ratisbon, getting to know each other and build their relationship, in bed and out.  They arrived in Genoa about a year after the siege of Vienna was lifted and the falcon was about to be delivered.

Andrea Doria was among those who knew about the jewelled bird. A great personage, a great fighting seaman, and a friend of the Emperor (now) he was asked to deliver it to Charles’s court after the Order’s galleys brought it to Genoa. He agreed. But upon hearing that Gottfried von Kalmbach was in the city, with his warrior mistress Red Sonya, Doria jumped to the conclusion that they knew about the jewelled falcon themselves – doubtless through indiscreet friends in the Order – and were planning an audacious theft. He had Gottfried hurled into prison.

Gottfried thought it was a matter of his attack on a Genoese merchant ship in 1524. He pleaded his recent brave services to the Emperor Charles’s brother at Vienna and asked for leniency. Not a spiteful fellow, and loving brave men even they were vagabonds and rogues, Andrea Doria felt inclined to issue a pardon on account of Vienna and Mohacs, but he still suspected Gottfried of designs on the falcon. He decided von Kalmbach would be safer in a dungeon until the bird was delivered, and that sweating it out a little would do his character no harm.

BarbarossaHe was right to fear for the security of the falcon, but he had looked in the wrong direction. On Malta itself, in the workshops where the gemmed golden bird had been wrought, someone had betrayed the secret in hopes of reward. The corsairs of Algiers knew about it – specifically, the greatest of them all, Khair-ed-Din, whom the Christians called Barbarossa (Redbeard). “Khair-ed-Din” was an honorary title meaning “Goodness of the Faith”, but his personal name was Khizr. His older brother Aruj, who died in 1518, had been known as Barbarossa before him. They and their other sibling Ishak had wrested Algiers from the Spaniards in 1516, and founded the corsair state which would still be a menace in the 18th century. In 1519 Khair-ed-Din, the last surviving brother, defeated a Spanish-Italian army that came to retake Algiers, and he raided Sardinia, Italy and Spain throughout the 1520s.

He wanted the falcon for a pirate’s reasons, but he had become a statesman too. Based on Malta, the Knights could curtail his raids and even threaten Barbary. If Barbarossa seized the falcon, their first year’s rent to Charles, and it became a trophy in Moslem hands, the Order’s humiliation would be intense. The Emperor might even doubt they were worthy of his support, and change his mind about giving them Malta.

Sultan Suleyman, of course, would be delighted.

Aflame with predatory, violent energy even though he was past fifty now, Khair-ed-Din led a squadron of pirate galleys eastward, past Sardinia into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Knights of St. John had begun their voyage to Genoa with the falcon, in a squadron of their own galleys, rowing up the east coast of Sicily through the Straits of Messina. From there they followed the Italian coast to Naples and the port of Rome, Civitavecchia. (After the Sack of Rome in 1527, Pope Clement VII had been forced to cede Civitavecchia to the Empire.)  Upon setting forth again, the Knights found themselves beset by Barbarossa in a no-quarter sea fight.

Red Sonya in the meantime had not been passive or idle. She spied, bribed, threatened, committed assault, and for all we know, seduced, to spring Gottfried from prison. She had friends at the Sforza court of Milan, less than eighty miles north of Genoa, from her eventful months there in 1525, and they may have assisted. Gottfried knew about the jewelled falcon by then. Andrea Doria had told him about it while questioning him, thinking it would do no harm since he fully meant to keep the German under lock and key until the falcon reached its proper destination.

andrea-doria-piombo-smallThere was a Venetian galley in port. Sonya had paid its captain to take them out of Genoa when he departed; he was bound for Crete and then home. Andrea Doria nearly burst when he heard that Gottfried had escaped, with the information he had, and set out in pursuit with a full squadron of galleys, in person.

The Venetian galley’s captain had a guilty conscience over many dealings with the Barbary corsairs. Seeing the ships following hard, and the standard of Andrea Doria at the forefront, he supposed they were after him. Had he known Gottfried and Sonya were the admiral’s quarry, he would have handed them over – or tried, despite the casualties it would have meant – but they didn’t enlighten him. Racing across the Tyrrhenian Sea, they ran straight into the desperate fight between the Knights of Malta (carrying the falcon) and Khizr Khair-ed-Din Barbarossa himself.

The knights were getting the worst of it. The Barbary galleys, with a single bank of oars each, also carried a cannon at the bow and a swivel gun on each side. At the stern was an enclosed roofed area to shelter the company of Janizaries (a hundred or more) that a corsair galley usually carried for a boarding action. The Knights too were expert sea-fighters, with a fleet of galleys, but in this instance they were somewhat outnumbered, and up against Barbarossa.

Sbonski_de_Passabon-Galeasse_a_la_voileGottfried had encountered the veteran corsair before. Before he was twenty, Gottfried had been in a sea-fight against a squadron of galleys Khair-ed-Din commanded, and now he faced the master of Algiers again. The Venetian captain, seeing the sort of battle that faced him, gave orders to turn and flee, but Gottfried countermanded the order with a sweep of his huge broadsword. The captain fell dead. The Venetian galley, under new command, went into the thick of the fight with Andrea Doria’s squadron close behind.

The result was a furious, no quarter combat, the Maltese and Genoese galleys against the Barbary corsairs, with Gottfried and Sonya in the middle. Not even in his years with the Order had the huge German known a sea-fight so savage, on which so much depended. Sonya had seldom trod the reddened deck of a galley, but she had still known fierce water-borne fighting, in her Cossack days. The Cossacks had already begun raiding across the Black Sea in their low, keelless longboats, called chaika (seagulls) which carried about seventy men each, moved very swiftly, and were hard to see before they came to grips with their prey. Sonya had participated in several such forays.

Laureys_a_Castro_-_A_Sea_Fight_with_Barbary_CorsairsAs on the walls of Vienna, she fought beside Gottfried, with Turkish arrows hissing in the air and Turkish matchlocks barking death. The Janizaries hurled their grappling irons, which thudded and bit into timber, and then they sprang to the attack, their scimitars and spears spilling red. Gottfried’s great two-handed sword dealt death, severing arms and splitting heads, while Sonya’s Cossack sabre opened limbs with wounds that emptied her foes of blood in moments, or cut throats to the spine with lethal drawing cuts. Even mail coifs and steel casques failed against her wicked expertise. She blinded men with a stroke across the face, or caved in wind-pipes through mail with the back of her sword. When Turks went down under her feet, she, like Gottfried, ruthlessly stamped out their lives. When she or he met difficulties, the other was always there to give aid.

In the end, wounded, gasping, they saw the Algiers galleys withdraw across a growing gap of reddened water. The Knights and Andrea Doria combined had been too much, for once, even for Barbarossa. The incomparable prize of the jewelled falcon remained with the Knights, and was duly delivered to Charles. It did vanish in the end, and many covetous people searched for it, a prize that had become a legend. Men were still killing for it in the twentieth century, as Dashiell Hammett records.

But in the sixteenth, Andrea Doria had to acknowledge he would never have arrived in time if he had not been pursuing Gottfried and Sonya so hotly. He paid his debt by letting them go. They probably troubled the waters between Spain and North Africa for a while, in the Venetian galley, with a crew of slaves freed from Barbary oar-benches. They may have perished together in another sea-fight, or made their restless way from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, or even crossed the Atlantic to Brazil and Mexico.

Wherever they went, this much is sure. They raised hell, and they lived before they died.

Artwork by Jim Silkie and others.

Read Part One, Part TwoPart Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten

This entry filed under Don Herron, Howard's Fiction.


Pre-orders are now being accepted for issue number 18 of The Definitive Robert E. Howard Journal. This is an extremely limited edition of 150 copies, so don’t procrastinate if you want a copy.

The new issue will make its debut at Howard Days on June 12th. If you can’t make it to Cross Plains, you can pre-order it beginning today. Orders will ship in late June. Price per copy is $21.00, plus $4.00 for U.S. shipping and handling. Overseas orders require additional postage, so email inquiries here for the overseas shipping rates.

Contents include:

A full color cover by Bob Covington featuring Cormac Fitzgeoffrey, inside front and back covers featuring scenes from “The Black Stone” by Bryan “Zarono” Reagan and a back cover by Stephen Fabian.

“The Cobra in the Dream” by Robert E. Howard, illustrated by Charles Fetherolf

“Iron Man Roll Call” by Chris Gruber, illustrated by Clayton Hinkle

“A Farewell to the Old West – The End of the “Old Frontier”—Robert E. Howard’s ‘Old Garfield’s Heart’” by Dierk Guenther, illustrated by Richard Pace

“The Hyborian Sage: Real-World Parallels Between Howard’s Essay and Modern Discoveries” by Wm. Michael Mott, illustrated by Robert Sankner

“Worms of the Earth: A Bran Mak Morn Portfolio” by Michael L. Peters

“Not Your Ordinary Gun-Dummy: The Western Heroes of Robert E. Howard” by James Reasoner, illustrated by Terry Plavet

“The Poetry Contest” by Rob Roehm

“Conan der Ubermensch” by David Scherpenhuizen, illustrated by Bill Cavalier

As stated above the price is $25.00, which includes U.S. postage and handling.

To Order by Mail and Pay with Check or Money Order,
Send Your Order To:

Damon C. Sasser
6402 Gardenspring Brook Lane
Spring, TX 77379

(Please make checks or money orders payable to Damon C. Sasser.)

or Order and Pay Via PayPal:

When Isaac Howard decided to study medicine, he was following a family precedent. His uncle J. T. Henry, a great favorite of Isaac’s mother, Eliza Howard, was a distinguished physician who was graduated from the University of Nashville in Tennessee in 1883. In practice near the Arkansas-Missouri line, Dr. Henry became a role model for his nephew Isaac, who doubtless sought Dr. Henry’s advice and may have studied under him.

Physicians of that day often welcomed their kin as medical students. Such associations with older physicians afforded young would-be doctors opportunities for observation, access to medical books, and such didactic sessions as the preceptor thought necessary in exchange for the apprentice’s help in maintaining the dispensary, cleaning the office, and tending the horse and buggy if there was one. After a few years, when the older man deemed his candidate worthy, he would issue him a certificate to practice medicine. For an ethical man with strong family ties, the certification by a kinsman would be a real throwing of the torch.

Polk’s Medical and Surgical Register gives its first listing of “I. Howard” in 1896 as practicing in Forsyth, Missouri, in Taney County, just over the Missouri line, a short distance from his uncle’s home in Bentonville, Arkansas. It is unclear whether Isaac Howard apprenticed himself to his uncle or whether Dr. Henry had passed him on to another doctor in Forsyth. The dates suggest the former. If Isaac Howard had left Texas in the early nineties, when he turned twenty-one, he could have finished his training and been ready to set up his own practice by 1896.

The young physician did not long remain in Missouri. Perhaps he was homesick. Whatever his reasons, on April 19, 1899, Isaac M. Howard of Limestone County, Texas, was examined by the State Board of Medical Examiners in Texarkana, Texas, and awarded a certificate of qualification to practice medicine. Then he went home.

—L. Sprague de Camp, Dark Valley Destiny

Readers of the Two-Gun blog might remember my post from 2012, “Isaac M. Howard in the 1800s,” wherein I discovered that the “I. Howard” mentioned above couldn’t have been our Isaac Howard because that doctor also appeared in the 1886 edition of Polk’s, which is much too early for our Isaac to be practicing medicine. This removes the only piece of evidence that might place Isaac near his Uncle J. T. Henry at that time; though it’s still possible he received his training there.  This has pretty much become an accepted part of the biography. To wit:

By 1891, Isaac Howard had decided that he was not cut out to be a farmer. He left the family farm, sold his share in the property to his brother, and decided to practice frontier medicine.

Isaac’s medical education, a combination of on-the-job training, apprenticeship to his uncle, himself a doctor, and attendance at a variety of schools, lectures, and courses, would spread out over the next four decades. His initial training took four or five years, and allowed him to practice medicine as early as 1896. From that time on, Dr. Isaac Howard moved frequently from place to place, venturing as far out as Missouri and back to the family farm in Limestone County again.

—Mark Finn, Blood and Thunder

That J. T. Henry was a doctor is well established; that Isaac M. Howard apprenticed under him, not so much. While I am not a fan of speculation, I recently ran across not one but two doctors who, in my opinion, make more sense as possible trainers of Dr. Howard. So, as long as there’s no proof either way, I’ll throw my speculations out there too.


Robert E. Howard said that his family moved to Texas in 1885. The earliest I can place them there is 1889. According to a “Widow’s Application for Pension” filled out by Isaac’s mother in 1910, Isaac’s father, William B., died “near Mt. Calm, Texas, on 3rd day of August in year of 1889.” While William’s death in Texas contradicts de Camp’s version, it agrees with Robert E. Howard’s account in an October 1930 letter to Lovecraft:

My branch of the Howards came to America with Oglethorpe 1733 and lived in various parts of Georgia for over a hundred years. In ’49 three brothers started for California. On the Arkansas River they split up, one went on to California where he lived the rest of his life, one went back to Georgia and one, William Benjamin Howard, went to Mississippi where he became an overseer on the plantations of Squire James Harrison Henry, whose daughter he married. In 1858 he moved, with the Henry’s, to southwestern Arkansas where he lived until 1885, when he moved to Texas. He was my grandfather.

There is a document dated 1885, but it wasn’t recorded until 1898, so I’m a tad skeptical. The document is basically a contract between Isaac Howard and his brother David Terrell Howard of Prairie Hill, Texas, in Limestone County. Dave agrees to purchase Isaac’s land in the county and has ten years to pay for it, starting in 1885. How a 13-year-old Isaac managed to possess that land is a mystery. De Camp speculates that it was Grandpa James Henry’s originally, and James did die in 1884, a fairly prosperous guy, so that’s reasonable, but there’s no mention of Texas land in his Arkansas will.

On November 6, 1893, Isaac’s sister Willie married William Oscar McClung in Limestone County. They moved to Indian Territory shortly thereafter, but probably not before attending brother Dave’s wedding on November 12 (or possibly December 12). This is where things get interesting.


Dave’s bride was Fannie Elizabeth Wortham (seen above quite some time after her marriage). From 1894 to 1919, the couple would produce 12 children. This isn’t so unusual when you figure that Dave had eight siblings and Fannie had seven. We’ll get back to one of Fannie’s siblings in a minute, but first, let’s look at her dad, Mortier (or Mortimer) LaFayette Wortham.

Born in Tennessee in 1822, Wortham moved to Texas while in his early 20s. He shows up on an 1846 tax list in Harrison County, east Texas. He appears to have hooked up with an unknown lady and had at least one child, John, before she died or left. The 1850 Census has an “L. M. Wortham” who is farming with the Martin family in Harrison County. He has with him “J. Wortham,” who is 2 years old. No wife is mentioned.

The 1860 Census of Anderson County has the now 12-year-old John, with father “L. Wortham,” joined by wife “E. Wortham” (the former Elizabeth Chaffin). The senior Wortham’s profession is listed as “Doctor.” On a pension application, Elizabeth says that she married Mortier in 1855. Her family had been in Texas since at least 1843, in Anderson County, which is two counties east of Limestone, with Freestone County in-between.

On March 6, 1862, “M. L. Wortham,” of Palestine, Anderson County, reported for infantry duty in the Confederate Army, Company K, 22nd Regiment, under Colonel R. B. Hubbard. It looks like he served all over the place, doing some time in Louisiana and Arkansas, before returning to Anderson County. He shows up on an 1868 voter registration list there.

“M. L. Wortham” appears on the Anderson County tax rolls for 1861, 1865, 1867, 1869, and 1870. While there are several Worthams on the lists throughout the 1880s, our guy doesn’t appear; this is probably because he had moved to Limestone County, where he and the family appear on the 1880 Census. His profession there is listed as “Farming.” The 1890 Census was mostly destroyed by fire, but in 1891 Mortier is back on the tax lists in Anderson County, appearing as “Dr. M. L. Wortham.” So, Dave Howard’s soon-to-be father-in-law went back to medicine just before his daughter’s marriage. How convenient for Dave’s younger brother, who just happened to be interested in the medical profession.

[A quick, non-chronological note: On Fannie Wortham Howard’s 1960 death certificate, her father is identified as “Dr. W. M. Wortham”; on another daughter’s 1932 death certificate, he is identified simply as “Dr. Wortham.”]

And there’s more. When the Howards arrived in Texas they settled in around Mount Calm, which is in Hill County, but right on the line with Limestone County. They soon spread into Limestone, in the little community of Delia, which is close to Prairie Hill. The 1900 Census has Dave Howard’s growing clan listed with the Prairie Hill inhabitants. One of those was John C. Clark, who was married to another of Mortier Wortham’s daughters and happened to be, you guessed it, a doctor.


Born in 1847 in Jamaica to English parents, Clark was living in Texas by the end of the Civil War. He married Louisa E. Wortham in 1877 and was living in rural Limestone County at the time of the 1880 Census, where he is listed as a “Physician.” The 1890 edition of Polk’s Medical and Surgical Registry has him as the only doctor in Prairie Hill, with no report received in answer to their inquiry regarding his graduation from medical school. This probably means that he didn’t attend a school, but was trained by another doctor . . . perhaps his father-in-law?

So, in the early 1890s we’ve got a young Isaac Howard, purportedly not interested in the family business of farming. He’s got a doctor uncle in far-off Arkansas who seems to be doing pretty well for himself, and his older brother Dave marries into a family with at least two doctors, one of whom is practicing in the very town in which they live, the other in a nearby county. [I say “at least two” because one of Mortier’s sons, James Franklin Wortham, is identified as a doctor on an family tree, but there is no documentation provided to support that claim and I haven’t looked into it yet.] And right around this time, the mid-1890s, Dave is paying for Isaac’s land. Hmm, I wonder what Isaac was doing with the cash?

Meanwhile, brother Dave purchased some more land in 1897 from Gussbaum and Morris, whoever they were. Then, the 1885 document was filed for record on January 15, 1898, and on February 12, 1898, Isaac Howard filed a quit claim, closing the land deal with his brother. The next time Isaac M. Howard appears on paper it is as a doctor. As de Camp said, a year later, “on April 19, 1899, Isaac M. Howard of Limestone County, Texas, was examined by the State Board of Medical Examiners in Texarkana, Texas, and awarded a certificate of qualification to practice medicine. Then he went home.”

The first place he appears is Freestone County, where he registered his new credentials on July 20, 1899. Right next door to Limestone, this makes sense, but, as long as I’m speculating, let me go a step further. On a recent trip to Groesbeck, the county seat of Limestone, I asked about their Medical Register—the book that lists the doctors who had registered their credentials in the county. Isaac M. Howard was not listed in that book, but the book only went back to 1907. Turns out the older records were destroyed by fire. So I’ll bet Isaac did indeed go home—right back to Limestone County, then to Freestone. But again, that’s just speculation.

Dr. Howard next appears up north near Indian Territory in Montague County, where his uncle, George Walser, was living. I have no idea if the two had any contact at this time, though I would think it odd if they didn’t. Dr. Howard registered in the county on May 30, 1901. This appears to be just before Isaac started practicing in Petersburg, just across the Red River in Indian Territory, and not far from where his sister Willie had moved after marrying Oscar McClung. The doctor couldn’t have spent too much time in Indian Territory, though, he had a date with destiny back in Texas, Palo Pinto County, where a certain lady named Hester was spending time with her siblings in Mineral Wells.