Archive for April, 2011

On the left you see Bran Mak Morn and his entourage in a field of heather by Michael L. Peters. This is the cover painting for the upcoming REH: Two-Gun Raconteur#15, which will have its premiere on June 10 at Howard Days in Cross Plains. As you can see, Michael has once again outdone himself, even topping last year’s El Borak cover for TGR #14. This is Michael’s second Bran Mak Morn outing having rendering an amazing four plate portfolio based on “Kings of the Night” for TGR #13.

Michael’s work has appeared in Heavy Metal Magazine, Caliber, Image, and CFD. He also sells prints of a lot of his illustrations and paintings through his website.  Several years ago he was hired by Ferris State University to create a series of pen and ink portraits of their former presidents and he has taught drawing and illustration through a local art gallery. Be sure and visit Michael’s website, which is chock full his artwork, including all the work he has done for TGR and The Chronicler of Cross Plains over the past six years. And I plan on keeping him busy for the the six years as well!

The Coming Soon page has more information on the new issue — pricing, along with pre-ordering details with be posted soon.

This entry filed under Howard Days, Howard Fandom, Howard Illustrated, News.

There doesn’t seem to be any end to the subjects you can find in REH’s stories – and letters – that springboard a search for more detail. I’ve barely even started on the peregrinations and evil influence of that cursed ruby of pre-human origin, the Blood of Belshazzar. Its history in the Achaemenid Persian Empire and temporary place of honor on Alexander the Great’s breastplate, until he lost it in India, were only the beginning. The early rulers of the Mauryan Empire wore it on their turbans. After the Kalinga War it was stolen and taken to the regions of Burma and Thailand, then found its way north to China. The fearsome first emperor of the entire nation, Shi-Huangdi, came by it when he was merely a king of one of the Seven Warring States. Details may follow in a couple of future posts, but after devoting three in succession to the ruby, I’m afraid of making the subject tedious; if I haven’t already.

That frontier fighting man, captain of rangers, merchant, and all-round adventurer James Bowie, is regarded by most as anything but tedious. He was the subject of a series back in the golden age of television, with Scott Forbes as Bowie. In John Myers Myers’ great book Silverlock, the universal poet Golias (whose other names include Widsith and Orpheus) in one scene gives a larruping Viking-style alliterative and rhythmic account of Bowie’s death at the Alamo to Hygelac and his Danes just after Beowulf has killed the monster Grendel for them. “I’m giving you ‘The Death of Bowie Gizzardsbane,'” he announces:

Fame has its fosterlings, free of the limits
Boxing all others, and Bowie was one of them.

Golias sweeps on to describe Bowie as

Wielding a long knife, a nonesuch of daggers,
Worthy of Wayland.

and as

Winning such wealth that trolls, it is said,
Closed hills out of fear that he’d frisk them of silver.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s an oblique reference to James Bowie’s association with the lost San Saba mine, a fabulous source of silver. The Lipan Apaches had it in Bowie’s day, but for the benefit of his Viking audience Golias uses literary license to modify the Lipans into trolls.

REH held forth to Lovecraft about San Saba and Bowie in one of his letters – of April 23rd, 1933.

He was a Lipan by adoption. He had seen the red men trading silver and gold armlets to the merchants near the Presidio. For months he fought and hunted with Tres Manos’ braves. At last they showed him the cavern stacked with golden bars that caught the beams of the sun in a net of flame. Tres Manos was brave. He followed Bowie into San Antonio, met him and called him a traitor. Only his quickness saved him when Bowie’s knife flashed from its sheath. They went back into the hill country but the Indians were waiting them. They never reached the mine.

Well, that’s close. The lost San Saba mine contained silver and only silver, so far as I’ve been able to find out – not gold. It had quite a history before Bowie and Tres Manos (Three Hands) clashed over it, too. It’s a famous legendary lost treasure of Texas – and it seems, no mere legend. The Spaniards sent three expeditions at least into the area in the 1750s. Juan Galvan, Lieutenant to the Governor of Texas, led the first one, in 1753. Pedro de Rabago y Teran, who had been Governor of Coahuila, headed a second in ’55. They both reported silver deposits in the area of Los Almagres, and a third expedition was dispatched there in 1756. Lieutenant-General Don Bernardo de Miranda left San Antonio (then called San Fernando), charged by his superiors to look for minerals and report on the strength of the local Indios. Seeking precious metals and converting the red pagans went together like ham and eggs; had since the days of the great conquistadores.

Miranda is generally considered (by those who believe – and maybe they’re right) to have been the first white man to behold the fabulous silver mine itself. Near the Llano River, he and his men came upon the San Saba River and “a low, red-colored hill. Curious, they explored the canyons and ravines extending from the hill and found a natural cavern in one of them. Lighting torches, Miranda and a few soldiers entered the cave and discovered several thick veins of silver.”  (Buried Treasures of Texas, by W.C. Jameson, published 1991, August House, Inc.) 

Miranda’s enthusiastic recommendations to his superiors that the silver deposits be worked were largely ignored. Perhaps his bosses dismissed his descriptions of the silver wealth he’d discovered as far-fetched and self-serving. (It’s possible they were.)  Then Miranda went on another military expedition, from which he never returned, nor did his fate and his men’s ever become known.

A mission was established in the area to convert the warring Lipans and Comanches. The mission priests are believed to have begun working the rich silver lode in short order. Once they discovered it, they spent more time extracting silver than preaching the Gospel or converting pagans. It wouldn’t be coincidence that the mission was largely funded and backed by one Pedro Romero de Terreros, a wealthy Mexican whose line of endeavor was – mining. He was also a cousin of one of the mission priests.

The mission was known as Santa Cruz de San Saba. The local Apaches befriended the Spaniards, whom they hoped would be valuable allies against the Apaches’ bitter enemies, the Comanches. The Comanches didn’t care for that development. The mission had existed for barely ten months before an attack by about 2,000 Comanches destroyed it.

The mine had become a legend, like the Golden Cities of Cibola, by the time Jim Bowie was born – probably in 1796, and probably in Kentucky. His father was Rezin Bowie senior, a farmer and miller who moved to Louisiana with his wife, Elve ap Catesby Jones. With that name she was clearly of Welsh descent. (Bowie senior had fought in the American Revolution and been wounded; he met Elve when she nursed him back to health, and married her in 1782. James was the ninth of their ten children.) 

The Bowie boys, Rezin junior, James, and John, made a name as they grew as tough, wild young fellows. Rezin and Jim at least were intelligent with it; besides English, they could speak, read, and write fluently in Spanish and French. They acquired a reputation for fearlessness that was well-deserved. Jim became proficient early with rifle, pistol and knife. He hunted panthers and fought alligators in the Louisiana bayous. Part of his legend relates that he took to using the famous Bowie knife after a lesser sort of blade broke in his hand when he was fighting a bear. (And possibly that was REH’s inspiration for Cormac Fitzgeoffrey’s disgusted comment in “Hawks of Outremer” about the swords he had used in former battles: “They break in my hands.”  James Bowie, at six feet tall and 180 pounds in weight when fully grown, strong and swift, wasn’t unlike Cormac physically, either, except that his hair was light in color.)  Jim evidently didn’t design that huge knife with the cutaway point, but his brother Rezin, for Jim’s protection in future emergencies.

When Jim was sixteen, he and brother Rezin joined the Louisiana militia (Second Division, Consolidated) to fight in the War of 1812. They and their brother John were headed down the river to join Andrew Jackson’s forces in New Orleans when the war ended. No, they didn’t fight in the Battle of New Orleans, commemorated in the popular Johnny Horton song, and it’s a shame. Of course, if a movie ever rewrites history the way “The Untouchables” and “Braveheart” did, the Bowie boys will be there beside the cotton bales with Andrew Jackson, and Jim will kill seven hundred British redcoats hand to hand with his flashing great knife. I’m not sneering, I’d rewrite it that way myself. Particularly since the five American gunboats that blocked access to Lake Pontchartrain to a much larger British fleet, under Cochrane, were commanded by Thomas ap Catesby Jones, a young lieutenant, later to become a commodore.

That American naval lieutenant had to be closely related to Jim and Rezin Bowie’s mother. How common is a name like ap Catesby Jones?  There were two brothers, Thomas and Catesby, who served in the Second Virginia Regiment during the Revolution. They both died in 1800. One of their younger brothers, Meriwether Jones, achieved some prominence as a political writer. He founded and edited the “Richmond Examiner” newspaper until he was killed in a duel in 1806. Skelton Jones, a Richmond lawyer and also a writer of talent, took over his brother’s newspaper until he died in a duel himself. Maybe people took violent exception to their political views as expressed in editorials.  It’s obvious they weren’t a tame or mediocre breed, and that the Bowie boys inherited some of their rambunctious natures through their mother, a kinswoman – maybe sister – of Thomas, Catesby, Meriwether and Skelton, fighters all.

Out of the militia, Jim made a living sawing logs and floating them down the river to sell, but for a lad of his spirit that was bound to be a mere temporary expedient.

The next noteworthy incident in his life came when he joined the “Long Expedition” of June 1819. One James Long thought the boundaries set by the Louisiana Purchase weren’t as they should be, and that Texas ought to be independent of Spain. He gathered some men who agreed with him. Setting out full of enthusiasm and fight, they captured Nagocdoches from the Spaniards and declared Texas a republic. Lacking sufficient numbers to make their victory stick, badly organized, badly supplied, they soon scattered, and were driven out of Texas by reinforcing Spanish troops. This early involvement in the Texan cause foreshadowed Jim’s last days in the besieged mission of the Alamo.

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

Jeff Shanks, former Cimmerian blogger and current member of REHupa, will make his first appearance in the pages of the upcoming fifteenth issue of TGR with his “Gouged Eyes and Chawed Ears: The Rough-and-Tumble World of Breckinridge Elkins” essay.

Rough-and-tumble is a style of fighting that was popular among folks in the 1800s and early 1900s who believed hand to hand combat should be simple and brutal – so brutal it left the contestants permanently blinded or maimed. Howard incorporated this violent fighting style in his humorous western stories.

In this excerpt from Jeff’s essay, he presents a quotation from Howard’s “The Haunted Mountain” in which Elkins gets into a rough-and-tumble scrape in a cave with what he believes is a hairy wild man. Turns out it is actually a bear:

It seemed to get darker the further I went, and purty soon I bumped into something big and hairy and it went “Wump!” and grabbed me. Thinks I, it’s the wildman, and he’s on the war-path. We waded into each other and tumbled around on the rocky floor in the dark, biting and mauling and tearing. I’m the biggest and the fightingest man on Bear Creek, which is famed far and wide for its ring-tailed scrappers, but this wildman shore give me my hands full. He was the biggest hairiest critter I ever laid hands on, and he had more teeth and talons than I thought a human could possibly have. He chawed me with vigor and enthusiasm, and he waltzed up and down my frame free and hearty, and swept the floor with me till I was groggy.

For a while I thought I was going to give up the ghost, and I thought with despair of how humiliated my relatives on Bear Creek would be to hear their champion battler had been clawed to death by a wildman in a cave.

That made me plumb ashamed for weakening, and the socks I give him ought to of laid out any man, wild or tame, to say nothing of the pile-driver kicks in his belly, and butting him with my head so he gasped. I got what felt like a ear in my mouth and commenced chawing on it, and presently, what with this and other mayhem I committed on him, he give a most inhuman squall and bust away and went lickety-split for the outside world.

Jeff is earning his Howard scholar chops by presenting today at the PCA in San Antonio – his topic is “Creating an Age Undreamed Of: Robert E. Howard and the Works of Lewis Spence and W. Scott Elliot.”

Check out the Coming Soon page for additional details on issue #15, which will debut in Cross Plains in just six short weeks during this year’s Howard Days. A full list of contents, along with pre-ordering information will be posted soon.

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

King Darius II of Persia died in 405 BCE. His youngest son Cyrus (known to history as Cyrus the Younger) came with all duty and respect to the deathbed, from his post as satrap of Lydia, Phrygia and Cappadocia – that is, nearly all of western Asia Minor – bringing with him the baleful ruby called the “Blood of Belshazzar” with which Darius had entrusted him.

 Before going back to the Persian capital, though, Cyrus left his other treasures with his ally, Lysander, King of Sparta. That alliance, surely, was something Cyrus didn’t divulge to the dying king. He was planning already to seize the throne that was supposed to go to his older brother, Mnemon. Lysander of Sparta, an enemy of Athens now surreptitiously dealing with Persia, in the handsome person of Cyrus, was aiding him to achieve that. So was Cyrus’s scheming mother, Parysatis, a woman who combined the more conspicuous qualities of Medea and Catherine de Medici. Cyrus, comely, brilliant and daring, was her adored child and favorite. She would have done anything she could for him – and with Parysatis, “anything she could” took in a wide swath of appalling country.

 Mnemon, the rightful heir, and his wife Statira weren’t exactly slouches, though, or easy victims. And the satrap Tissaphernes, Cyrus’s rival, had sent the Athenian renegade Alcibiades to Mnemon as a messenger, with the news that Cyrus the Younger was planning a grab for the throne. This Alcibiades is a famous name in history, a Greek counterpart of Cyrus, handsome, charming, brimming with talent, game to twist the Minotaur’s tail and spit in its eye when it turned around  — and loyal to nobody but his sweet slick self. He used all his persuasiveness to put the story across. Not that Mnemon found it hard to believe.

Alcibiades and a priest who had been Cyrus’s teacher testified that Cyrus was planning to murder his brother. Was the priest paid? Or merely loyal to the proper heir? It’s problematical, but the murder was supposed to take place in the temple at Pasargadae where Mnemon was about to be inaugurated king. Since Cyrus carried the accursed gem, the accusation was no doubt true – not that Alcibiades would have been concerned if it had been false. Mnemon had his brother seized, put in golden fetters out of respect for his royal rank, and went ahead with his own inauguration as King Artaxerxes II, planning to have Cyrus executed later. Instead, their mother Parysatis pleaded for his life and had him spared. Cyrus was pardoned and sent back to his command in Asia Minor.

405 BCE was also the year that Lysander of Sparta destroyed the Athenian fleet at the battle of Aegosotami. Athens surrendered the following year. Lord of Sparta and conqueror of Athens, Lysander was now the most powerful man in Greece. He installed a rascally group of collaborators as his front men in Athens, with a Spartan garrison to support them – the notorious Council of Thirty. Their leader was the icy, ruthless Critias. Democratic government in Athens was swiftly brought to an end, by pretty much the same methods Hitler used in Germany almost fifteen hundred years later.

Cyrus the Younger didn’t learn much from his close call for treason. He continued scheming. He was confident in his ability to handle men; he knew how to reward those who performed well for him, and punish the dishonest. He had the redoubtable Lysander of Sparta for an ally. He remained set on overthrowing his brother.

His quarrel with his rival Tissaphernes gave him an excuse to assemble an army, and the local Pisidians had become rebellious. He gathered a much bigger host than he actually needed for these small fry, planning to make another attempt on the Persian throne. He underrated the efficient spy system of Tissaphernes. The satrap knew what was happening, and why. He promptly let Artaxerxes II know what his kid brother really had in the works.

“He’s assembled ten thousand Greek mercenaries, hard as nails, two and a half thousand peltasts, another ten thousand soldiers from all over Asia Minor, and his pal Lysander has sent over thirty-five triremes as well as 700 Spartan hoplites. You think it’s just to kick those puny Pisidians’ butts? No chance; he wants your throne, boss. I’d get here quick if I were you.”

Or words amounting to that.

Artaxerxes took the advice, gathered an army of his own, and sent for Tissaphernes to help lead it … but his kid brother was already on the march by then, and had advanced into Babylonia before the king could meet him. The encounter took place at Cunaxa. Cyrus realized his best chance was to have his brother killed early in the battle. He ordered Clearchus, the commander of the Spartan detachment, to charge the Persian centre against Artaxerxes and kill him at any cost. Clearchus refused, seeing well enough that his heavily armored hoplites attacking in formation might kill Artaxerxes, all right, but wouldn’t survive afterwards. Cyrus, cursing the Spartan’s insubordination and promising dire punishment, charged his brother himself while Tissaphernes, in command of the Persian left wing, engaged the rest of Cyrus’s army.

Briefly, Cyrus was killed before he got anywhere near his brother. In the confusion of battle no-one knew who’d really slain him, but his body was identified afterwards and the Blood of Belshazzar, no doubt, taken from his gashed and gory corpse and returned to Artaxerxes. The satrap Tissaphernes was eager to claim the credit for bringing him down, and did, which turned out to be very unwise, because Cyrus’s mother Parysatis believed it and swore revenge. When Parysatis said revenge she didn’t mean having the court poets make scurrilous ballads about him.

She couldn’t do anything at once, though, because Artaxerxes considered he owed his throne to Tissaphernes and had assigned him the job of hunting down the Greek mercenaries who had fought for Cyrus. However, the terrible mother of Artaxerxes and Cyrus had a long memory.

King Artaxerxes had decided to make the official story that he had met Cyrus hand-to-hand at Cunaxa and slain him personally. Tissaphernes, a shrewd man, accepted the official story and quit saying that he’d dispatched the rebel prince. With the Blood of Belshazzar shining on his person again, no Persian was about to dispute Artaxerxes.

Except one. Some drunken idiot of a young officer by the name of Mithridates boasted at a palace banquet that HE’D been the one to deliver his mortal wound to Cyrus the Younger. Possibly he had wounded him in the leg, but whether that was really the fatal wound, and who else struck Cyrus but had the sense to say nothing, is anybody’s guess now.

What is certain is that King Artaxerxes took it amiss. Here was this inebriated fool making him out to be a liar, in his own palace. He had Mithridates put to death in a terrible, protracted and degrading way. The execution took seventeen days.

Nobody else went around claiming to be the slayer of Cyrus after that.

The Greek mercenaries who fought for him at Cunaxa weren’t the sort to be slaughtered tamely just because they lost the battle. They held together and fought their way clear, even though their general, Clearchus, and most of their other senior officers, had been killed or captured. Tissaphernes, on the king’s orders, pursued them with part of the army, and fierce hostile tribes harassed their flanks on their long journey. They stubbornly fought their way through Persian territory, choosing to go northward, across harsh deserts, through snow-filled mountain passes, all the way to the Black Sea and the friendly territory of the Greek colonies on its shores. This was the famous “march of the ten thousand” chronicled by Xenophon, one of their three remaining leaders. (Actually there were more like thirteen thousand of them at the beginning.)

When Tissaphernes returned, in about 400 BCE, he was appointed satrap of Lydia again, to replace Cyrus, and given the king’s daughter in marriage. The king’s mother gnashed her teeth and swore to herself, again, that Tissaphernes’ day of reckoning would come. Meanwhile she vented her grief and fury on lesser fry. There was a Carian soldier who had apparently been one of the men to wound Cyrus in the battle, and might have given him his mortal stroke. Parysatis had him thrown into a dungeon, his eyes gouged out, and further tortures inflicted. Her executioners finished him at last by pouring boiling lead into his ears. Then she turned her savage attentions to Bagabaeus, one of the king’s high officials, a eunuch. She won him from the king in a dice game. She wanted this fellow because she knew he had ordered Cyrus’s body mutilated, his head and right hand cut off as trophies of victory. Once he belonged to her, she had him skinned alive and laid out neatly across a wooden framework to expire, which after a certain time he had the excellent sense to do.

When Tissaphernes heard about their fate, he must have whistled and said to his drinking buddies, “Ain’t mother love wonderful?  I believe I’ll stay well out of that bitch’s way.”

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This entry filed under Howard Scholarship.

In a letter to H.P. Lovecraft, circa September or October 1933, Howard was discussing the tenacity of Texas Rangers tracking down outlaws and murderers when he touched on the subject of a couple of bad actors who killed several Texas peace officers.

When Glen Hunsucker, nineteen year old bandit, and ten times as desperate as “Machine Gun” Kelly ever thought of being, was shot down in a fight in Lincoln County, New Mexico, (Billy the Kid’s old stamping ground) not many weeks ago, in which fight a New Mexican officer was also killed, the papers mentioned that he was a Texan. Which was true; what most papers did not mention was the fact that the Lincoln County officers who killed him and captured his companion, Perch-mouth Stanton, were also Texans. Reynolds, who tore Hunsucker’s guts out with a charge of buckshot, was from this very county — Callahan. And McCamant, who aided Reynolds in capturing Stanton, was from an adjoining county.

The saga of Ed “Perchmouth” Stanton and Glen Hunsucker began in the early hours of Howard’s 27th birthday, January 22, 1933, when gunshots rang out in the small Texas Panhandle town of Tulia. When the smoke cleared, Swisher County Sheriff John C. Moseley lay mortally wounded. Sheriff Moseley, who was widely known and highly respected throughout the county, had served two terms as sheriff and had just been re-elected for a third term over a field of four opponents. He lived in the Kress community for a number of years where he farmed and he was also in the contracting business in Tulia.

Events had begun the day before twelve miles north of Tulia in the town of Happy. Three individuals, two men and a woman, aroused the suspicions of Bob Gazzaway, owner of a tourist camp where the trio was staying, by demanding their car be “locked up” while they were there.

Shortly before midnight Swisher County Deputy Sheriff F.O. Goen saw them “prowling” in the vicinity of a filling station. When the suspicious trio saw the deputy they sped south in the direction of Tulia, Deputy Goen telephoned Sheriff Moseley to warn him they were heading his way.

Sheriff Moseley dressed hastily and left his home without telling his wife, who had been awakened by the telephone, the details of the call. Moseley had decided to detain the car’s occupants for questioning. Within a few minutes she heard two cars come racing down the street with Moseley blowing his siren. Running to the window, she saw the cars speed past, her husband hot on the tail of the fleeing vehicle and firing three times, apparently at the tires.

Three blocks away Sheriff Moseley sped past the escaping automobile on a sharp curve and cut in front of the trio as their car pulled into the filling station at the turn of the road. The Sheriff had the drop on the cornered trio and ordered the bandits to turn their car around and drive back to the jail three blocks up the main street. Moseley, in attempting to turn his own car around while keeping the trio covered, let his rear wheels drop off into a ditch at the roadside.

It is believed the jolt caused him to lose his drop on the bandits and gave them the opportunity to open fire. Somehow Sheriff Moseley lost his grip on his pistol and it dropped to the floorboard when the car slipped into the ditch. That was the turning point and a one sided battle from then on until one of the bandits shot the sheriff through the head. Two of the suspects, after firing a number of times from their car, got out after seeing Moseley was empty-handed and walked up to the car, shooting through the front window. The fatal bullet passed through Moseley’s hand, the officer apparently raising up it up to protect his face as the murderer advanced and aimed through the glass. The outlaw Stanton was the trigger-man.

Meanwhile back at the Moseley home, while she could not see all that was transpiring down the street, Mrs. Moseley did hear the gunshots that resulted in her husband’s death.

After killing the sheriff, the shooters entered the filling station on a nearby corner. They forced the attendant to service their car and threatened to kill him if he tried to sound an alarm. One of the men took $25.00 from the till and tore the telephone from the wall, while another stood guard outside.

The killers made their getaway, fleeing west after taking a pistol and a rifle from the sheriff’s bullet riddled car. Witnesses were unable to read the license plate because it was smeared with either mud or paint.

In the wake of Moseley’s murder, authorities didn’t know it, but the individuals who killed the Sheriff in cold blood were associated with a group of thugs that were marauding throughout west Texas and eastern New Mexico during the early 1930s. Before all the criminals involved were either captured or killed, four officers of the law would be murdered and several others seriously injured.

Five days after Sheriff Moseley was brutally gunned down in Tulia, Wise County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Brown Jr. was shot and killed in Rhome. A barber by trade, Deputy Brown also served his area of Wise County as a law enforcement officer.

On Friday January 27, 1933, Brown received word from the sheriff’s office dispatcher in Decatur that a vehicle containing four people had been seen stealing an oil drum. The theft occurred in the Alvord area and the perpetrators were likely headed in the direction of Rhome.

Deputy Brown spotted a vehicle matching the description as it came through Rhome on Hwy 2. He ordered the vehicle to stop and when the driver complied, Brown stepped up onto the running board and instructed the driver to pull up to his barber shop. Brown escorted the four subjects, three men and a woman, into the barber shop without searching them and seated three of them on the waiting bench and the other on a large breadbox. Walter C. Looney, a grocery store employee who had seen the arrest, walked up to the barber shop to see what was going on.

The deputy picked up the phone and dialed the sheriff’s department — at that moment the unidentified man seated on the breadbox pulled a pistol from his rear pocket. He aimed the gun at Brown and advised him that he would be going with them. Brown balked at the demand and pushed the suspect back through the doorway, causing him to lose his balance. As the man fell, he fired six shots from his pistol, striking Brown in the neck. That unidentified man and murderer of Deputy Brown was Glen Hunsucker, who somehow managed to escape on foot from the scene.

When the gunfire started, Looney ran around the building to his brother-in-law’s shop where he retrieved a shotgun. Returning to the scene, he saw the killer’s companion uncover a machine gun in the car. However, Looney’s shotgun was not loaded, so he stepped back from view. Three of the suspects fled from the scene, driving south on Hwy 2. The nearby citizens ran to the barbershop where they found Joe Brown collapsed and dying in a chair.

On January 29, Ida Hunsucker, mother of Glen, Faye Pennington, of Dallas, and E.C. Hawthorne from Memphis were taken into custody near Childress. Pennington, 16, was described as Glen Hunsucker’s “Sweetheart.”

Ida, who owned a tourist camp in Quitaque, was apparently en-route there when detained. The three suspects were driven to Decatur. On January 30, a charge of murder was filed against the 38 year old Ida Hunsucker in Wise County. Accessory to murder was filed against Pennington and Hawthorne. Ida was then taken to the Dallas County jail where she was questioned by Dallas County Sheriff Richard A. “Smoot” Schmid and Texas Ranger Bert Whisnand. Ida admitted to the pair that her son Glen was the one who had shot Deputy Joe Brown. The two lawmen then asked Ida to write a plea for her son to turn himself that could be published in the newspaper – she promptly refused, saying she rather see him dead than captured.

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

Just in time for Howard Days . . . I thought I should provide some information about the two new REH Foundation books that will be available soon: School Days in the Post Oaks and The Collected Letters of Doctor Isaac M. Howard.

School Days in the Post Oaks is an anthology of newspapers articles covering Robert E. Howard’s life and times in the post oak country. The articles were pulled from community papers—Cross Plains Review, Brownwood Bulletin, Dallas Daily News, etc.—and school publications—The Tattler, The Progress, Daniel Baker Collegian, Yellow Jacket. These articles cover a range of activities: from Robert Howard’s graduation from Cross Plains High to his summer graduation from the Howard Payne Commercial School. They describe events that occurred both on campus and off; for example, Howard’s Brownwood High graduation is narrated in detail, even including the text of the commencement speech. Other articles describe what it was like to work for the Yellow Jacket, the overcrowding at BHS, the senior picnic, and more. Along the way, other Howardian personalities receive equal attention: Tevis Clyde Smith, Echla Laxson, Novalyne Price, C. S. Boyles and others.

This heaping helping of Howard’s “time and place” also includes all of Howard’s stories and poems from the above-named publications, including the recently found “Letter of a Chinese Student” and items whose authorship is uncertain. There’s even an index.

The Collected Letters of Doctor Isaac M. Howard is a lot more than the title implies. It begins with a “Prelude” section which contains letters to Robert E. Howard: items from August Derleth, C. L. Moore, Farnsworth Wright, Otis Kline, and others. Following a handful of newspaper articles describing Robert E. Howard’s death and funeral, Isaac Howard’s letters begin. These are interspersed with responding letters from Wright, Derleth, Kline, and E. Hoffman Price, as well as other, related letters (in a letter from Kline to Carl Jacobi, it’s easy to see the myth-making of Howard’s suicide beginning). The sections with Isaac Howard’s letters end with a couple of newspaper articles announcing his death and a letter from Alla Ray Kuykendall which describes the doctor’s final moments.

As a post script, E. Hoffmann Price’s articles and letters regarding the Howards are included. Readers can eavesdrop on Price as he describes the contents of Howard’s fabled Trunk to August Derleth, and trace Price’s changing view on Two-Gun as Howard’s fame and popularity surpassed his own.

A “Miscellanea” sections concludes the volume, with a copy of Doctor Howard’s will, the Kline ledger and lists of stories and poems, letters from P. M. Kuykendall and Oscar J. Friend that detail a plan which could have altered the course of Howard publishing, and, finally, subject and title indexes.

The contents for each volume will be posted at the Foundation’s website when the official announcement is made in a week or two.

Charles Saunders, longtime friend and frequent contributor to TGR, has three new publishing projects coming out this year:

Griots, a sword and sorcery anthology that features a brand new Imaro novella by Saunders. The volume features 14 stories set in African or African-inspired backgrounds. Other contributors include Linda Addison, Milton Davis, Kirk Johnson, Djeli A. Griot and Maurice Broaddus. The book features illustrations for each story, as well as a stunning cover by Natiq Jalil. The publisher of Griots is MVmedia.

Dossouye: The Dancers of Mulukau, a sequel to the first Dossouye volume published three years ago. This new book is a novel rather than a collection of interconnected short stories as was the case with the first volume. The Dancers of Mulukau will be published by Sword & Soul Media, with cover art by Mishindo who did the cover for the first Dossouye book, as well as Imaro: The Trail of Bohu and Imaro: The Naama War.

Damballa is Charles’ first venture into the world of pulp fiction. This genre allows Charles to write in the real world of 1930s New York, which is a departure from his work in alternate fantasy worlds. Damballa utilizes skills and knowledge from two worlds — Western and African culture. Charles is a longtime boxing fan and this first Damballa adventure centers around the hero stopping the sabotage of a fictional boxing match modeled after the real-life fight between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. This book will be out in a few months from publisher Cornerstone Books.

If you have not read Charles’ work before, these projects make a good starting point – believe me, you won’t be disappointed. More details on the above can be found at Charles’ website.

This entry filed under Charles R. Saunders, News, Sword & Sorcery.

The terrible ruby known as “The Blood of Belshazzar,” which is featured in the REH story of the same name, was cut by prehuman hands long ages before it came to the attention of the fierce Norman-Irish warrior Cormac Fitzgeoffrey. In the first article about its dubious and evil history, its (likely) course was traced from Belshazzar through Cyrus the Great to Darius I, who was also called “the Great.” None of them got much joy from it.

 The next king of Persia was Xerxes I, the son of Darius. Of the Blood of Belshazzar, Skol Abdhur in REH’s story says that “It gleamed on Xerxes’ crown.” It had gleamed on his father’s too. Xerxes I was the son of Darius the Great, of course and his mother was Atossa, a daughter of Cyrus. He was about thirty-six when he became king. He inherited the task of punishing the Athenians for backing the Hellenic states of Asia Minor when they rebelled, and he wanted to make it his first order of business. But he was compelled to put down an insurrection in Egypt which had broken out as soon as he ascended the Persian throne, and according to Herodotus he “reduced the country to a condition of worse servitude than it had ever known in the previous reign.”

He appointed Achaemenes, his full brother and apparently a hard character even by the standards of the age, as satrap of Egypt for the job of wholly subjugating the country.

The king described in the Old Testament Book of Esther as “Ahasuerus” is very likely intended to be Xerxes I. “Xerxes” is the Greek form of the Persian Khashayarsha, and from that it’s a short step to the Latinized “Ahasuerus.” The trouble is that Xerxes had no queen named Vashti who was dismissed in disgrace, as the Book of Esther says he did, and he never took a woman named Esther (or Hadassah) from the Jewish community in Persia to be his queen later. Xerxes I’s queen was Amestris the daughter of Otanes. Now Amestris is Greek, and maybe her Persian name was Vashti, but she didn’t suffer dismissal.

As for Esther, she might never have been Xerxes’ queen, but she could well have been his concubine or mistress, and there may have been a plot against Xerxes’ life that her kinsman Mordecai exposed. It’s plausible that his reward would be a high place at Xerxes’ court. After all, Xerxes was assassinated in the end. Other such schemes must have been hatched, though unsuccessfully, while he was ruling. There could easily have been a prince or minister named Haman who grew obsessively jealous of Mordecai and tried to bring him down, too – and plotted a massacre of other Jews in Persia.

For that matter, Haman and Mordecai’s opposition might have been caused by their both wanting power – and the Blood of Belshazzar. Esther/Hadassah could have been one of the many women who surrendered her honor for the jewel, and a rival of Amestris/Vashti for Xerxes’ favor. Amestris is said – mainly by Greek sources, again – to have been a cruel hellcat. Herodotus recounts a story (Histories, 7.114) that when growing old, she gained renewed youth and life by sacrificing fourteen children of renowned Persian men. Presumably she would have made that sacrifice to Ahriman, the principle of darkness and evil, eternal enemy of Ormazd, god of light. Women in those days, even queens, faded quickly – unless they made a deal with the devil. And human sacrifice wasn’t a normal Persian custom. The national religion, Zoroastrianism, held it in horror as an abomination.

The entire Esther/Mordecai/Haman business would have taken place after Xerxes’ Greek campaign. He began it by bridging the strait of the Hellespont, between Asia Minor and Thrace. (His second try at building that bridge succeeded.)  He also made a treaty with Carthage to stay out of the coming war. Some Greek states like Argos and Thebes even sided with him. In 480 B.C. he set out with a fleet and army Herodotus says was two million strong – which is certainly untrue – bull, to put it more crudely. Two hundred thousand fighters plus non-combatants and camp followers from many nations is more likely. The numbers of all ancient armies and nations were hugely inflated as a rule – especially by the opponents who battled them.

I’m not blaming the Athenians, mind. The full population of Athens at the time was about 140,000, only 40,000 of those being full citizens and male. If I’d been there and seen the Persians coming, I’d have been the first to gasp, “Great ever-living Zeus, there’s millions of them!”

That was the campaign in which a small band of Spartans held off the Persian army at Thermopylae — and died almost to the last man. “The 300 Spartans” is a byword, lately commemorated in the graphic novel and movie, 300. Well, there were three hundred Spartans in the rearguard that held the pass, under their king, Leonidas, but there were also about 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans, and a few hundred others, for a total of nearly 2000, all but the Spartans themselves usually getting forgotten. Three hundred against two million sounds better.

The true figures don’t change the raw truth that they were colossally outnumbered, by a hundred to one at least, and it was an incredible stand that deserved to be remembered down the ages. And it appears to be true that when a Persian messenger boasted, “Our arrows will darken the sun!” Leonidas answered, “Then we’ll fight in the shade.”

I haven’t seen 300. Just excerpts and still shots. I’d probably love the action. I’m also a history buff of sorts, and I couldn’t avoid a derisive laugh at the movie’s portrayal of the Persians, and particularly Xerxes. The Persian host as shown owes a lot more to Sauron’s horde in “Lord of the Rings” than to history. The Persians were as militarily brave as the Spartans, and a lot more reasonable in their treatment of peoples they conquered.

But. A side excursion into the actual nature of the Spartan state would be just that, a side excursion. On with the history of the ruby.

The stand at Thermopylae has become legend. Still, the men of Athens, denigrated and despised by the Spartans in 300, were leaders of the alliance that met the immense Persian fleet at Salamis in the same war. Themistocles, the Athenian general, used his wits and lured the vastly greater Persian fleet into the Straits of Salamis, where it couldn’t manoeuvre to advantage, and the Greek fleet, staying in tight line, sank or captured hundreds of enemy ships. The accursed ruby, in Skol Abdhur’s words, “gleamed on Xerxes’ crown when he watched his army destroyed at Salamis.” Achaemenes, the satrap of Egypt, Xerxes’ brother, had been summoned from the Nile and put in charge of the Persian fleet, so it was hardly his most glorious moment. Afterwards he was sent back to Egypt, more than ready to take out his frustrations on the Egyptians who’d proved so unappreciative of Persian rule. If he hadn’t been the king’s brother his head might have been removed for his failure.

Salamis broke the back of the Persian invasion of Greece. Xerxes departed. His remaining forces were defeated and forced to retreat the following year. Xerxes had yet another revolt in Babylon to occupy him at the time, anyhow. These revolts were as often as not the doing of the satraps he put in charge of conquered territories, aiming at the throne, not of the native peoples.

Xerxes I was murdered by one of these ambitious lads, the chief of his bodyguard, in fact, one Artaban. It’s possible that in the years since Salamis and the Babylonian revolt he hadn’t gratified the ruby’s thirst for blood sufficiently. As Skol Abdhur tells Cormac Fitzgeoffrey, “He who wears it must quench its thirst or it will drink his own blood!”

Artaban, commander of the king’s bodyguard, had the same name as Xerxes’ uncle, but they shouldn’t be confused; this Artaban was a younger man who’d gained great distinction in handling the withdrawal of the Persian army from Greece. He was ambitious, though, and it made him treacherous. He had influence with the priesthood, and one by one placed his sons in important positions as he prepared to strike. He corrupted a eunuch official, Aspamitres, to take part in his conspiracy, and also recruited General Megabyzus, the son of poor old Zopyrus, the mutilated spy Darius I had sent to Babylon as his agent. Megabyzus hadn’t forgotten how Xerxes’ dad had treated his dad. He didn’t like that family, and it had originally come to power by a bloody coup and assassination anyhow. There’d be a certain rough justice if it was dethroned the same way.  

Megabyzus was Xerxes’ son-in-law by now, married to the king-of-kings’ daughter Amytis (which is probably a Greek form of the Persian name Umati.)  It didn’t deter him. He’d accused her of adultery in any case, a risky thing to do when you’re married to a king’s daughter, and they were presumably not getting along like a pair of loving turtle-doves. Amytis/Umati is depicted in Greek sources as a beautiful bitch, faithless, licentious, etcetera, but let’s not forget, these are the Greek sources, and she was Persian, the daughter of a man who’d invaded Greece with the biggest army ever.

Still, it does say something that her husband felt bound to accuse her publicly of adultery for the sake of his pride, even though she was Xerxes’ daughter and he was part of a conspiracy against him, making it highly desirable for Megabyzus to draw no inimical attention. Skol Abdhur says that for the Blood of Belshazzar, “women gave up their virtue, men their lives and kings their crowns.”  Perhaps Amytis was one of those who gave up their virtue for the gem … if she had any to surrender. I’m guessing she was part of the conspiracy, if not a major player, and Artaban’s mistress as well as Megabyzus’s wife.

Artaban’s conspiracy succeeded. With his fellow plotters Aspamitres the eunuch and General Megabyzus, he murdered Xerxes. Probably he seized the accursed ruby too. Then he accused the crown prince, Darius, of killing his father to gain the throne. He convinced another of Xerxes’ sons, Artaxerxes, that it was true, and tricked him into “avenging” the murder by killing his brother.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Robert E. Howard continues to make inroads into academia with the upcoming presentations slated for the PCA in San Antonio later this month and the soon-to-be published collection of essays on Howard by Justin Everett and Dierdre Pettipiece.

In that same vein, The University of Connecticut publishes the Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, which is the Academic Journal on everything pertaining to French culture and its literary landscape, and the current issue is a Fantasy Special.

For this new issue, TGR guest blogger Patrice Louinet has written “Robert E. Howard, Founding Father of Modern Fantasy for the First Time Again,” an essay on Howard in general and the French REH publishing world, something Patrice is an expert at since he translates the bulk of Howard books from English into French for publication.

Overall, the essay is about Howard’s increasing reputation as an author equal in importance to Tolkien. Per Patrice, you won’t learn anything new (save for a few things about the French REH history and present situation), but he does push the swords of Howardia through the Academic Gates.

Like anything else in academia, the essay comes at a hefty premium – $34.00 to download the article. But if you know anyone who works at a library or educational institute, there are ways of getting it at no charge.

So gird your loins boys and girls, ‘cause we are storming the hallowed, highbrow halls of higher learning!

This entry filed under Howard Scholarship, News.

The upcoming 15th issue of TGR will include the first appearance of the Steve Costigan version of “The Yellow Cobra.” The story is illustrated by Clayton Hinkle, whose work appeared in issues #11 and #12. Clayton is primarily a pulp/comic book artist who is staff artist for Pro Se Productions. He captures the slightly off-kilter, madcap mayhem of Howard’s fight yarns like no one else.

This fight story was originally titled “The Fangs of the Yellow Cobra” in an early Costigan draft, then the carbon of the version Howard submitted to his literary agent, Otis Adelbert Kline, as “Sailor Costigan and the Yellow Cobra.” Someone at the agency then converted it to a Dorgan adventure, probably at Howard’s request when he was trying to salvage some of his unsold Costigan work. The story was sold to The Magic Carpet Magazine and was announced in the final issue. The magazine folded before the Dorgan version appeared and it sat around until its publication in the FAX hardcover, The Incredible Adventures of Dennis Dorgan (1974) and later reprinted in several paperback editions.

The only Dorgan story published during Howard’s lifetime was “Alleys of Singapore,” which was published as “Alleys of Darkness” in the January 1934 final issue of Magic Carpet. Since Howard had another story in the same issue (“The Shadow of the Vulture”), the story appeared under Howard’s “Patrick Ervin” byline. Wright had bought a handful of other Dorgan stories, but they remained unpublished when the magazine succumbed to poor sales — they eventually appeared in the Dorgan collection.

The print run for this upcoming issue will only be numbered 200 copies. A complete list of contents, as well as pre-ordering information will be available soon. More details on issue #15 can be found on the Coming Soon page.

This entry filed under Howard Fandom, Howard's Fiction, News.