Throng

noun

  1. a large group or crowding together of many people

[origin: before 12th century; Middle English thrang, throng, from Old English thrang, gethrang; akin to Old English thringan to press, crowd, Old High German dringan, Lithuanian trenkti to jolt ]

HOWARD’S USAGE:

Across the walls a shadow falls;
The dreary night drags on and on.
The horses stamp within their stalls.
I’ll ride no more to meet the dawn.

…..
My heartbeats fall, a striking maul.
Because my thews are hard and strong,
Within the hour I must fall
To meet the blood lust of the throng.

Along the halls a trumpet calls.
The red arena glimmers nigh.
Thor, let me mock these fools of Rome,
And show them how a Goth can die.

[from “The Cells of the Coliseum“; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 530; A Rhyme of Salem Town, p. 68 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 185]

Editors’ Note: The REH Word of the Week first appeared on The Cimmerian blog on July 25, 2007. It was started by Leo Grin and appeared sporadically until August of 2009 when Barbara Barrett took over and she posted a new word weekly. When The Cimmerian blog closed on June 11, 2010, the weekly feature moved to the REHupa website where it remained until today. The REHupa website is undergoing some major changes and there wasn’t a place for the Word of the Week there. Beginning today, it will appear weekly here on the TGR blog. The Word of the Week also appears on the Conan Forum in an expanded format.

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.

ranger

The above photo was taken on June 16, 1931 when Amelia Earhart landed her Pitcairn autogiro at Ranger Airfield in the town of Ranger, Texas, which is situated near Cross Plains. She was on a cross-country tour promoting Beech-Nut Gum. The Lone Star Gasoline Co. gave her a free fill-up of fuel before she departed, flying off to her next destination.

Here is a little history of the Ranger Airfield:

Flying across the U.S. in July 1931, Amelia Earhart graced the grass in her Beech-Nut Gum sponsored autogyro. Her visit drew a large crowd but the Great Depression was already placing a toll on the airfield. In 1937, Army Air Corps survey photos labeled the hangar “Abandoned.” But the looming war in Europe would help save the airfield. A Civilian Pilot Training Program was established in 1939 to help provide pilots and mechanics with the knowledge they’d need to fight victoriously. After WWII, the field was modernized and took the shape of a typical general aviation airport. An asphalt runway was added as well as a number of additions to the original hangar. But because of the decline in Ranger’s population the airfield was not improved or maintained thereafter.

earhart-g1-2111aHoward makes no mention of Earhart’s stop in Ranger in his letters, but he may have been aware of it through newspapers accounts. In 1931 Earhart’s career was taking-off (literally). She first gained the public’s attention as an aviatrix in 1928 when she flew across the Atlantic Ocean as an observer (not the actual pilot). Earhart would go on to be the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932.

She disappeared July 2, 1937 over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island on an attempted flight to circumnavigate the globe with her navigator Fred Noonan. Over the ensuing decades, much speculation has been bandied about regarding what happened to the pair of adventurers and to this very day experts are still searching for clues as to what led to their disappearance and where they ended up. Earhart searchers have turned up artifacts such as a piece of plane wreckage belived to have been from her plane, a broken cosmetic jar, possible human remains and other items on the island of Nikumaroro.

Howard wrote a story around 1928 called the “The People of the Black Coast.” The story was not published during Howard’s lifetime and first appeared in the September-October 1969 issue of Spaceway Science Fiction. The science-fantasy story includes some eerie coincidences similar to the real life story of the disappearance of Earhart and Noonan:

There were two of us, at the start. Myself, of course, and Gloria, who was to have been my bride. Gloria had an airplane and she loved to fly the thing — that was the beginning of the whole horror. I tried to dissuade her that day — I swear I did! — but she insisted and we took off from Manila with Guam as our destination. Why? The whim of this reckless girl who feared noting and always burned with zest for some new adventure — some untried sport.

The plane experienced some kind of mechanical problem, forcing the lady pilot and to seek an island to land on. Just as the aircraft fell from the sky, the pair spotted land:

We swam ashore from the sinking craft, unhurt and found ourselves in a strange and forbidding land. Broad beaches sloped up from the lazy waves to end at the  foot of vast cliffs. These cliffs seem to be of solid rock and were — are — hundreds of feet high. The material was basalt or something similar.

So the couple in this Howard story experienced the same fate as Earhart and Noonan may have. It is generally believed that the pair survived the crash and found themselves marooned on an atoll (believed to be Nikumaroro) with no fresh water or food. Of course Earhart and Noonan never faced giant, intelligent killer crabs — instead the two likely succumbed to starvation and dehydration.

TGR Blogger Brian Leno covered a lot of  ground on “The People of the Black Coast” in two posts here on the blog (“Robert E. Howard and the Crabs on the Coast” and “Haggard and his Giant Crabs.“)

Of course I am not suggesting Howard had some kind of ability to foretell the future, but it wouldn’t be the only time Howard put forth a theory that may be historically accurate. Recent findings seem to support his hypothesis regarding cataclysmic events that ended his fictional Hyborian Age some 12,000 years ago. Wm. Michael Mott delves deep into this topic in his “The Hyborian Sage: Real-World Parallels Between Howard’s Essay and Modern Discoveries” essay which appears in the current issue of the TGR print journal.

As the title of this post indicates, this is just fanciful speculation on my part, but nonetheless I have a sudden craving for Alaskan King Crab legs.

This entry filed under Howard's Fiction, Howard's Texas.

Baen-Books-bw

Congratulations are in order for our own Keith Taylor for being a finalist for the 2015 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award for his short story “The Triton’s Son.”  Here is an excerpt of the Baen Books Press release announcing the finalists:

2015 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award Finalists

RIVERDALE, NEW YORK—Baen Books, in association with popular gaming convention GenCon, announced today the finalists for the 2015 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award. The finalists are:

“Saurs” by Craig DeLancey

“Unfound” by Rhiannon Held

“Shell Game” by Joseph L. Kellogg

“Victor the Sword” by Robin Lupton

“Trappists” by Katherine Monasterio

“Burning Savannah” by Alexander Monteagudo

“Kiss from a Queen” by Jeff Provine

“An Old Dragon’s Treasure” by Robert Russell

“The Triton’s Son” by Keith Taylor

“Adroit” by Dave Williams

Finalists will be judged by senior Baen editing staff—including Jim Minz, Tony Daniel and Toni Weisskopf—and special guest judge, best-selling author Larry Correia. The grand prize winner and two runners up will be announced on August 1, 2015 during the award presentation at GenCon in Indianapolis. The contest, launched in 2014, recognizes the short story entries in the contest that best exemplify the spirit of adventure, imagination, and great storytelling in a work of short fiction with a fantastic setting, whether epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, sword and sorcery, or contemporary fantasy. The winning story will be published on website Baen.com.

“We are very pleased to be presenting this award in association with GenCon and its literary programming track,” said Baen senior editor Jim Minz. “Gaming is not just something we love; it can be a proving ground for exciting stories. Many of our authors are gamers, both as fans and professionals. We believe that gamers have great stories to tell and we want this award to bring favorable attention to our winners—and provide some great stories for lucky readers out there to dive into.”

Best of luck to you Keith, we are all pulling for you to get this well deserved award and reading your story on the Baen website!

This entry filed under News, Sword & Sorcery.

Living Pioneers

If a man is known by the company that he keeps then Robert E. Howard was an eclectic fellow. Of two of his correspondents with the initials H. P. one was a very xenophobic conservative (at least in his youth), the other a radical integrationist. We all know about H. P. Lovecraft but interest in Harold Preece, the other H. P., has grown.

There have been some excellent articles on Preece published here on the Two Gun Raconteur blog and there is very little I can add biographically. Perhaps some comment on his writing career will be of interest.

Harold Preece is not known to have self-identified as “black” like Rachel Dolezal but for a 1930s era Texan he came pretty close. In A History of Affirmative Action (University Press of Mississippi, 2001) Harold Preece is mentioned:

In August 1935, an unusually titled article appeared in Opportunity, the monthly journal of the National Urban League. It was written, the journal’s editor noted, by a Southern white man named Harold Preece, and was called “Confessions of an Ex-Nordic: The Depression Not an Unmixed Evil.”

Preece’s article described his change from early prejudice to anti-racism due to the financial hardships of the depression. Preece wrote:

I waited in line with other men – white and black who spent their days frantically wandering to obtain the same tawdry necessities.  Forgetful of Jim Crow we discussed the appalling debacle and shared crumbs of cheap tobacco. […] To me, white and black no longer exist.  There are only oppressors and oppressed.

Besides Opportunity, Preece wrote for The Crisis, New Masses, and some other communist linked publications.  He also wrote for non-communist magazines like The Nation and The American Spectator.  In The American Spectator Preece published two interesting articles where he more or less apologizes for Clyde Barrow and Pretty Boy Floyd. In the August 1934 issue Preece wrote of Clyde Barrow:

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were the poisoned by-products of a vicious and diseased social system.  The example of their callousness was set by men whom we politely designate as “successful”, and who have this in common with the most moronic cut-purse: they live without working.

Preece writes about Floyd in the January 1935 issue:

Pretty Boy Floyd was the last of the classic road agents. He was intrepid, daring; he robbed the rich and gave to the poor […] Mr. Floyd perfected the art of thievery to an unprecedented magnitude; and the peccadilloes of a first-rate artist are always preferable to the rabbit-like decorum of mankind at large.

In a letter to H. P. Lovecraft, REH also expresses a bit of sympathy for Pretty Boy Floyd:

Pretty Boy is still at large, and getting the blame for every crime committed in Oklahoma. The cops say he is a rat. I’d call him a wolf. The cops are all afraid of him, judging from the way they’re not catching him; if he’s a rat, what does that make them?

In another letter REH writes HPL, that a friend of his, (probably Preece): “was quite enthusiastic about Floyd. From what he said public sympathy must be a good deal with the outlaw.”

Expressing less sympathy but commenting on the excessiveness of their deaths, REH writes to HPL on Bonnie and Clyde and notes that:

Bullets from machine rifles, ripping through him, riddled her, plastered the interior of the car with blood, brains, and bits of Barrow’s skull. 167 slugs were poured into the automobile of the outlaws.

One of Preece’s more controversial stands was a review of Zora Neale Hurston’s Of Mules and Men published in Crisis, December 1936:

When an author describes her race in such servile terms as ‘Mules and Men’ critical members of the race must necessarily evaluate the author as a literary climber.

This kind of controversy, whether popular humorous depictions of blacks, benefit or malign, has long been a part of black culture criticism.  Good arguments can be made for both views. It is just a little surprising that Preece, a Southern White Man, takes a radical stance similar to Spike Lee’s in his film Bamboozled.

In the 1940s Preece was very active in the black press, writing for publications like The Negro Worker, the previously mentioned Opportunity, and The Informer. Preece corresponded with Roy Wilkins and W. E. B. Dubois as a fighter for civil rights. He continued his support for civil rights in New Masses as well. The October 16, 1945 issue has an article about the Ku Klux Klan.

New Masses

Preece, although writing for Communist Party publications might very well have never been a member of the party. A more famous writer, Howard Fast, also wrote for communist papers before ever joining.  One did not have to a member to have submitted articles to their publications.

Being RedFast, of course, along with others went to jail for their membership in the Communist Party, and for refusing to name names of others in the party.  (Shades of Conan, in “The Queen of the Black Coast.”)  Fast recounts his decisions in his autobiographical book, Being Red.  It is well worth reading.  Fast spent 3 months in jail and his writing career (despite a previous string of best sellers) had effectively ended until he self published SpartacusSpartacus is an absolutely superb novel and was a success despite the blacklisting.  The success of this book and the later film has been said to have broken the “blacklist.” Of course, not every writer was as successful as Howard Fast, so if Harold Preece denied membership in the party to protect his livelihood I don’t think anyone can blame him.

Most likely, like Fast, Preece, if ever a true communist, broke with communism after Khrushchev denounced Stalin. The American Communist Party dwindled to almost nothing after these revelations.  Fast resigned from the party and left his position on the communist newspaper. Fast writes:

All things come to an end.  Being a part of this brave and decent newspaper had been an important act of my life.  Now, on June 13, 1956, a couple of days after the appearance of the secret speech, I wrote my last column for The Daily Worker.

Zane Grey’s Western Magazine, March 1953In any event, Preece switched gears to western writing and had several articles published in Real West, Zane Grey’s Western Magazine, and other venues. He wrote non-fiction western history books as well.  Three of his books are easily available through on-line sources:  Lone Star Man: The Life of Ira Aten, The Dalton Gang, and Living Pioneers. These books all feature very positive views and sympathy with Native Americans that was a bit out of the ordinary for the time. Preece was still fighting the good fight against prejudice.

He remained a believer in social justice until the end of his life.

Be sure and check out Gary’s D for de Camp group. There is always a lively discussion going on there and lots of interesting de Camp documents reside in the Files section of the group.

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 Amazon.com.

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.

Summary:

Thanks
Introduction
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
Conclusion

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.

The tenth issue of Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword comic appeared in April:

This issue is packed from cover to cover with stories by some of comics’ greatest creators. Ron Marz teams up with Richard Clark to tell a thrilling tale of human sacrifice and swift justice starring Solomon Kane. Alex de Campi and Marc Laming adapt Howard’s famed fable “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth” and John Ostrander pens a brand-new story starring the Cimmerian swordsman Conan! Plus we reprint the timeless Kull tale “Demon in a Silvered Glass” by Doug Moench and John Bolton!

This Dark Horse anthology series always has a wide variety of Howard characters featured in each issue. Issues 1 through 8 have been published in two paperbound books, with four issues in each one.

Finally, if you are 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.”

IMG_0004

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.