Archive for December, 2009

Saddle up, pards, and ride the range with one of Robert E. Howard’s greatest characters, Breckinridge Elkins.

This is the novel version of A Gent From Bear Creek, first published in 1937 in London by Herbert Jenkins, and the rarest and most valuable Howard book ever published.  Howard’s dream was to have a book of his work published. Sadly, he did not get to see it, but you can in this exact repint of this of this rare Howard book.

The book was first reprinted in facsimile form by Donald M. Grant in the sixties, but every reprinting of it since then has been edited. McHaney’s version restores the original Jenkins text.

The original dust jacket is reproduced on this edition. There are only a handful of original dust jackets in existence, most of them in libraries in England.

This entry filed under Howard's Fiction, News.

Yesterday Howard fandom was united as one in the denouncing of Maggie Van  Ostrand’s two scurrilous and inaccurate internet postings about REH and his parents. After a flood of complaints to both websites hosting her screed, Texas Escapes pulled it down and Fandomania prefaced it with a lengthy disclaimer.  I was one of those who complained to her editors and I did receive personal responses, as did everyone else. I believe our numbers were too overwhelming to ignore and even they had to realize Maggie’s posts were fatally flawed.

While only a very small minority still trumpets Dark Valley Destiny as the “supreme Howard biographical source,” the rest of us know better.  We must take this as a wake up call and do whatever is in our power to get the most accurate and up-to-date biographical information out there, front and center.   This is not the time to rest on our laurels, but rather time to pick up our swords and shields and wade back into the fray.  We are just one internet posting away from some crackpot out there pulling this stunt again.

Over this past weekend, like an unexpected visit from your weird Aunt, a  posting about Howard appeared at the Fandomania blog with the unlikely title  of “Was Conan the Barbarian Really a Fictional Character?” by Maggie Van Ostrand. When I first saw the title I thought, why yes he is a fictional character.  As I read on, it got a Hell of a lot worse as the author delved  cluelessly into the life of Robert E. Howard and his parents.

First off, the cockamamie premise put forth with virtually no concrete evidence by Ms. Van Ostrand is that Dr. Isaac Howard was the inspiration for Conan.  Nothing could be further from the truth. This is how Howard himself describes how Conan came to be from from “A Short Biography” by Rusty Burke:

Much later, Howard would tell a fan that “Conan simply grew up in my mind  a few years ago when I was stopping in a little border town on the lower Rio  Grande. I did not create him by any conscious process. He simply stalked  full grown out of oblivion and set me at work recording the saga of his  adventures.” To fellow author Clark Ashton Smith he said, “While I don’t go  so far as to believe that stories are inspired by actually existent spirits or  powers (though I am rather opposed to flatly denying anything) I have  sometimes wondered if it were possible that unrecognized forces of the past  or present – or even the future – work through the thoughts and actions of  living men. This occurred to me when I was writing the first stories of the  Conan series especially. I know that for months I had been unable to work up anything sellable. Then the man Conan seemed suddenly to grow up in  my mind without much labor on my part and immediately a stream of stories  flowed off my pen – or rather, off my typewriter – almost without effort on my part. I did not seem to be creating, but rather relating events that had  occurred. Episode crowded on episode so fast that I could scarcely keep up  with them. For weeks I did nothing but write of the adventures of Conan.  The character took complete possession of my mind and crowded out everything else in the way of story-writing.”

Needless to say, Ms. Van Ostrand has quickly become the Thoth-Amon of  Howard fandom.  Her scathing biographical hit piece at the Fandomania blog has  marshaled the troops, big time.  Using only Dark Valley Destiny by L. Sprague  de Camp, Catherine Crook de Camp, and Jane Whittington Griffin, published in  1983 (through she cites it as being published in 1961), and One Who Walked Alone – Robert E. Howard the Final Years by Novalyne Price Ellis (1986) she  sets about attempting to destroy decades of work by dozens of true Howard  scholars to disprove the myths and inaccuracies from what I call the “bad old days” of Howard fandom.  With these outdated and disputed sources, Ms. Van  Ostrand weaves a tale so riddled with erroneous statements it borders on the  absurd.  Ms. Van Ostrand labels herself a humorist, while that claim is  debatable, she is clearly not a journalist.  Anyone wanting to write an accurate  piece would have verified his or her findings with second and third sources before publishing their article on the internet.  

In short order she trotted out the  long debunked theories that Robert was in love with his mother, that he was  crazy, as were his parents, that he was sexually repressed and incapable of  having a normal relationship with a woman, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Some of the more accurate sources she could have easily found include Rusty  Burke’s “A Short Biography,” Mark Finn’s Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art  of Robert E. Howard, Morgan Holmes’ 16 part opus “The de Camp Controversy,”  Leo Grin’s “In Defense of Hester Jane Ervin Howard,” to just name a few.

She also posted a somewhat watered down version, slanted with a Texas theme at the Texas Escapes website.

Judging by the amount and timbre of the comments posted in response to her  piece at the Fandomania website, Ms. Van Ostrand has clearly brought a knife  (and a rather small one at that) to a gunfight.

Longtime Howard fan and publisher Dennis Mc Haney recently started up a new blog devoted to Robert E. Howard and the various artists who have illustrated his works throughout the years.  McHaney is always working on some new project and right now he is beginning work on a super secret project that will be out in time for the 2010 Howard Days celebration.  Check out the blog and keep up with McHaney’s publications; he puts forth an incredible effort and it shows in the quality of his books.  You can also find a list of his current publications that are available for sale at the blog.

This book has been delayed due to a threatened lawsuit over trademark infringement by Paradox Entertainment. The volume’s publication is re-scheduled for a date to be announced in 2010.  The content of the book includes a number of Howard heroes and stories other than Conan. Here are the details:

Conan’s Brethren: The Complete Collection

Robert E. Howard was a pulpwriter who turned his hand to everything from historical adventure and detective stories to Western and boxing fiction – and invented the genre now known as sword-and-sorcery: it is for these tales of heroic fantasy and horror that he is best remembered. In the pages of Weird Tales and other pulp magazines his mighty heroes — the vengeful Puritan swashbuckler Solomon Kane, Kull, King of Atlantis, Bran Mak Morn, the last chieftain of the Picts, followed later by Conan the Cimmerian and many others. Following on from the success of The Complete Conan, this companion volume will contain Robert E. Howard stories featuring Conan’s brothers-in-arms, collected together in chronological order, as fresh and atmospheric today as when they were first published in the pulp magazines of more than eighty years ago. Compiled by and with an Afterword by award-winning writer and editor Stephen Jones, and with cover image, frontispiece and internal pictures by the award-winning artist Les Edwards.

Contents:

Introduction

Solomon Kane:

“Solomon Kane’s Homecoming” (verse)
“Red Shadows”
“Skulls in the Stars”
“Rattle of Bones”
“The Moon of Skulls”
“The Hills of the Dead”
“The Footfalls Within”
“Wings in the Night”

King Kull:

“The Shadow Kingdom”
“The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune”
“The King and the Oak” (verse)

Bran Mak Morn & the Picts:

“The Lost Race”
“Kings of the Night”
“The Dark Man”
“Worms of the Earth”

Savages, Swordsmen & Sorcerers:

“Spear and Fang”
“Hawks of Outremer”
“The Gods of Bal-Sagoth”
“The Sowers of the Thunder”
“Lord of Samarcand”
“The Lion of Tiberias”
“The Shadow of the Vulture”
“The Valley of the Worm”
“The Frost King’s Daughter”
“The Garden of Fear”
“Gates of Empire”
Almuric
“The Ghost Kings” (verse)

Afterword:

“Kinsmen of Conan” by Stephen Jones

This entry filed under Howard's Fiction, Howard's Poetry, News, Weird Tales.