Archive for January, 2011

I came across this sad story on a genealogy website. Howard doesn’t mention this tale of an afternoon outing gone horribly wrong in his letters, but it does present a snapshot of life and death in Howard’s hometown.

It Happened at Cross Plains
(May 29, 1933)

We were out in front of the house loading the car for a highly anticipated fishing trip to Pecan Bayou when we heard the scream. Looking toward the source of the sound, we saw Annie Tate running toward us from her house three quarters of a block away. Her arms were flailing wildly for attention and she continued to wail as she ran. Following close behind her was young Jack Preston who lived in the house between us and the Tates. Mrs. Tate franticly explained to Dad that Jackie had just told her that her youngest son, Delton Ray, had fallen in a pond about a half mile out the then-highway toward Pioneer. Dad immediately told her to get in the car, but she implored, “No don’t wait for me, just go.” As he pulled away Dad instructed me to get to the garage in town to tell Annie’s husband, Arthur, and I quickly took off on the six block run.

When I eventually arrived at the pond, a good sized crowd had gathered. Dad was on his hands and knees on the pond’s bank with Delton’s small body draped over his back. Someone was performing a version of what was then called artificial respiration. This continued with other people taking Dad’s place until a rescue team from Lake Cisco arrived with a mechanical device called a pulmotor. It was used for a lengthy period of time, but to no avail. It is certain that Delton was already dead when Dad brought him from the water.

The chain of events had started the day before. I and my cousin, Le Doyle Lancaster, who grew up with me, had gone up to the two side by side ponds to catch crawfish to use for bait on our planned fishing trip. The two younger boys had seen us when we returned, talked with us, and decided the next day to go to the ponds themselves without, of course, telling anyone. Someone, likely the Bryan twins, Roland and Nolan, who lived in the house by the ponds, had built some small rafts to play on and they were on the bank. Le Doyle and I, busy crawfishing the day before, had paid little attention to the rafts, but Jackie and Delton had decided to try them out. They may have been wading already, for at some point they had decided to remove all or most of their clothing. Out some distance from shore the raft overturned and both boys went into the water. Neither of them could swim, so whether Jackie thrashed his way ashore or just lucked out and landed on the shallower side was never determined, but he made it to safety. (He would later survive a number of hazardous patrols as a WWII submariner.) Nor can it be known if Delton might have been saved had Jackie aroused the surrounding neighborhood.

As I mentioned, there was a house right by the ponds, and Rev. Jackson and his family lived just across the road. Bob Young’s home and barber shop were a short distance to the east, and most likely there were customers and visitors there. Back toward town at the crest of the hill was a service station, plus dwellings on both sides of the road. But the little fellow simply put on his own clothes, gathered Delton’s, walked out to the highway, past the houses and service station and down the long hill to the Tate home. When Annie came to the door, he said, “Mrs. Tate, here’s Delton Ray’s clothes, he drowned.” It was then that we heard the first anguished scream.

Dad (Ike Kendrick) didn’t have to swim to make the recovery. The water was only deep enough to dampen the pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket. Before hope was finally given up, the crowd at the scene had become huge, with people coming from many miles away. A rare appearance in Cross Plains was that of a Texas Highway Patrol car and officer. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram even had a story the next day, one that led to my lifelong reluctance to put complete trust in what I read in the papers. It named the drowning victim as “Peldon” Tate.

Our fishing trip abandoned, Le Doyle and I released our crawdads in a smaller pool at an old well site nearer town.

 It was not a time for fun.

This entry filed under Howard's Texas.

As we celebrate Robert E. Howard’s birthday, I thought a few nuggets of his life would be appropriate. These were all found during my slow crawl through the Brownwood Bulletin for 1922-23. Most are from the “Personal Items” column.

Tuesday, November 21, 1922:

Personal Items: Mrs. I. M. Howard has returned from a week’s visit in Cross Plains.
Personal Items: Tom Ray Wilson of Cross Plains was a guest of Robert Howard for the week-end.

Much has been said of the fact that Hester went to Brownwood with Bob while other boys in similar circumstances went alone. If the above is accurate, it seems that Howard wasn’t tied quite as tightly to his mother’s apron strings as some would have us believe.  And the Bulletin is hardly comprehensive: this sort of thing may very well have occurred on several occasions with the newspaper only reporting on it once.

Tom Ray Wilson, you may recall, was the gentleman who told L. Sprague de Camp that Howard would go hunting, “but he wouldn’t kill anything.” He is also the source of the following, from Dark Valley Destiny:

Tom Ray Wilson, who lived in Cross Plains until 1924, became another intimate. As a high school boy, Tom sometimes drove Dr. Howard on his rounds while the doctor dozed in the back seat of his car. From time to time, Bob slept over at Tom’s house, but later Tom reported that he had been scared of Bob because he always carried a hunting knife and often a pistol and suffered from nightmares. So severe were these nightmares that Tom used to tie Bob’s toe to the bedpost with a piggin string lest, in his sleep, he rise up and attack his roommate.

Wilson must not have had the experience mentioned above on that first trip to Brownwood; he makes a return visit on December 9th.

Monday, December 11, 1922:

Personal Items: Dr. I. M. Howard of Cross Plains spent Saturday in Brownwood with his family.
Tom Ray Wilson of Cross Plains was a guest of Robert Howard on Saturday.

Around this time Howard submits a couple of stories to the school’s newspaper. He gets recognized for his efforts on Friday, December 22, 1922:

That same paper, under the headline “High School Civics Clubs Foster Unique Election Campaign,” tells the story of a simulated election in which “Noveline Price (Sophomore)” was elected County Superintendent.

December 22 also signaled the beginning of the Christmas break. I’m not sure how much of that break was spent in Cross Plains, but I know that some of it was.

Tuesday, January 2, 1923:

Personal Items: Mrs. I. M. Howard and son, Robert, have returned from a Christmas visit to Cross Plains.

 Happy New Year.

It was 105 years ago today that Hester Ervin Howard gave birth to a son, Robert Ervin Howard in the small town of Peaster, Texas.  Dr. Howard had moved Hester from the rural community of Dark Valley, located in nearby Palo Pinto County to the larger town to give birth. 

Located in Parker County, the community is situated nine miles northwest of the county seat of Weatherford. H. H. Peaster, the town’s namesake, moved from Georgia to Texas in the 1870s, bought land and promptly built a house. Originally called Freemont, the community underwent a change of name (to Peasterville) in the mid 1880s. Sometime later the “ville” suffix was dropped. The population reached 100 in the 1890s, growing to 300 residents in the mid 1920s. The Great Depression left Peaster with just a third of the 1920s population.

Dr. J. A. Williams delivered Robert and completed his official birth record, making an error regarding the date. Dr. Williams entered the date as January 24, 1906 instead of January 22, 1906. I posted a detailed account on this discrepecy last January.

A group of die-hard Howard fans will trek to Cross Plains today to celebrate Howard’s birth. There will be cake and ice cream at the Howard House, and showings of the Solomon Kane movie and the “Pigeons from Hell” Thriller episode at the Cross Plains Public Library. While many of us won’t make it, we can nonetheless remember his birthday with a toast to his life and a reading of our favorite Howard yarn.

Happy Birthday, Two-Gun!

Update: James Reasoner, one of the attendees at yesterday’s soirée  in Cross Plains, posted a report on the event at his Rough Edges blog.

Mike Chomko, Friend of TGR and one of the organizers of PulpFest 2011, is already getting geared up for this year’s event, which continues the proud tradition of a summer pulp con, now in its 40th year. The well-organized version of the venerable convention for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related material returns to Columbus, Ohio in 2011.  Here are the details from the PulpFest 2011 website.

Join us Thursday, July 28th – Sunday, July 31st
at the
Ramada Plaza Hotel and Conference Center
for PulpFest 2011!
 

PulpFest continued to grow in 2010 with attendance nearing 400, the largest crowd ever for a summertime pulp con. Reviews were generally positive, from Walker Martin’s “I’ve never seen room rates so low for a hotel which also provided a large dealer’s room, hospitality suite, and meeting rooms” to Laurie Powers’ “… a professional and very well-run convention” and Morgan Holmes’ “If you ever thought of getting into reading pulp magazines, this is the place to go.”

As Walker mentioned, sellers of pulp magazines, digests, vintage paperbacks, and other paper collectibles will find a large dealers’ room while those members partaking of the evening presentations will be able to enjoy a substantial programming area. Once again, the convention will be advertised and promoted extensively to capture the attention of new hobbyists as well as veteran attendees. Promotional flyers carrying basic information will be distributed at various collectibles shows including New York City’s Collectable Paperback & Pulp Fiction Expo; Pulp AdventureCon, Rich Harvey’s popular one-day pulp convention; Classicon, Ray Walsh’s long-running pulp and glamour art show; and Chicago’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention. Flyers will also be distributed at wide array of science fiction, comic book, gaming, mystery, and film conventions as well as book and antique paper shows. The PulpFest organizing committee will also be advertising in Alter Ego, Book Source, Firsts, Illustration, Paper and Advertising Collector’s Marketplace and other publications.

If you’d like to be added to the PulpFest 2011 mailing list, please send your name and address (home and e-mail) to David J. Cullers or to 1272 Cheatham Way, Bellbrook, OH 45305.

This entry filed under Collecting Howard, News.

With the start of the new year, the folks that organize the annual Howard Days each June are already kicking it into high gear. Indy Cavalier just posted an early update over at the REHupa blog. With all the milestones this year, the theme will be “Howard History” — after all, there are no less than four anniversaries devoted to commemorate and celebrate. As for this year’s Guests of Honor, here is a blurb from Indy’s post:

[W]e’ve chosen two Legendary REH publishers to be our Co-Guests of Honor this year: Damon Sasser and Dennis McHaney. Those of you familiar with Howard Fandom will of course recognize Damon and Dennis and we’re happy to have them at Howard Days to talk and be available to their legions of fans. Damon is the publisher of REH: Two-Gun Raconteur (“The Definitive Howard Fanzine”) and runs the REH: TGR blog, and Dennis’ The Howard Review is his ultimate claim to fame (among others) in a nearly 40 year career as a REH publisher. Dennis also runs the biggest REH message board at rehinnercircle.com.

Yes you read it right, I’ll be a Guest of Honor this year along with my compadre Dennis McHaney. I must admit I was surprised and honored to be asked, especially this year — a year of many Howardian milestones. Needless to say, I’m already looking forward to June and all the Howard Days festivities and events.

One of my favorite events is the Silent Auction, held every year at the Friday night Banquet and benefiting Project Pride. Even though Howard Days is months away, it is not too early to start donating Howard and Howard-related items to the Auction. I imagine just about every Howard fan has some duplicates in their collections, and sending them to the Silent Auction is a great way to help out the fine folks of Project Pride and clear out those excess books, magazines, fanzines, posters, artwork and other items you’ve acquired but really don’t need anymore. Box that stuff up today and send it to: Project Pride, P. O. Box 534, Cross Plains, TX 76443.

Earlier this week Cross Plains kicked off its centennial celebration with a reenactment of the land auction for the original town lots. The reenactment was held at the Cross Plains High School Auditorium on the 100th anniversary of that momentous occasion.

In the early 1900s Callahan County was still sparsely populated, but local leaders were looking for ways to bring new citizens to the county. Before it was Cross Plains, the town sat near the Turkey Creek and was known as both Turkey Creek and Schleicher before the US Postal Service came along in 1877 and named it Cross Plains. With the Texas Central Railroad coming through the area, officials needed a town to service the line. Having the town remain down by the creek was not feasible due to flooding in the low lying area. So in order to get the much needed rail line, the town moved up the road to higher ground and lots were staked out and sold. On January 11, 1912, the first train arrived, the Texas Central, which was soon to become the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. In 1919, Doctor Howard moved his family to the newly formed town and put down roots.

The town will have something scheduled each month to celebrate the centennial. Among the most well-known events are the Robert E. Howard Days and the Barbarian Festival, held simultaneously during the second weekend of June. There also will be a pancake supper in March, a fireworks display for July 4, a centennial parade Sept. 24, all leading up to the 100th anniversary of the November 11, 1911 election in which the townspeople voted for incorporation.

A 100 years brought quite a bit of change. The Great Depression and oil booms came and went, the railroad left, and the town suffered devastation from weather and fire, but the character of the town and its residents was strengthened by that adversity, making it truly a caring community. Mayor Ray Purvis says it best: “This town pulls together when something happens — everybody pulls together. It’s a great town to live in.”

This entry filed under Dr. Isaac M. Howard, Howard Days, News.

Well, actually Don’s website got the facelift with a nifty new blog format. Under the domain name http://www.donherron.com, the website is titled Up and Down these Mean Streets and the new moniker fits Don and his interests to a “T”.

Since the mid-1970s, with the publication of “Conan vs. Conantics” in TGR #3, Don has been the standard bearer for Howard literary criticism, taking on the old guard and breathing new life into a previously uncharted field. Soon he was contributing to various Howard journals and in 1984 he brought forth a ground breaking volume of Howard lit crit, The Dark Barbarian. Twenty years later, Don followed it up with The Barbaric Triumph, which further cemented his place in the Hall of Fame of Howard Scholars. 

In addition to his Howard pursuits, Don is known far and wide for his famous Dashiell Hammett tour.  Don has been showing up in front of the Main San Francisco Library with a fedora, a gat and trench coat for more than 33 years now, leading groups of out of towners and locals alike through the mean streets and over the hills of Hammett’s 1920’s San Francisco. The tour is so widely known that it has appeared as a question on Jeopardy, the pinnacle of Pop Culture (Answer: “The city in which Don Herron leads a Dashiell Hammett tour”).

And the tour is not for lightweights, Don begins with a half hour overview before he takes off, leading his charges like so many baby ducks struggling to keep up with their mother.  You’ll need the stamina of a marathon runner to complete the four hour tour, but it is well worth it, with a visit to the apartment where Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon, learn the real-life origins of Maltese Falcon characters, the notorious Burritt Alley, site of the murder of Sam Spade’s partner, and much more.  It is truly a pulp noir tour de force, one that requires sturdy walking shoes and a bottle of water.

Don has written a a Dasheill Hammet tour guidebook for those who can’t make it to San Francisco or want to bone up on the adventure before taking it.  He has also penned a number of books, essays and articles on the subject of detective noir fiction.

Be sure and bookmark Don’s website, and visit often.  I’m sure you will find him engaging and informative – a virtual human encyclopedia. While you may not always agree with Don has to say, you’ll have to admit it is thought provoking and comes straight from the heart.

This entry filed under Don Herron, Howard Scholarship, News.

One of the founders of Project Pride, Margaret McNeel is celebrating her 80th birthday today with a party at the Baptist Church in Cross Plains. Margaret was one of the driving forces in Project Pride for years. While not out in the forefront like some of the other members, Margaret worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the scheduled events went off without a hitch. Among the many tasks she performed were scheduling the docents for the Howard House tours and organizing the banquet. Her important contributions can’t be measured and every Howard fan owes her a debt of gratitude for her years of dedication and hard work.

Today she will celebrate this birthday milestone surrounded by friends and family, and no doubt a few REHupans will there as well to sing her praises. I hope you all will join me in wishing Margaret a Happy Birthday, with many more to come.

For those who may not know, Project Pride is a community organization in Cross Plains, Texas, that bought and restored the Robert E. Howard home with financial support from Howard’s fans around the world (and from the late Alla Ray Morris, who inherited the rights to Howard’s works). They operate the house as a museum in Howard’s memory, and Project Pride members love the opportunity to show it off for visitors. Robert’s room is particularly well done, complete with an Underwood typewriter like the one he used. The house is not open on a regular basis, so it is best to make arrangements to take a tour in advance by e-mailing or calling the people at Project Pride.

Every June, Project Pride, the City of Cross Plains, REHupa and The Robert E. Howard Foundation sponsor and host Howard Days, a two day event during which a special commemorative cancellation is available at the Cross Plains Post Office, t-shirts, books, posters and other merchandise is sold in the museum’s Gift Shop and tours of the home are available. Also, the Cross Plains Public Library puts on display some of Howard’s original manuscripts, along with pulps and books featuring his writings. It’s a great way for Howard fans of all ages to get to know more about Howard and the environment in which he lived.

While much has been done in the 22 years since Project Pride bought the house, a lot remains to be done, and Cross Plains is not a wealthy community. Any support from Howard fans — either through joining Project Pride, or through donations earmarked for the Howard Home — helps with the ongoing efforts to preserve Howard’s memory in his hometown.

For more information or to arrange for a visit, e-mail either Era Lee Hanke or Arlene Stephenson, or call 254-725-6562 or 254-725-4993.

Anyone can support Project Pride by becoming member of the organization. Membership is $3.00 per year for individuals or $5.00 for a family. Membership fees and other donations may be mailed to: Project Pride, P.O. Box 534, Cross Plains, TX 76443.

Robert E. Howard had a fascination with the odd byways and lesser known abandoned courtyards of history.  Every fan of his knows that.  His work had a lot to do with raising the same strong interest in me.  His, and that of other, more prestigious historical fiction writers like Treece, Welch, Sutcliff, Cecelia Holland (whose work I discovered with The Firedrake,  her first novel, published 1966), Mary Renault, Sabatini, Dumas and Shellabarger.

But concerning REH – one of his favorite settings was the Middle Ages and the Crusades, which he did not view with the eyes of idealistic romance.  No Walter Scott, he.  To my knowledge, in his stories he never used the settings of the Bible or any Old Testament characters, despite the blood, gore and battle contained therein.  Some of his poetry, though, treats them in a fashion that may explain why he didn’t.   Howard never shared the conventional and respectful (he’d probably have said, craven) regard for characters like Moses that was common in literature of the 1930s.

He wrote a short letter to Tevis Clyde Smith in August 1932, with two short poems taking up most of it, in outspoken support of Samson and Saul, both mighty warriors with less than subtle minds.   In “Samson’s Broodings” he has the strong man expressing disgust for his own people and deciding he will live with the Philistines.

I will to the men that broke them
– They are better men than these –
I am weary of taxes and bended backs,
And men that go on their knees

In another poem – “Dust Dance,” I think — he expresses considerable sympathy for Jezebel.

Oh Jezebel, oh Jezebel,
They hurled you from the wall,
And all the priests and prudes of Israel
Shouted to see you fall

But I could laugh with Jezebel
And kiss her on the lips,
And strip the scarf from off her breasts,
The girdle from her hips

For I forswear Elijah,
Forget that Adam fell,
To press the waist of Lilith,
And laugh with Jezebel

Oh brother Cain, oh brother Cain,
I take you by the hand,
For Abel was the first prude
To cumber Eden’s land.

It makes sense.  Jezebel by all accounts was the sort of woman who’d have aroused lust in Conan.  She doesn’t deserve the uncompromisingly bad press the Bible gives her, and nor does her husband King Ahab.  Oh, she was ruthless, no doubt, but so was her arch-foe Elijah the prophet, and her eventual death wasn’t the vengeance of the Almighty for her wickedness.  It was a simple grab for power by Jehu, who killed Jezebel’s sons, had Jezebel killed, and wiped out the rest of the Omride dynasty in a bloodbath.

The main reason she was hated was quite simply for being foreign and worshipping different gods.  There’s also the circumstance that Ahab and Jezebel ruled in the northern kingdom, Israel, while the biased account of their misdeeds  in the Old Testament was written in the southern kingdom, Judah.  It was intended to support the claims to greatness of David’s dynasty – even though David, who gets the good press, was Samuel’s secret nominee for the next king, then an outlaw, then a turncoat who fought for the Philistines.  Later, as king himself, he made sure Uriah the Hittite would be killed in the front lines so that he could take that honest soldier’s wife.  As for David’s son Solomon, he married more foreign idol-worshippers than Ahab did, and even gave images of their gods’ places of honor in his temple.

The poem “Dreaming in Israel” deals with the conflict between Saul, the nation’s first king, and Samuel, the judge and prophet who first anointed him and then brought him down.  No prizes for guessing which of the two had REH’s sympathies.

If I had dwelt in Israel when Saul was king of Israel,
If I had dwelt in Israel,
A captain of a host,
I would have taken Samuel, the hound of altars, Samuel,

I would have hanged fat Samuel
Above a fire to roast.
For Samuel was a priestling
With words for women’s ears,
But Saul he was a warrior
That stalked among the spears

Saul became king at a time of emergency.  As the Israelites first settled in Canaan, their main authorities were the Judges, who also acted as military leaders when those were needed.  The legendary Samson was one of the judges, Gideon was another, and there was at least one female judge – Deborah. 

Finally, the time came when that wasn’t enough to meet their military needs.  The Philistines were growing stronger.  Their massed (and better organized) armies had routed Israel’s tribal levies in battle and even carried off the Ark of the Covenant as plunder.  Under the prophet Samuel’s leadership, the Israelites did get the Ark back, but it was clear they needed a permanent head of the nation in war, and that meant having a king, like the peoples around them.  They asked Samuel to choose and anoint one.  They were probably fed up with the judges anyhow.  Samuel’s own sons, Joel and Abiah, were judges too, and so crooked the best use for them would have been extracting corks from bottles.  They took bribes to give false verdicts and generally behaved like justices in Al Capone’s Chicago.

Samuel had reservations about the measure.  He probably didn’t want his own authority, and that of the priests, undermined and rivaled.  The power that comes from speaking with the voice of God must be addictive.  He acceded to the people’s demands, but first he gave them a rant concerning “the manner of the king that shall reign over them.”

In essence he roared out, “You want a king?  You fools!  Do you know how kings act?  He’ll take your sons to drive his chariots and serve him as soldiers!  He’ll make you work his fields and bring in his crops without wages!  He’ll tax you blind to pay for his weapons and horses and palaces!  He’ll take your daughters to be his cooks!  Any fields and vineyards and orchards of yours that he wants, even the best of them, he’ll just take, and a tenth of your livestock too!  Oh, believe me – you’ll be sorry!”

Still, the people insisted, thinking that even if cranky old Sam was right, it was better than being conquered by the Philistines.  Samuel picked a man he thought he could control, Saul son of Kish, from the tribe of Benjamin.  Although tall and powerful (head and shoulders above most others), and a brave warrior, Saul was young, nor is it on record that anybody ever described him as the smartest fellow breathing. 

I say Saul was young, but that’s my estimate, as best I can figure.  The Bible doesn’t give precise dates.  I expect Saul was born around about 1051 BCE.  That’s the year before Shamshi-Adad’s son Ashurnasirpal I became king of Assyria.  Smendes, the first Pharaoh of the twenty-first (Tanite) dynasty was ruling Lower Egypt.  Had been for about two decades.  I suppose Saul became king in his early or mid twenties.

He didn’t have a power base or strong following of his own.  The tribe of Benjamin was the smallest, and even among them, the family of Kish was insignificant.  Samuel no doubt saw that as an advantage.  He hoped Saul would follow the prophet’s instructions and be a willing puppet. 

Big Saul’s first significant test in battle wasn’t against the Philistines, as it happened, but against the Ammonites from the east.  They were still nomadic at the time, and Nahash, the Ammonite lord, must have been a vicious character even for those savage days.  He menaced the region of Jabesh-Gilead, formally announced that he meant to enslave its people, and even if they submitted, would put out every man’s right eye as a sign of their servile status – and as a message to all Israel that they shouldn’t dispute right-of-way with him.  Outnumbered, the people of Jabesh-Gilead asked for seven days’ respite and sent a message to the new young king, pleading for help.  Saul’s anger, we’re told in I Samuel 11:6, “was kindled greatly.”

He called out Israel’s fighting men.  He dramatized his summons by taking a yoke of oxen, cutting them into pieces, and sending a bit to each of the tribes, with the warning that if anybody didn’t answer his call to go to war, “so shall it be done unto his oxen.”  They came.  Saul and his lads cut the enemy into dog meat.  They “slew the Ammonites until the heat of the day … so that two of them were not left together.”  Then they celebrated.  If Conan had been there he’d have slapped Saul on the back, I believe, and called him a worthy drinking buddy.

Sneaky Samuel had misgivings about this.  Probably dreaded that Saul might become too much admired and too powerful, if he continued as he’d begun.  He mounted his soapbox and gave the people a sermon to the effect that obedience to God was what mattered, and Samuel, who’d always been an honest, upright judge, was the voice of God, so no backchat.  He grumbled – again – about their having demanded a king to lead them, contrary to the LORD’s will.  He reminded them that it was wheat harvest, and threatened to call upon the LORD, “and he shall send thunder and rain, that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great … in asking you a king.”

The thunder and rain duly arrived, “and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.”  Which was the general idea, of course.  If REH had been writing the story he’d have implied that Samuel was a secret sorcerer and brought the thunder and rain himself, or consulted a nature spirit, or just had a painful bunion that throbbed when thunderstorms were imminent.  In any case he assured the Israelites that “if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.”

Pain in the rear end.  As one of the characters says in Edmond Hamilton’s Doomstar, “why do prophets always cry death and destruction?  Why don’t they ever shout ‘Hooray!’ or something cheerful?”

Saul kept on doing the right thing by Israel in fighting and beating its enemies, and Samuel kept on bitching.  When the Philistines came out with thirty thousand chariots to fight Israel (it’s a certain bet there weren’t even a tenth that many, by the way; it’s characteristic of all ancient sources to exaggerate numbers wildly, and the Bible is no exception, whatever the fundamentalists tell us) “the people were distressed.”  Saul came out to resist the Philistines with the odds great against him, and he waited at Gilgal for Samuel to show his face, bless the endeavor, and offer a sacrifice.  He waited seven days, “the set time that Samuel had appointed,” but Samuel didn’t appear.  On purpose?

Well, the appointed time – that Samuel had set and then failed to observe – was up, and the fighting men were starting to drift away.  Big Saul did what any commander worth his rations would do; he acted to save morale and gave the burnt offering himself.  After which Samuel finally arrived, and, predictably, screamed like a schoolgirl, “What hast thou done?”  (I Samuel 13:11.)

He also told Saul that if he’d waited until Samuel deigned to come along, his kingdom would have been established forever.  “But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart …” Personally, I think Saul showed great restraint in not shoving a spear through the tiresome bugger’s brisket.  A major battle with the Philistines was about to begin.  Talk like that didn’t help the men’s fighting spirit.

And Samuel dwelt in shadows
Of secret shrine and hall,
But Saul he stood up strongly
Before the gaze of all.”

Now, the account in I Samuel Chapter 14 is prejudicial to Saul in the extreme.  First, it gives all the credit there is to Saul’s son Jonathan, but since Saul was young when he became king, and this fight with the Philistines came about when he’d been king for just two years, it’s unlikely that Jonathan was even ten years old.  My own estimate is that he was six.  (The books of Samuel took their final form in the reign of King Josiah, about 370 years after Saul’s day, most likely edited and amended by Jeremiah the prophet.  Plenty of time for distortions and contractions of life spans to occur in the stories.)

Read the rest of this entry »

The year that was 2010 is already fading in the rearview mirror as we speed into 2011.  All in all it was a good year for Howard fans – lots of new books, e-books, audio books and Howardian discoveries. Looking ahead into 2011, nothing but sunshine and blue skies are visible through the windshield. It will certainly be a very busy year, with a number of important milestones, among them the centennial of Cross Plains, the 75th anniversary of the death of Robert E. Howard, the 50th anniversary of The Howard Collector and the 25th anniversary of Howard Days.  It is also the 35th anniversary of TGR and the year Glenn Lord turns 80.

Updates for various events, celebrations, commemorative books and publications and a special Howard Days in June, will be posted here, the REHupa website, on the Conan.com Forums and at other Howard related websites.

So keep a lookout for everything Howardian coming your way and start saving up those pazoors—you will need a passel of them for all the upcoming books and events.

Kicking off the year, will be what has become an annual event, the REH Birthday Bash.  It is typically held on the Saturday nearest to January 22nd. Plans are still being firmed up on the location (either Cross Plains or Austin) and the venue. The best place to get updates is at Dennis McHaney’s Yahoo group. The citizens of Cross Plains will start their centennial celebrations this month as well — more details to come.

Switching gears, it was one year ago today that the new TGR blog went live. The rest of the website was transitioned over shortly after that. So with the start of the New Year, I want to thank all of you who  faithfully visit and support the blog and website.

Regular TGR bloggers, Brian Leno and Rob Roehm have both done outstanding jobs, posting informative and entertaining posts — making my job easier and adding dozens of posts to the mix. While guest bloggers Barbara Barrett, Mark Finn and Patrice Louinet don’t appear very often, they all have posted important pieces. I can’t thank all of them enough for their contributions to the cause.

But we are not going to rest on our laurels — you’ll be treated to more of the same great Howardian scholarship and discoveries in 2011. As the old saying goes, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

This entry filed under Glenn Lord, Howard Days, Howard Fandom, News.