Archive for December, 2010

As clocks everywhere start signaling the New Year, I’ve been a little preoccupied with an old year, 1922. Newspaper Archive has a pretty good run of the Brownwood Bulletin, but the search function doesn’t work all that well. It seems that the pages were OCRed, but many of them are in such bad shape that no words are intelligible to the search engine. Have to do things the old fashioned way, one page at a time. Luckily, like the movie listings, the sections of the paper I was interested in are pretty much in the same place every issue.

Why 1922? Well, I’ve become slightly obsessed with Howard’s time in Brownwood, and, as we all know, in September of 1922 Robert E. Howard and his mother moved to Brownwood so that he could attend Brownwood High School. So, 1922 seemed like a good place to start.

The first thing of interest I came upon was this notice from the Thursday, September 21st edition:

Personal Items: Dr. I. M. Howard of Cross Plains is here today for a visit with his family who are here to spend the winter and take advantage of Brownwood’s school facilities.

It has been noted elsewhere that the good doctor spent every weekend in Brownwood while his son was attending the school. The newspaper doesn’t back that up, but I wouldn’t expect them to run the same note every weekend.

When I reached Saturday, September 30, I found a nugget in the “Society” column. Under the heading “Winnie Davis Chapter, U. D. C.” is a report of officers for the chapter. Guess who was selected as “second vice president”? That’s right, Mrs. Alice Day. Who’s that? According to the 1923 Worley’s Directory, Robert and Hester had rooms at 316 Wilson. That same directory shows that the property belonged to Mrs. Alice Day. She was the Howard’s landlady and possible house-mate. Day being a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy is interesting on several levels; of course, we all know that REH’s essay, “What the Nation Owes the South,” won the U.D.C. medal for best essay when he graduated. I wonder if Mrs. Day nudged him to participate. Heck, I wonder if she was on the selection committee.

More U.D.C. information appeared on October 30th under the heading “Brief Report of U.D.C. Meeting in Fort Worth.” Near the bottom of the column, the Winnie Davis Chapter lists off some of their accomplishments. It appears that they awarded medals in an essay contest during the previous school year, 1921-22, as well. The topics for that year were “Our Southland” and “What the Ku Klux Klan Did for Reconstruction.” I wonder what Howard would have done with that. There was, apparently, some Klan activity near his Cross Plains home, just across the county line in Rising Star.

The Friday, September 29th Bulletin carried the following article, lifted from the Rising Star X–Ray:

Last Friday night the Ku Klux, about 150 in number, paraded in Rising Star—but to say so in print is not news because it seemed that all the people of this entire community were on the streets and saw the entire performance. The word was anonymously received a day or two ahead that the parade would take place and, of course, everybody heard about it.
     At about 10:00 o’clock, just after the crowd reached the business section from the entertainment at the school building, the lighted cross was seen approaching from the west on College Street. The paraders in their white robes and masks gathered at the band stand where one of them made a speech telling of the principles and purposes of the organization, after which they disappeared in the direction from whence they came.
     Very close attention to the address was given by the large audience and there have been many expressions on the street during the week that any law-abiding citizen could heartily subscribe to all that the speaker said but that they could see no excuse for getting under a mask to stand for such principles. The supposition is that there is an organization of the Klan in Rising Star, but it is believed that all the paraders Friday night were visitors. Over thirty cars were seen driving into town and gathering at the baseball park from whence the parade started.

According to the “Little Items of Local Interest” column in the Bulletin mentioned above, the editor of the X-Ray, W. T. Curtis, was in Brownwood the previous Thursday, “having come down to attend the barbecue at Lakewood given by the Men’s Bible class of the Baptist church to the Women’s Bible class.” Readers of “The Magic Name” (included in “So Far the Poet . . .”) will remember that this Curtis was the father of Claude Curtis, and that Tevis Clyde Smith toured the X-Ray’s facilities during the time he was publishing The All-Around Magazine, just before he met Robert E. Howard.

But I digress . . .

The Monday, October 2, 1922, paper carries a second notice of Doctor Howard’s travels:

Personal Items: Dr. I. M. Howard of Cross Plains spent the week-end in Brownwood with his family, who are attending the Brownwood schools.

And that’s the last Doc Howard notice I’ve found, up to November 9th, but Mrs. Day appears again. On Saturday, November 4th, it is reported that she is part of the U.D.C.’s “Membership Committee.” I wonder if she hooked Hester.

Enough. I’ve rambled plenty for this year. I’ll leave you with one more nugget, this one from the October 7th issue:

Little Items of Local Interest: Miss Novalene Price has sufficiently recovered from an appendicitis operation to be moved to her home.

See you in 2011.


Dennis McHaney has just released The Book of the Howard Review for sale on the website. A limited proof edition of this book was given to contributors and proofreaders last year. With the exception of a few minor changes, this new edition is identical to the proof edition. This comprehensive collection of the best of The Howard Review and other McHaney publications is licensed by REH Properties. There is a ton of great material in this anthology making it well worth the paltry cover price. The volume is edited by Dennis McHaney and features a cover painting by J. Allen St. John.

Also just out from McHaney, is a trade paperback edition of A Gent From Bear Creek. This is the novel version of Gent, first published by British publisher Herbert Jenkins in 1937, and the rarest and most valuable Howard book ever published. McHaney reproduces the original Jenkins cover on the paperback. The dust jacket is very rare — only a few are known to exist — Glenn Lord’s copy is the only one in the States that has one. The hardcover edition, which was published about a year ago, is also available; you can order the softcover edition of Gent here.

This entry filed under Collecting Howard, Glenn Lord, Howard's Fiction, News.

On this day, eighty-three years ago, a drama worthy of a Hollywood movie was playing out on the bustling streets of Cisco. While shoppers were rushing to finish up their Christmas shopping, four criminals were preparing to do some shopping of their own at the First National Bank.

The Great Santa Claus Bank Robbery, as it came to be known, occurred on December 23, 1927.  After the gun smoke cleared, six people were dead, eight others wounded, two little girls and a young man had been kidnapped, and two bloody gun battles had been fought, launching the largest manhunt in Texas history. As an epilogue, one man was sent to the electric chair and another lynched. In nearby Wichita Falls, three of its citizens, including a doctor, had been arrested and an unsolved mystery persisted for decades.

Cisco is located in Eastland County, about 30 miles north of Cross Plains, so Howard was well aware of the robbery and its aftermath.  Here, he comments on the events in a letter to H. P. Lovecraft dated July 13, 1932.

When we went to the town, we found the countryside in an uproar; for while we lay drunk, the “Santa Claus” gang that had looted Southwestern banks for more than a year, had swept into Cisco, 35 miles away and in an attempt to rob the main bank, had raved into a wholesale gun-battle that strewed the streets with dead and wounded. Two or three of them had gotten away into the brush and posses were beating the hills for them. To invitations to join the man-hunt, my friends and I laughed hollowly; we were in no shape to even lift a gun to our shoulders, much less confront a band of desperate outlaws.

Gad, the country buzzed like so many bees! The authorities sent south for the great Ranger captain Tom Hickman, and Gonzaullas — “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas — “Trigger Finger” Gonzaullas — “Quick Action” Gonzaullas — hero of more touch-and-go gun-fights than I know, and already almost a mythical figure in the Southwest. But they were not needed; the fugitives staggered in and gave themselves up — haggard shapes in torn and muddy garments, caked with blood from bullet-wounds. It was the end of the last great robber-gang of Texas. Let me see; it was three — no, four years ago. It doesn’t seem that long. All the Southwest rang with the news. Their names were on all men’s tongues. Now I doubt not they are completely forgotten, except by the kin of the men they slew, except by the men who carry the scars of their bullets. Helms, the leader, went to the chair, roaring and cursing blasphemies, fighting against his doom so terribly that the onlookers stood appalled. Hill, the boy whose life was twisted and ruined in his boyhood when a ghastly blunder consigned him to a reformatory instead of the orphanage to which he should have been sent — he is serving a life sentence in the penitentiary, after an escape and a recapture. Blackie, the sardonic jester, dying with a rifle-bullet through him, gasped the names of respectable business men of Wichita Falls as his pals and accomplices, for a last grim jest. Ratcliff, who entered the bank clad in a Santa Claus robe and whiskers to avoid suspicion, feigned madness, killed his jailer, was shot down as he sought to escape by the jailer’s daughter, and that night a mob tore him, wounded as he was, from his bunk, and strung him up to a near-by tree, to sway in the shrieking blizzard. Eh — life is a strange fierce thing.

In late December 1927, four men were holed up in a boarding house on the eastside of Wichita Falls. Three of the men were hardened criminals, led by Wichitan Henry Helms, a hot-tempered man known for making even his own cronies obey him at gunpoint. He had been released from prison just a few months earlier for robbing the City Bakery. Two of the others had drifted into town several weeks earlier. Marshall Ratliff and Robert Hill had become buddies with Helms in the prison at Huntsville. The fourth man rounding out the team was Lewis Davis, Helms’ brother-in-law. A newcomer to crime, Davis was a glass worker who lived in a modest home with his wife and two children.

The men planned to rob a bank in Cisco, a town familiar to Ratliff because his mother ran a cafe there. Of the four, Ratliff was the only man who could be recognized, so he decided to use Christmas as his cover. He persuaded Josephine Herron, the woman who owned the boarding house, to make him a disguise — a Santa Claus suit.

Cisco is more than 100 miles from Wichita Falls, so the gang stole a blue Buick sedan for the trip and took off on December 22nd, stopping for the night in Moran where Davis’ sister lived – it was just a short drive to Cisco the next morning.

During this period of time, three or four Texas banks a day were being robbed, and in response, the Texas Bankers Association had offered a $5,000 reward to anyone shooting a bank robber during the crime. It was partly this reward that turned a simple bank robbery into a deadly crime.

It was around noon when, amidst the busy shoppers, children spotted Santa walking down Main Street and ran to greet him. He smiled, patted their heads and asked them what they wanted for Christmas.

In all the excitement, no one saw a blue Buick pull into the alley beside the First National Bank. Santa walked into the bank and as customers and employees greeted him, his demeanor suddenly changed, and before you could say “sugarplum fairy,” robbers with guns burst into the bank.

“Hands up!” yelled one of the robbers.

Ratliff quickly grabbed money from the tellers, stuffing it into his Santa sack, and forced one to open the vault.  At her young daughter’s insistence to see Santa, Mrs. B. P. Blassengame entered the bank while the holdup was in progress. Mrs. Blassengame, quickly reacted to the danger and led her daughter out another door, despite warnings from the robbers that they would shoot. She ran into the alley and screamed for help, alerting Chief of Police Bit Bedford and most of the citizenry about the robbery. Seeing how the police station was only a block away, the Chief and Deputy George Carmichael soon arrived on the scene.

Several minutes later, Ratliff had filled his sack with money and came out of the vault. Spotting someone outside the bank, Hill fired a shot through the window, and a shot was returned. Hill fired several more shots into the ceiling to show that they were armed. A fusillade of gunfire began, as many armed citizens, spurred on by the $5,000 reward, were now outside the bank. The cornered robbers forced all of the people in the bank out the door and towards their car, using them as human shields. Later, a count of bullet holes in the bank revealed over 200 bullets had hit the building.

A few of the hostages were wounded as they emerged into the alley, including Alex Spears, the bank president. While most of the customers escaped, two small girls, Laverne Comer and Emma May Robertson, were taken as hostages.

In the ensuing shootout in the alley, as the robbers tried to get to their car, Chief Bedford and Deputy Carmichael were mortally wounded — Bedford died several hours later, while Carmichael held on until January 17. Ratliff and Davis were also wounded in the shootout, Davis severely.

Despite their pre-planning, the robbers managed to pick a bank located less than a block from the police station and they had also failed to gas up their stolen getaway car. On the outskirts of town, the gang saw the Buick’s gas gauge needle had dropped to near empty.

Read the rest of this entry »

This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft, Howard's Texas, Howard's Travels.

Above: Harold Preece (and Booth Mooney) at a Lone Scout Conference in August 1927. Photo from

Anyone who starts digging around in the life of Robert E. Howard quickly discovers Truett Vinson and Tevis Clyde Smith, two men who, like Howard himself, had literary ambitions. Dig just a little further, and Harold Preece will emerge.

Preece met Howard through Truett Vinson; Vinson and Preece probably met through the Lone Scouts, Preece being particularly active in that organization. He helped organize the May 9, 1926 Lone Scout Conference at San Marcos, Texas. Vinson introduced his friends to each other in Austin in the summer of 1927. Preece wrote of that meeting in “The Last Celt,” saying that “Bob took over the three-way conversation as I recall, but by some easy, natural right of knowledge. Truett, I suppose, was used to being his willing auditor. I found myself eagerly listening.”

Preece, too, had literary ambitions, and while not a “local boy” like Vinson and Smith—Preece moved around quite a bit in the late 1920s, from Texas to Kansas to Oklahoma, but was primarily located in San Antonio and Austin, with his sisters—Preece and Howard corresponded and were both contributors to The Junto. At the height of their friendship, the entire group met fairly frequently, plus or minus a member, in Cross Plains or Brownwood or Austin, but by the early 1930s, Preece was pretty much off the chart.

A November 1931 article in the Commonwealth College Fortnightly, from Mena, Arkansas, reports that a “Texan Watches Over Destiny of Carrots.” Who was that Texan? Harold Preece:

Harold Preece, Texas student, has taken the place of Alois Oppek as gardener. Mr. Oppek will be absent from the community for several months, but plans to return early in the spring. Preece has had some experience as a truck farmer in Texas.
The vital need of the garden at present is rain, Preece says. Lettuce and other fall vegetables have been planted, but have not sprouted because of the drouth.

In his circa April 1932 letter to Tevis Clyde Smith, Howard says that “several months ago” Preece wrote, saying that “he was attending Commonwealth University, working on the side, and writing a novel.” This is the last mention of Harold Preece in the surviving letters. And that might be a good thing. According to an article in the San Antonio Express, Preece was on the Department of Justice’s radar as early as the summer of 1935. Preece was stopped and questioned by the local police for “distributing handbills at 3 a.m. advertising an attempted speech by Homer Brooks of Houston, Communist candidate for governor.” Preece later denied being a Communiust, but that didn’t stop the DOJ from inquiring after him prior to Roosevelt’s visit to Austin.

The stain on his record was apparently not that bad. By February of 1937, he is assistant editor of a Works Progress Administration writers’ project in Austin. The project attempted to collect “Texas songs and legends” as part of the “American Guide.”

Political activity aside, in 1935 Preece began placing articles of frontier history in various Texas papers: Lockhart Post-Register, Hearne Democrat, etc. In the late ’40s and early ’50s, Preece was a regular contributor to Texas Rangers and Zane Grey’s Western Magazine. In 1952 he brought out Living Pioneers, a volume of folk-history for which he gathered the stories of fifteen old-timers who lived through the early days in Texas and neighboring areas. 1960 brought Lone Star Man, a biography of Ira Aten, “Last of the Old Texas Rangers.” In 1963, his The Dalton Gang was published.

At some point in the late 1950s, Preece became acquainted with Glenn Lord and the two began corresponding. This eventually led to Robert Howard’s letters to Preece and submissions to The Junto appearing in Lord’s The Howard Collector. He later penned “The Last Celt,” one of the few biographical pieces about Howard written by someone who actually knew him.

During the Howard Boom of the 1970s, Preece was commissioned by Jonathan Bacon, editor of Fantasy Crossroads, to write a full-scale biography of Howard. Bacon had also asked Tevis Clyde Smith to write a biography; sadly, neither was completed. However, Smith and Preece still have some biographical details to reveal.

The collection of Smith papers at the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M contains a stack of letters from Preece. Dated from mid-1928 to 1931, they are chock full of Preece’s wanderings, ideas about religion and politics, movie reviews, and the people in his life—including Robert E. Howard. At right around 100 handwritten pages, there is a lot of material to go through, but I think I’ve found most of the good Howard-related comments. To wit:

Harold Preece to Clyde Smith

July 26, 1928:

I would be delighted to correspond with you. You seem like a friend of long standing, already, since I have heard so much of you from my intimate friends, Truett and Bob.
[. . .]
Did Bob tell you about the prize-fight we attended together in Ft. Worth? To me, the chief interest was in observing the reactions of the crowd, but I thought, several times, that Bob was going to leap into the ring, and challenge Tramel, himself. Anyhow, a swashbuckler like Bob doesn’t belong in this sordid age when descendants of Vikings sell ribbon for fifteen dollars a week. Bob is a welcome throwback to the gentlemen adventurers of old.

October 15, 1928:

“The Junto” came today, and its contents would have highly elated the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism. An article on “Religion” by H. P., “The Autobiography of an Atheist” by my sister, Lenore, and some choice comments by Bob.
[. . .]

Your satire, “Heigho’s Adventures Among The Redmen,” is amusing, but disjointed. You should have used more connectives. Too, the ending was not in good taste. No doubt but that you, Truett, and Bob, are “the three cleverest men in the world,” but why remind us of it?

Dec 16, 1928:

Your revelations concerning Bob’s affair surely were astounding. I thought that he would be the last one of the bunch to capitulate. I am shocked, to put it mildly.

I have written an impersonal tirade against women to Bob, as you requested. I can see myself, in future years, as the only bachelor of the noble fraternity of the Junto, envied by you fellows and despised by your wives, giving nickels to your children, and – but I had better stop.
[. . .]
Bob’s “To the Evangelists,” in the current number of the Junto, is one of his best poems in my opinion. It reminds me of Swinburne.

Nov 19, 1929:

I regret that I was not present upon the occasion when I was christened “Hink.” No doubt, I would have been baptized in beer. We should have had the christening upon the occasion of our visit to Cross Plains. However, I shall attempt to [do] justice to the illustrious original bearer of the name. After all, I might be a descendant of the roistering Gaelic gallant.

Dec 19, 1929:

The Cornish language is a dead tongue, tho. Faith! I’ll start a revolution and make it a Celtic republic, with Bob as Poet Laureate and yourself as Minister of the Exchequer.
[. . .]
Without your asking me, I mentioned to Bob the subject of his excessive drinking, pointing out that he was no longer writing brilliant poetry. That may account for the fact that I have not had a letter from him in some time.

Jan 18, 1930:

As for that premonition about your early death, forget it. It is merely your Calvinist heredity asserting itself. To the same source may be traced your fatalistic views. The great fault is that you, Truett, and, to a lesser extent, Bob, comprise a Mutual Admiration Society. You are a particularly zealous member of the society, as evidenced by your articles, extolling “the three,” in The Junto. All of you, particularly Truett and yourself, need to consider yourselves in the cold light of self-examination.

Feb 16, 1930:

A Farewell to Arms is crude from a standpoint of literature; for one thing, it contains entirely too much irrelevant detail. Because of its pornography, You and Bob would enjoy it.
[. . .]
You did help me a lot, last summer. Schultze, the heat, catarrh, and stomach trouble, all combined to make me sick of life. The only time that I was really happy was on that week-end trip to Bob’s. Bob’s beer is a potent factor for happiness.

Feb 27, 1930:

As Bob says, Kansas is the crummiest place this side of hell.
[. . .]
When the [social] revolution comes, you, Truett, and Bob, will probably espouse the capitalistic side. I have picked my side, long ago.

March 27, 1931:

I saw Bob twice during his stay in San Antonio, lunching once with his mother and him. I ran across him wearing a big shamrock, in front of the Alamo, St. Patrick’s Day. I was supposed to see him March 18, but became tied up and was unable to do so.
[. . .]
Bob told me that you were writing “A History of Brown County.” I should like to purchase a copy when the book is off the press.

That’s all, folks.

I’ve always said that there are more Howard discoveries to be uncovered, more treasures out there stored away in someone’s attic or on the top shelf of a closet.  When I received the newest issue of The Robert E. Howard Newsletter this weekend, Howard scholar Paul Herman proved my suspicions were once again correct.

With the REH Foundation Press planning a new volume of Howard’s westerns, Paul needed the best source material available for the stories, including Howard’s novel  A Gent from Bear Creek. So he followed up on Don Herron’s previous find in 2006 of a copy of an original 1937 manuscript for Gent (originally published by British publisher Herbert Jenkins).  The manuscript was in California when Don first located it, but the owner, George Roady had moved and Don had lost track of him. Putting on his Steve Harrison hat, Paul quickly discovered Mr. Roady had relocated to Missouri.

It seems George had obtained the manuscript from his father, who had been a handyman for Zora Mae Bryant during the 1980s and early 1990s.  Mrs. Bryant was once the owner of the copyrights to Howard’s writings and gave the elder Mr. Roady the manuscript and a few other Howard items.  Paul was soon zipping off to visit the Roady family in Missouri and scan the rare manuscript.

I won’t give away all the details for those of you who have not received your Newsletter, but bottom-line, in addition to finding some previously unknown letters by Doc Howard, Paul discovered the Roady family has what appears to be Robert E. Howard’s typewriter. Further tests and research is needed, but at first blush, based on the provenance, this appears to be the genuine article – the true Underwood for the Ages.

Now, everyone has heard of the typewriter acquired by Jay Corrinet in 1993 from a Underwood typewriter salesmen who said he bought it from Doc Howard in 1937, and which was believed to be Robert’s. However, in light of this discovery, one has to pause and wonder if that old salesman didn’t pull a fast one on Mr. Corrinet.

As a reminder to those of you who do not get the Newsletter, you a missing out on amazing finds like this, as well as rare manuscripts and letters that will appear nowhere else. It is easy to become a member of the Foundation and get the Newsletter and other Howard goodies, plus your membership dues are tax deductible.

And stay tuned — more details are sure to come on these amazing finds.

There were plenty of folks in Mineral Wells that thought building a major hotel in a rural community 50-miles west of Ft. Worth in 1912 was just plain crazy. Nonetheless, the four story hotel was built by the city over a water well known as the Crazy Water Well No. 3, and heralded it as an early 20th century health resort.

The acrid sulfur waters of the well, which were used throughout the establishment for drinking, bathing and for mixing with “Prohibition” cocktails, were said to have healing properties that addressed a number of health problems, including arthritis, dyspepsia, insomnia, liver and kidney problems, neuralgia, paralysis, rheumatism, scrofula, sore eyes, and impurities of the blood.

The hotel got its odd name from a local legend that purports a woman suffering from “mental and emotional problems” would often drink water from the well before the hotel was built over it. Supposedly, she eventually regained her sanity – no doubt aided by the high content of lithium in the water. Soon the locals began calling it the “Crazy Woman Well” and when the hotel was built, the name stuck.

Word quickly spread of the hotel and its “magic” waters. During those days, Americans were obsessed with miracle cures that would increase the longevity and quality of life, and the waters of Mineral Wells were as good as any to be taken as natural remedies that helped men and women feel young and healthy. People flocked to the newly-built lodges and bathhouses in Mineral Wells to take advantage of this new found craze, of which the Crazy Water Hotel was the first.

In March of 1925 the Crazy Water Hotel burned to the ground. Dallas businessmen Carr and Hal Collins quickly stepped in and bought the property and spent one million dollars to construct a larger, more lavish hotel, complete with a pair of natural bathhouses in the basement. The enterprising brothers claimed the miracle waters that bubbled up from the old well beneath the hotel were akin to the fabled waters sought by explorer Juan Ponce de León, and that the well was the proverbial Fountain of Youth. In an effort to market their mineral water to the local population, they built the enclosed Crazy Water Pavilion, designed in a semi-Moorish style, which served four strengths of the water.

While Howard mentions visiting Mineral Wells in his letters, he does not say where he stayed (the Crazy Water was most likely too expensive for his budget). As for the reason for his visits, we can only assume it was to take his mother to Mineral Wells so she could partake of the healing qualities of the waters. Here is one mention from a letter he wrote to August Derleth dated July 4, 1935, after a trip to New Mexico:

Personally, I wish I was rich so I could spend my life in travel.

But I do very little of it. Since returning home I’ve been nowhere except to Brownwood a few times; to De Leon which lies forty-five miles east of here over the most damnable road in the state; and to Mineral Wells, which lies 107 miles to the east, a beautiful little health-resort town built among the Palo Pinto mountains, and its greenness and plentiful water refreshing after the dry bareness of New Mexico and the Trans-Pecos.

The new, improved version of the Crazy Water Hotel opened in 1927, with a huge grand lobby, seven floors, 200 rooms and new electric elevators to transport people to the various levels of the hotel —  a big improvement for those suffering from arthritis, and other physical infirmities from the old hotel, which only had staircases.

Carr and Hal Collins also wisely invested in a magnificent glass-enclosed ballroom on top of the hotel, which opened up to a roof-top garden. Adding live entertainment in the ballroom increased the appeal of the hotel, bringing in more guests and increasing income for the brothers. The popular big bands of the day played in the ballroom, entertaining the celebrity and upper class clientele that frequented the hotel. The famous guests who stayed at the hotel included D.W. Griffith, Judy Garland, Conrad Hilton, Mary Martin, George “Spanky” McFarland, Tom Mix, General John J. Pershing, and Bob Wills. The notorious frequented the hotel as well — Bonnie and Clyde and George “Machine Gun” Kelly were also guests of the establishment.

In 1929, a double-whammy hit the Crazy Water Hotel when the huge and opulent Baker Hotel opened down the street and the Stock Market crashed, ringing in the Great Depression. Floating in a sudden sea of red ink, the Collins brothers rebounded by selling Crazy Water Crystals, the dehydrated minerals from Crazy Well water. A radio show broadcast from the hotel’s lobby promoted the healing crystals to the entire nation on the NBC network. The Crazy Water Crystals Show touted a lineup of popular country musicians and comedians, coupled with earnest endorsements of the benefits of using the product. Soon the Crazy Water Company was raking in as much as three million dollars per year from mineral-crystal sales.

Time passed and new medicines were invented, while governmental regulations quashed many of the advertised claims made by the hotels and their water. Soon the occupancy of the Crazy Water declined, sales of the crystals dropped and the owners turned to other sources of income, including renting space for weddings, receptions, banquets and other functions.

The Crazy Water Hotel eventually evolved into the upscale Crazy Water Retirement Hotel, which has the motto: “distinctive, luxurious, affordable independent.”  However, recently the owners of the hotel have been disputing claims made by Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services that the facility’s leaky roof poses a hazard to the clients of the retirement hotel.

Most of the water companies were shuttered by the 1940s, but one company survived. The Famous Mineral Water Company, which acquired the rights to the Crazy Water name, is the only place in Mineral Wells where you can sit at the bar, order a mineral water and savor the taste that built the city. If you would like to sample the waters of Mineral Wells from the comfort of your own home, Crazy Water is available for purchase online.

Rob Roehm over at the REH Foundation Press has been a very busy boy, putting together a comprehensive volume of material by Tevis Clyde Smith.  This book is an expanded version of Necronomicon Press’ Report on a Writing Man that adds a ton of additional material. The Foundation has received permission from Smith relative Roy Barkley to print the few surviving Smith letters to Howard and added to that all the known Smith material from The All-Around Magazine, The Junto, The Tattler, plus a few other publications. All of the stories co-authored by Howard and Smith are also included. A complete list of contents is posted on the Forums.

Update: “So Far The Poet…” is now available for purchase.

Rusty Burke has just announced the contents of Del Rey’s Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures over at the REHupa blog. The book will be available January 25, 2011.

In addition to the stories and verse, the book is profusely illustrated by John Watkiss. The volume also features an introduction by Scott Oden, author of the new historical adventure, Lion of Cairo, an essay by Howard Andrew Jones, Howard fan and noted authority on Harold Lamb, and Rusty’s detailed notes on the original texts.

The book kicks off with the rarely published “Spears of Clontarf,” set in 1014 AD and features virtually all of Howard’s best historical stories. In order to be included in the volume, the adventures had to a have connection, one way or the other, to actual historical events and persons. Here is the complete list of contents:

“Spears of Clontarf”
“Hawks Over Egypt”
“The Outgoing of Sigurd the Jerusalem-Farer” (v)
“The Road of Azrael”
“The Lion of Tiberias”
“Gates of Empire”
“Hawks of Outremer”
“The Blood of Belshazzar”
“Red Blades of Black Cathay” (with Tevis Clyde Smith)
“The Sowers of the Thunder”
“The Skull in the Clouds” (v)
“A Thousand Years Ago” (v)
“Lord of Samarcand”
“Timur-lang” (v)
“Sword Woman”
“Blades for France”
“The Shadow of the Vulture”
“The Road of the Eagles”

Untitled Fragment (“The Track of Bohemund”)
Untitled Synopsis (“The Slave-Princess”)
Untitled Fragment (The Slave-Princess)
Untitled Fragment (“He knew de Bracy…”)
Untitled Fragment (“The wind from the Mediterranean…”)
Recap of Harold Lamb’s “The Wolf Chaser”
Untitled Fragment (“The Persians had all fled…”)
“The Sign of the Sickle” (v)
“Mistress of Death”

As you may have noticed, those of us who are Howard’s staunchest defenders are quick to come to his aid when any blogger or scholar of suspicious pedigree drags out those old mange-infested theories and speculations about Howard’s life and death.  Al Harron and Mark Finn are among those at the forefront of the Howardian Shieldwall.

It’s gotten to the point that non-supporters of Howard and various fence-sitters wag their tails with glee when one of these brainiac bloggers posts something utterly stupid about Howard just so they can sit back and which the carnage as Howard supporters rush  in to set them straight.

It was one year ago today when an ill-informed blogger named Maggie van Ostrand brought down on herself the full wrath of Howardom when she posted not one, but two flawed and downright mean pieces on Howard and his parents. One of the websites, Fandomania, was flooded with no less than 30 comments presenting rebuttals to her scurrilous remarks. Another website, Texas Escapes, quietly pulled her ill-conceived post. But I’m not here to re-fight that already won battle. However, for those of you who may have missed the brouhaha, check out the December 2009 archives here and at the other REH related websites.

Recently, the dubious bloggers have wised up and cut off the comments feature once it appears they are getting hammered with comments meant to set the record straight. Nothing like a little quashing of free speech to get your point across.

The beginning of this dissemination of misinformation started with L. Sprague de Camp and his whackadoo doctor friend, Alan Nourse.  De Camp was traveling with Dr. Nourse when they paid a visit to Brownwood and Cross Plains in March 1965. The good doctor, upon hearing a story about Howard’s sleepwalking, was able to diagnose him on the spot. Besides being a physician, Nourse was also a minor science fiction writer whose claim to fame was coining the word “Bladerunner.”

“That sleep-walking alone” he said, “indicates a profoundly neurotic personality – probably hysteric and hyper-suggestible. You add to these other factors the fact that he was only starting to take an interest in women when he was nearly thirty and that exaggerated interest in sports in manly sports – well, it’s obvious that here was a fellow who wasn’t wired up right in the matter of sex.”

The above excerpt is from de Camp’s “Memories of REH,” which first appeared in Amra #38 (February 1966) and was the framework for additional biographical pieces by de Camp including “Skald in the Post Oaks” (1971), The Miscast Barbarian (1975) and Dark Valley Destiny (1983).

Needless to say, Howard’s reputation has been denigrated for decades with little or no rebuttal, so if some people think the fervor of those of us that defend him is overkill, that’s just too bad.  Way too many people got away with bashing Howard for way too long.  Think of it this way, we are just trying to restore balance in the Universe.

Some folks who dwell in cyberspace have even taken to calling us “Howard’s rabid supporters.” So yeah, I’m a rabid supporter of Howard and damn proud of it. Anyone got a problem with that? If so, please let me know. But be careful, because my bite is much worse than my bark.

This is the fourth and final 2010 installment of the online version of Nemedian Dispatches. This year I removed this feature from the print journal and brought it to this blog. Four times a year, Nemedian Dispatches highlights new and upcoming appearances of Howard’s fiction in print, as well as Howard in other types of media.

In Print:

Robert E. Howard:  A Collector’s Descriptive Bibliography of American and British Hardcover, Paperback, Magazine, Special and Amateur Editions, with a Biography
This is a softcover edition of the 2007 hardcover bio-bibliography by the late Leon Nielsen. This guide is an invaluable resource about Howard, with information for every known published work. Initial chapters provide a biography, discuss Howard’s literary legacy, and give basic tips about collecting Howard’s writings. The main body of the volume is a bibliography of Howard’s works published in the USA and Britain from 1925 through 2004. Each entry includes a description and known details including publisher, date, print run, and estimated value. A thorough index locates the publication of every Howard story or poem.

The Fantasy Fan
This is the complete run of 18 issues dating from September 1933 to February 1935 and contains original first published stories and poems by Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, and many others.  Edited by the then 17 year old Charles Hornig, it was the first weird fiction fanzine ever. This hardcover edition is limited to 200 copies, of which the first 100 are slipcased. Contact the publisher for pricing and ordering information.

Hawks of Outremer TPB
This trade paperback includes the four part series that adapted this Cormac FitzGeoffrey classic earlier this year. Howard’s grim Crusades tale of violence and retribution is presented in all its violent and bloody glory. Adapted by Michael Alan Nelson (writer) and Damian Couceiro (artist), with a cover by Joe Jusko.

A Thunder of Trumpets, by Robert E. Howard (Weird Works, Vol. 10)
Just out from Wildside Press is the final volume of The Weird Works of Robert E. Howard. A Thunder of Trumpets is the tenth book in the series and contains mostly fiction and verse published in Weird Tales after Howard’s death.  Contents and ordering information can be found on Wildside’s website.

Conan The Barbarian: The Original Unabridged Adventures
 Prion has just published a softcover U.S. edition of this British volume that collects all the Public Doman Conan stories orgignally published in Weird Tales. The 512 page book  measures 7 x 9 and retails for $29.95.


New Howard Kindle Downloads
New Kindle versions of the following individual Howard stories have just been released:  Almuric, “Red Nails,” “Hawk of the Hills,” “Beyond the Black River,” “Jewels of Gwahlur,” and “Vultures of Wahpeton.” Wildside Press editions of A Gent From Bear Creek, Graveyard Rats, Treasures of Tartary and Waterfront Fists also available for download. You can find a complete listing of Howard titles for Kindle here.

Coming Soon:

The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
This luxury hardcover from Subterranean Press is almost ready for publication and features contents that are identical to the Del Rey edition, illustrated by Greg Staples. The Subterranean volume will include a number of previously unpublished color plates by Staples.

Thrilling Mystery – June 1936
This facsimile pulp reprint due out this month from Adventure House. The 128 page magazine features Howard’s  “Black Wind Blowing,” plus “Dead Hands on the Moon” by John H. Knox, “Bamboo Death” by Henry Kuttner, “Daughters of Darkness”  by Richard Tooker, “Horror Has Blind Eyes” by O.M. Cabral, “The Death Kiss” by Arthur J. Burks, “I Killed Them” by Wayne Rogers and “Blood In the House” by Hugh B. Cave.

Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures
This highly anticipated collection of Robert E. Howard’s historical adventures that features the legendary swordswoman Dark Agnes, is due out at the end of January 2011. Also featured is Howard’s grimmest hero, Cormac Fitzgeoffrey. The balance of the volume is filled out with Howard’s best historical yarns. All the stories in this volume have been restored to the earliest, most definitive version available today. Illustrated throughout by John Watkiss.

Tales of Weird Menace and Steve Harrison’s Casebook
Tales of Weird Menace and Steve Harrison’s Casebook are due out from the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press at the end of January 2011. The volumes collect Howard’s Weird Menace and Yellow Peril yarns, many of which have never seen book publication in the U.S. and all of the known stories and fragments starring Howard’s hard-boiled detective hero. A never-before published draft of “Graveyard Rats” is also included. Cover designs and paintings by Jim and Ruth Keegan, introductions by Don Herron and edited by Rob Roehm.

Charles Saunders is becoming a pulp fictioneer. In the tradition of The Shadow and The Spider, the author of Imaro has created an African American pulp hero named Damballa. This cloaked avenger stalks the streets of 1930s New York City using both ancient African wisdom and modern science to mete out his own form of justice. Airship 27 Productions is the publisher and the book is due out Spring 2011.

The Paperback Fanatic #18
The Paperback Fanatic is a British magazine devoted to the collection of pulp paperbacks from the 1960s and 1970s. The April 2011 issue will feature “Solomon Kane” by Ramsey Campbell. This article is about Howard’s Puritan adventurer and his personal involvement with finishing some of the Solomon Kane manuscripts. And just for all you masochists out there, Campbell  also wrote the novelization of the Solomon Kane movie, which will be available in paperback on June 14, 2011.

Coming Soon: New Sailor Steve Costigan Radio Plays
From Mark Finn comes word that the Violet Crown Radio Players are returning to the stage. They plan to do some live shows and then go into the studio to finish the Sailor Steve Costigan series. If all goes as planned, new CDs featuring the radio plays will be available in June 2011 at Howard Days.

With Christmas just around the corner, you might want to give that special REH fan in your life the gift of Howard, even if that special fan is you. To that end, here are links to previous editions of Nemedian Dispatches.

No.1, No. 2, No. 3