Archive for May, 2011

Ever wanted to know more about the town Robert E. Howard lived the bulk of his life in? Wonder no more. For its 100th Anniversary, Cross Plains’ local Ann Beeler has put together Footsteps of Approaching Thousands, a history of Cross Plains, Texas.

This 8.5 x 11 paperback book tells the town’s story from its humble beginnings on the banks of Turkey Creek to the present day. Filled with period and modern photos, the chapters cover a wide range of subjects, from Businesses to Transportation, from Organizations to the city’s involvement in both of the World Wars. The book also has a chapter on some of the notable families who have lived in Cross Plains. Howard fans will be particularly interested in the information about the Coffmans and Tysons. Our own Rusty Burke wrote the entry for the Howard family.

Visitors at Howard Days this year can grab a copy of the First Printing, limited to 200 copies, at the Cross Plains Public Library. Those unable to attend can grab a second printing from Lulu.

The Kuykendalls of Ranger took care of a lonely Doc Howard in his declining years, treating him like a member of their family. He repaid them by leaving them the rights to Robert’s writings. On this, the fifty-second anniversary of the passing of Dr. Kuykendall, I thought it would be appropriate to remember all three of them.  Here are their obituaries:

Dr. Pere Moran Kuykendall, 67, died May 28, 1959. He was born on August 16, 1892. He married Alla Ray Elliott in 1912. They had a daughter, Alla Ray K. Morris. He served in the US Army as a Captain in France during World War I. Mr. Kuykendall was a doctor in Desdemona when he bought the West Texas Clinic & Hospital in Ranger from Dr. Barnett on April 30, 1930.

Alla Ray Elliott Kuykendall died on April 19, 1988, Alla Ray, the second daughter of Josephine Reeves and Richard Buckner Elliott, was born November 20, 1892 in Troy, Texas. She was reared in Muskogee, Oklahoma and attended Fulton College for Women in Fulton, Missouri.

She and Dr. P.M. Kuykendall were married in Moody, Texas in 1912. Following his service as a Captain in France during World War I, they lived in Desdemona, Texas until 1930 when the family moved to Ranger.

Dr. Kuykendall died in 1959. Mrs. Kuykendall was a member of First United Methodist Church in Ranger for 56 years and was a soloist in the church choir for many years.  She was honored with a lifetime  membership pin from the women’s society of the church. For more  than 40 years she was a volunteer in Ranger Child Welfare Club and acted as boy’s camp selection officer from Ranger for the Salvation Army for 20 years.

Mrs. Kuykendall was a donor to Ranger General Hospital and was made  an honorary lifetime member of the hospital auxiliary. Kuykendall Hall, a women’s dormitory at Ranger Junior College, was named to  honor Dr. and Mrs. Kuykendall. She was elected honorary membership in the Phi Beta Theta.

In 1972, Alla Ray Kuykendall was named Ranger Woman of the Year. She  was among the organizers of Lone Cedar Country Club and was a member of the Auxiliary of Veterans of World War I and the Columbia Study Club.

At the time of her death, Mrs. Kuykendall was survived by her daughter, Mrs. James Preston Morris, of Ranger; her nephew’s widow, Mrs. R. Elliott Bryant, of Cross Plains; two nieces-in-law, Mrs. A.M.  Allison of Alice, Texas, and Mrs. Spurgeon Bell of Houston, Texas;  and a nephew-in-law, Mr. Fred Acre of Moody, Texas.

Alla Ray Kuykendall Morris, 79, died on May 25, 1995 in the Eastland Memorial Hospital. Interment was in Evergreen Cemetery.

She was born in Moody, Texas on Jan. 18, 1916 to Dr. Pere Moran Kuykendall and Alla Ray Elliott Kuykendall. Alla Ray, as everyone knew her, grew up in Ranger and graduated from Ranger High School in 1932. After attending Ranger Jr. College, she went on to receive her Bachelor in Arts from the University of Texas, where she was a member of Pi Beta Phi Sorority. She later received a Master of Arts from Western State College of Colorado in 1958. Mrs. Morris did post-graduate work in England at London University, the University of California and North Texas State University.

She married James Preston Morris in 1941 in Fort Worth.  The couple made their home in Ranger and owned Morris Funeral Home. She began her career in education by teaching fourth grade for seven years at the Hodges Oak Park Elementary School, and later teaching English and serving as Department head at Ranger Jr. College where she retired after 30 years of service. Upon retirement, she served a member, secretary, and president of the Board of Regents for Ranger Jr. College until 1983, at which time her mother’s health required her full attention. She was a noted educator, was often credited by school officials with having exceptional leadership and teaching qualities, earning the love and respect of her students and co-workers.

A pillar of the community, Mrs. Morris was a member and supporter of the first United Methodist Church for 40 years.  Other memberships  include the American Association of University Women, the 47 Club, the 1920 Club, the Columbia Study Club, and the first member of the Ranger Historical Preservation Society. She held various offices in  each organization.

She was preceded in death by her husband, James Preston Morris in 1948. Survivors at the time of her death include one cousin, Zora Mae Bryant of Cross Plains.

Here is an article from 1980 on the two Kuykendall women:

Two Ranger Women Continue to Receive Royalty Checks from Robert Howard Estate
by Betty McGee (Ranger Times, 05/15/1980)

Mrs. P. M. Kuykendall and her daughter Mrs. J. P. Morris, two prominent Ranger women, receive royalty checks from the Robert E. Howard estate. These checks continue to increase in an  impressive amount because of the renewed interest in Howard’s writings, with books, written in several languages, comic books and comic strips in over 100 newspapers in the United States. Special attention has recently been given to his Conan series. This has resulted in a film that began shooting early this year in Hollywood with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan. Schwarzenegger has been Mr. Universe five times and six times Mr. Olympia. The producers of this movie hope for its release by the end of 1980.

Mrs. Kuykendall is the widow of the late Dr. P. M. Kuykendall. Mrs. Morris is a retired English teacher. They both express appreciation for the benefits received from Robert Howard’s estate and to the two men most responsible for the universal interest in the complete writings of Howard, Glenn Lord and Sprague de Camp.  They have worked hard for many years keeping Howard’s work before the public.

Mrs. Kuykendall and Mrs. Morris have established a collection of books and manuscripts of Howard’s and material that has been written about him in the Ranger Junior College library. Robert Ervin Howard once resided in Cross Plains, Texas but as an author lived in a realm of creative imagination, wonder and fantasy. Creating, in many of his stories, a world that never really existed except in his mind.  The transition from the distant private plane back to the reality of the world in and around the small town must have become easy for Robert Howard.

The world he created for his now popular Conan the Barbarian was a place at least 12,000 years in the past. This world becomes very real as one reads of the geographical areas and the physical features of land, mountains, hills, valleys, deserts, and rivers. A complete and highly detailed map was drawn of this ancient era.

Then Robert peopled this land with tribes of strong, active, intense, savage, human beings.  With his vivid descriptions of them he could produce to his readers a distinct mental image of them all.

Robert often wrote of the Orient and the Vikings.

Robert E. Howard was the only child of Dr. and Mrs. I. M. Howard. They moved to Cross Plains in 1919 when Robert was almost 13 years old. He was a sensitive, serious and moody person as a child, as he was as a man.

In 1936, at the age of 30, Robert took a Colt automatic and shot himself in the head after being told his beloved, invalid mother was about to die. He lived only eight hours but never regained consciousness and died June 11, 1936. His mother died thirty-one hours later.

Dr. Howard, deeply grieved, stayed only a few years in Cross Plains after the suicide of his son and death of his wife within such a short period. During the outbreak of World War II Dr. Kuykendall needed help in his clinic and asked Dr. Howard to assist. Dr. Howard moved to Ranger and did help in the clinic for two or three years but became very sick and Dr. Kuykendall and his family helped him. When he died, he left everything he had to Dr. Kuykendall, including his son’s estate.

During the years between the deaths of Dr. Howard and Dr. Kuykendall the royalty checks from Howard’s estate never amounted to very much. Dr. Kuykendall did see a few checks of around two hundred dollars.

When Dr. Kuykendall died, he left the Howard estate to his widow and daughter.

The 1970’s was a decade of new interest and fascination with fantasy, the supernatural, magic and the occult. Howard often dealt with these in his writings.

In the history of the cursed ruby, “Part Four: Nanda Empire to China” its course was traced through India during the early Maurya Empire. The bandit lord Skol Abdhur knew much more of its history than he recounted to Cormac Fitzgeoffrey. Brooding over it in private, or sleeping drunken with it clutched in his fist, he had visions and dreams that revealed much of its terrible past to him. So did other possessors of the red stone. Some of it was recorded here and there.

The Chinese monk Fa Hsien was the most reliable of those chroniclers. In general, historians who even take notice of his “Account of the Ruby” believe that he never wrote it; that it’s a melodramatic forgery by a lesser writer using his name. The “Account” does ramble, feature savage and violent passages, and display a style inferior to Fa Hsien’s other writing. But even a devoted Buddhist monk would be affected by the Blood of Belshazzar. We needn’t wonder that he was less lucid while he carried it.

Fa Hsien begins with the circumstances that brought the jewel into China, and then to the court of Ch’in. It was long before his time, but he knew his country’s history. The Ch’in were one of the noble families who had served the Chou royal house in the eighth century BCE. Time and fortune made them rulers of the westernmost of the Seven Warring States. Then, in the fourth century, a bureaucrat from the court of Wei deserted to the Ch’in. His name was Shang Yang. He had fine workable ideas, and no scope to practice them under his Wei bosses, but he found a ruler ready to listen to him in the Ch’in lord, Hsiao Kung. Between them they created the best organized state in the country.

Despite the near-miracles he worked in Ch’in, he was a dead man as soon as his patron and protector, Hsiao Kung, passed away – which happened in 338 BCE. The new ruler held a personal grudge against Lord Shang Yang.  While an adolescent crown prince, he had committed a crime, and due to Yang’s reforms, been punished for it like an ordinary person. Once he came to the throne as King Hui, he had Yang put to death on charges of treason; torn apart between five chariots.

Yang’s reforms and their effect outlived him. The Ch’in state had become wealthy and powerful, with an efficient if brutal army. It had also developed a devious divide-and-conquer policy which made a fine art of playing its rivals against each other. It employed carefully judged methods of spying, bribery, subversion — and assassination, where that was considered appropriate.

With these advantages, Ch’in gained the upper hand among the Seven Warring States by 260 BCE. Until then Chao had been pre-eminent, but Ch’in met and defeated its army in the year mentioned above. The time was ripe for the lords of Ch’in to claim imperial status — the Divine Mandate of Heaven. As always, that translates to, “We have a bigger war machine than you.”

Then the Blood of Belshazzar appeared on the scene. A thieving adventurer from Yunnan brought it to the court of Chao. In the thirty years since Ch’in had broken their military strength, they had resisted complete subjugation, but it was imminent now. Chao’s king accepted the ruby and promised the stranger all he desired, if the red stone had the magical properties he claimed, and saved Chao from conquest.

The rogue died without seeing a brass razoo of his reward. Spies from Ch’in strangled him and stole the gem. Hiding, assuming disguises, evading pursuit, they took it to the Ch’in capital of Hsien-Yang, where their lord and employer, Yin Cheng, was king.

Yin Cheng was to become one of the truly dreadful men of history. He is remembered as the first emperor of all China, the man who unified the country and defined its borders for centuries — and also as a relentless butcher. One of his courtiers and advisers had this to say about him:

“He has … large all-seeing eyes. His chest is like that of a bird of prey and his voice like that of a jackal. He is merciless, with the heart of a tiger …”

Cheng succeeded his father in the year 246, at the age of thirteen. At twenty-two, he had faced an insurrection led by his mother’s lover, Lao Ai. The coup failed. Lao Ai’s supporters lost their heads, his entire family was purged, Lao Ai was executed as Shang Yang had been – ripped apart between five chariots – and King Cheng’s mother was placed under house arrest until her death. Cheng’s former chancellor, who had actually been behind the plotted coup, was ordered to drink poison, and replaced by a new chancellor, Li Si.

King Cheng was now thirty, and his agents had brought him the Blood of Belshazzar. Apart from cruelty and a rage for slaughter, the gem appears to have had other effects. Each new owner became prone to obsessive whims. King Yin Cheng’s main purpose – quite a bit more than a whim — was to subdue all China’s warring states and unify the country.

Han, a smaller state to the east of Ch’in, held first place on his list. Besides being smallest, nearest, and the easiest victim, it blocked access to the plains of North China. Its strategic importance was considerable. It had to go. Yin Cheng’s armies knocked it over in short order.

Zhao, to the north-east, was a land of tough people used to fighting off the ferocious, barbaric Hiung-nu, probably the same nation as the infamous Huns. Unfortunately, even Zhao couldn’t resist a major earthquake, and one devastated the northern kingdom in 229 BCE. King Cheng moved at once. He appointed Generalissimo Wang Jian to lead the invasion force, his best soldier, one of the most able and famous generals of the time. He entered Zhao almost before the aftershocks had ceased, and took the Zhao capital of Handan.

The King of Yan knew his state would be next. He chose a scholar and expert swordsman named Jing Ke to go to the Ch’in court as a Yan noble pleading for mercy for his country – and once he had an audience with Cheng, to kill him. He carried the severed head of a Ch’in defector who had taken refuge in Yan to add conviction.

Jing Ke approached the King of Ch’in with a poisoned dagger hidden inside a scroll. He made his attempt while Cheng was gloating over the severed head, but Cheng was able to defend himself with a sword, and the attempt failed. Jing Ke and his companion were executed. The reliable general Wang Jian was sent by his king to annihilate the Yan state immediately, and to misquote Kipling, “of course he went and did.”  Ch’in armies trained and fought under merciless discipline; their ferocity was a byword. They characteristically put prisoners to the sword en masse, and that was the gentle side of their behavior. After the assassination attempt, Cheng no doubt told his commander, “Be rather rougher than usual.”

The state of Yan drowned in blood and its remnant was taken over by Ch’in.

Wei, directly to the east of Ch’in, was to be next. Zhao, to Wei’s north, and Han, to its south, had already been conquered. That placed Wei in much the same position as a piece of meat between the two claws of a crab. Its chances of staying independent were slight.

Cheng decided this wasn’t a job worthy of the great Wang Jian’s abilities. He sent a lesser but competent general, Wang Fen, who wisely realized the great state of Chu to the south might interfere with his campaign unless he guarded his flank first. Moving against the border of Chu, he conquered and garrisoned ten or a dozen cities there. Afterwards he led his forces – six hundred thousand strong — into Wei and besieged the capital, Daliang.

Daliang wasn’t an easy stronghold to take. It had formidable walls and a wide, deep moat all around it, fed by two nearby rivers and a canal. Wang Fen set labor levies to work diverting the nearby Yellow River. After three months, Daliang was flooded, and the Ch’in forces took the inundated city. Deaths of soldiers and civilians of Wei together came to over one hundred thousand. Surrender followed. Wei too was annexed by Ch’in, in the year 225 BCE.

The mighty state of Chu had to be defeated next. With its immense area, resources and man-power, it was likely to prove an even tougher opponent than Zhao. It was a task for the great general Wang Jian. The king asked him how large an invasion force he would need.

“Six hundred thousand, sublime lord,” Wang Jian declared.

The king considered that for a long time. Six hundred thousand was the size of the army he had sent into Wei. Raising an immense force like that – for the second time in a single year – would mean considerable expense. The craving for conquest, and the influence of the ruby he now wore, battled with an urge to pinch pennies. Hmm …

He beckoned to another general at his court, the young and ambitious Li Xin. This man expressed the view that two hundred thousand would be enough to reduce the Kingdom of Chu. Populous and great in extent it might be, but all men knew its administration was corrupt. Chu’s admittedly huge army lacked morale.

The experienced Wang Jian chewed his graying moustache. It was ridiculous. The king couldn’t listen to this boasting whelp.

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This entry filed under Howard Scholarship.

Robert E. Howard’ s stories of the Third Crusade and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey were not equal to his Turlogh O’Brien tales, for my money. But they were still great reads. The sketchy outline he gave through the mouth of the bandit lord Skol Abdhur, concerning the history of the evil gem called the “Blood of Belshazzar” that maddened so many with greed, cruelty and power-lust – including Skol himself – was alone worth the price of admission. Plenty was omitted after Alexander the Great lost it on his Indus campaign. Skol Abdhur merely says that “for centuries the Blood of Belshazzar was lost to sight. Somewhere far to the east, we know, its gleams shone on a road of blood and rapine, and men slew men and dishonored women for it. For it, as of old, women gave up their virtue, men their lives and kings their crowns.”

It affected Alexander strangely while he had it. His behavior became so arbitrary and violent that his army, which had all but worshipped him, was nigh to turning against him. He was never more fortunate than when the evil gem was struck from his breastplate, to be lost in the gore and dust of the battlefield. After he recovered, he agreed to turn back to Persia. His intended attack on the Nanda Empire never occurred.

Even for Alexander, it would have been a mighty opponent. It covered most of northern India from west to east. The Nanda army numbered 200,000 infantry, probably 50,000 cavalry (more, according to Plutarch), with thousands of chariots and trained war elephants. When Alexander’s army refused to face them (and the hellish wet season of northern India) the last Nanda monarch was already reigning. He had only a year or two to live. This was Dhana, known as Argames to the Greek chroniclers.

Dhana never held, or even saw, the Blood of Belshazzar. Someone – a wounded soldier who escaped the battlefield, perhaps — found the gem and carried it away. The next person to possess it was a scholar, philosopher and wizard called Chanakya. He was a remarkable character even in the age that produced Socrates and Aristotle. He flourished at the great center of learning, Taxila in the western Punjab. Ambhi, king of Taxila, had made submission to Alexander when he invaded India, and even became a valuable ally of the Macedonian’s against Porus, the one Indian monarch to really resist his invasion.

Chanakya – also known as Kautilya — belonged to the Brahmin caste. There are somewhat sinister aspects common to the different versions of his legend. One asserts that he was born with a complete set of teeth, a sign that he would become a king – which was not fitting for a Brahmin. His teeth were therefore broken while he was an infant, and a prophecy was then made that while he would never be a king in his own person, he would rule through another.

Chanakya mastered the complex and extensive scriptures, the Vedas, at a very early age. He had considerable knowledge of divination and astrology. He was well acquainted with Zoroastrian belief; the city of Taxila had been annexed to the Persian Empire by Darius the Great, though it became independent again later, and Chanakya undoubtedly corresponded with Persian magi and scholars. He may have been a Zoroastrian himself.

Chanakya, though, was no unworldly theologian. He knew medicine, economics and commerce. A consummate politician and diplomat above all else, he has been called “the Machiavelli of India” by some. Like Machiavelli, he wrote a classic treatise on politics and the art of ruling – the “Arthasashtra.” Like Machiavelli, he has been praised for clear-sighted realism, and on the other hand, condemned for being devious, ruthless and amoral. Sagacious and subtle as the serpent of Eden, that was Chanakya – and he now had the Blood of Belshazzar.

He became a king-maker and went looking for a potential king. His occult knowledge  helped him find one. This was a promising youth from the Magadha kingdom in the east, poor and obscure because his father, a chief, had been killed in a border dispute. His mother’s brothers had left him in the care of a cowherd who raised the boy as his own son. Later he was sold to be a cowherd himself. His character and abilities, though, were evident even in those humble circumstances. Chanakya learned that this youth had met Alexander the Great, and been impressed even while loathing his attempt to conquer India. Later, while he was herding cattle, he had slept in the open and been approached by a lion, which instead of mauling him, gently licked him until he awakened – an omen of a kingly future.

He became known to history as Chandragupta I, founder of the Mauryan Empire.

Chanakya bought the lad and took him to Taxila. At that great centre of learning he was educated in military and political tactics. From one point of view, Chanakya rescued the lad from sorry circumstances and set his feet on a path to greatness. From another, he was Chandragupta’s evil genius.

Chandragupta despised the current Nanda monarch, Dhana, for doing nothing while Alexander led his forces to the Indus, and vowed to secure the country against further invasions from outside. Beginning as a bandit, he collected mercenary soldiers and secured public support against the oppression of the Nandas. Their empire was sliding downhill in a riotous debauch of court extravagance and luxury in any case, and headed by a worthless nonentity in the person of Dhana.

Dhana’s military commander in chief, Bhaddasala, was no lightweight, however. He was a courageous soldier who knew his business. He wasn’t to be underrated, and Chandragupta didn’t.  Wearing the Blood of Belshazzar, the youth won a number of minor battles, earning a reputation. On that basis, and with the help of Chanakya’s expert diplomacy, he forged an alliance with Parvatka, the lord of a kingdom in the modern Punjab.

In fact Parvatka is very likely the Indian name of Porus. Porus had no reason to love the Nandas, and least of all Dhana. Alliance with him raised Chandragupta from a small-time brigand and rebel to the leader of an impressive army. It included Indo-Scythian Sakas, Yavanas or Greeks, Kambojas (who appear to have been an essentially Iranian tribe and were certainly fierce warriors) Kiratas (a mountain people, noted archers, who worshipped Shiva) and Bahlikas (warlike as their friends the Kambojas, and famous breeders of superb horses).

Chandragupta then confronted a large part of the Nanda forces, with Bhaddasala in command. He broke them in a bloody, savage battle. The victory enabled him to control the Magadha kingdom on the Bay of Bengal, the original home of the Nandas and the base of their power.  In 310 BCE, Chandragupta and Porus besieged the Nanda capital of Pataliputra, near the Ganges. The Nanda army was immensely greater even then, but Chandragupta knew from his mentor how Alexander had many times defeated forces overwhelmingly superior in numbers. Leadership, determination and unity were what really counted. Chandragupta’s army surrounded the city and tightened their grip around it until their Nanda foes were defeated. After that the Nanda Empire collapsed. The Maurya Empire, which was to become far greater in extent and accomplishment, was founded.  All surviving members of the Nanda clan were killed to prevent any resurgence of their rule.

Chandragupta was twenty years old.

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

As promised, here are additional details on the new volume of fiction and poetry inspired by Robert E. Howard provided in this interview with one of the editors, Mark Finn.

TGR: First, how did this book evolve?  Obviously someone came up with the concept and got the ball rolling.

Mark: This was one of those Once and Every Other Projects that gets brought up over and over again anytime three or more REHupans gather in a room. Specifically, it was “Well, you know, somebody oughtta collect a bunch of our stuff and do a “Best of REHupa” kind of thing…” Of course, there are problems with that idea, in that much of what we write about in the REHupa zines isn’t strictly able to stand on its own in a book. Some of it does stand alone–but nowadays, it usually finds a home elsewhere, on your blog, or in TGR or the Dark Man, or wherever. Which is good, I think. But the one thing that has never been collected is the fiction. I know we tend to pooh-pooh it, but as I was looking around at Charles Gramlich, Angeline and Chris, and kinda ruminating on how much poetry Barbara Barrett has written–then I started thinking about other authors who have been in REHupa and I thought, this would be a commercial endeavor.

Well, Rusty and Indy immediately told me I was the right man for that job. Right then, Chris Gruber walked up and I said, “I don’t want to do this alone.” Grub said, “Do what?” And that’s how we ended up doing the editing together.

The original idea was to go back through the whole history of the ‘zines and pull out fiction from folks like Mike Stackpole and Nancy Collins–but after checking out some of the early efforts, I knew that they would (A) kill us if we did that, and (B) say no to the whole idea. So it became a new collection of stories. And there were more than enough authors in the line-up to fill a book.

TGR: What is the origin of the title, Dreams in the Fire?

Mark: The title was the hardest thing we came up with. All of the contributors had a number of suggestions, good ones, at that. But we wanted something that was evocative of, say, “Echoes From an Iron Harp” but not derivative of that. It’s the same problem I had with trying to come up with a name for Blood & Thunder–all of the good word pairings had been taken. What finally got me going was thinking about the poem I wrote years ago, (now lost to the winds of time and a busted computer) wherein I repeated the refrain, “The Lamp expires, but the fire remains.” It was my way of saying that while Howard isn’t around, his creative vision endures and inspires. So, playing with the notion of that creative fire, what might we see if we stare into it long enough? Everyone seemed to like the idea, and so there it was.

TGR: REHupans are a breed apart, notorious for not playing well with others. So how did you and Chris manage to round the contributors up and get them to meet a deadline?

Mark: Ah hah, well, REHupans may be cantankerous, but professional writers aim to please! Just about everyone who contributed got their stories in on time, got their revisions in on time, etc. It was pretty effortless on our part. Chris and I struggled with the poetry, trying to choose the best ones that represented in the book, and also in the case of multiple stories by the same contributor, we talked pretty earnestly about which one made the author look good, and also worked within the book. Those were the hard choices on our end. Everyone else was saintly and patient as they dealt with mine and Gruber’s conflicting schedules. Actually, and I’m not making any apologies for our personal delays, I am really glad the book is coming out during these anniversaries, as it will get more attention and hopefully draw more cash into the coffers of Project Pride, which was the whole point to doing it.

TGR: Can we get a sneak peek at the list of contents? I’ve seen some names bandied about, but not a complete line-up.

Mark: For you, sir, anything. Here goes:

  • Introduction by Rusty Burke
  • “A Gathering of Ravens” by Charles Gramlich
  • “The Rhymester of Ulm” by James Reasoner
  • “The Word” by Rob Roehm
  • “This Too Will Go Its Way” by Barbara Barrett
  • “CSI: Kimmeria” by Robert Weinberg
  • “Bloody Isle of the Kiyah-rahi” by Christopher Fulbright
  • “Son of Song” by Frank Coffman
  • “Avatar” by Jimmy Cheung
  • “Belit’s Refrain” by Barbara Barrett
  • “Now With Serpents He Wars” by Patrick R. Berger
  • “Best to Let it Lie” by Danny Street
  • “Two Dragons Blazing: A Tale of the Barbarian Kabar of El Hazzar” by Angeline Hawkes
  • “The Nights’ Last Battle” by Amy Kerr
  • “Sailor Tom Sharkey and the Phantom of the Gentlemen Farmer’s Commune” by Mark Finn
  • “I Am a Martian Galley Slave!” by David A. Hardy
  • “A Spirit on the Wind” by Frank Coffman
  • “Dead River Revenge” by Chris Gruber
  • “The Moon” by Barbara Barrett
  • “No Other Gods” by Gary Romeo
  • “A Meeting in the Bush” by Morgan Holmes
  • “Blades of Hell” by Don Herron
  • Afterword by Mark Finn

TGR: Do any of the stories feature Howard’s characters?

Mark: Nope. That was on purpose. Nothing against Paradox, as I am sure they would have been extremely helpful in assessing copyright issues and so forth, but we emphatically didn’t want any pastiches, and here’s why: when you read my story, or Chris’ story, or heck, any of these stories–you’re going to know at which end of the Howardian Banquet table we’re sitting on, pretty quick. And while you might be thinking, “Wow, that’s a cool story! Boy, wouldn’t it be cool if Mark wrote a Sailor Steve Costigan story?” The answer to that rhetorical question is no, no it would not.

If I wrote a Sailor Steve story, or if Chris Fulbright wrote a Black Vulmea pirate yarn, every fan would read the story in combat-mode, with a chip on their shoulder, automatically looking for ways in which we screwed up, i.e. “oh, Howard would have never used that word!” and “This is ridiculous–Howard didn’t use these plots in his historical stories!” No, it’s better for everyone, readers and authors, if you read our stories. Our dreams from the fire. What we see when we take inspiration from Howard’s work.

 TGR: Are there any standout stories in this book, something unexpected or particularly exciting?

Mark: I think long-term REHupans will be pleased with some of the stories by folks who don’t normally run fiction in their ‘zines. Also, and this takes nothing away from the professional authors in this collection, but you’ll look at a few of the names and think, “So and So wrote a story?” and then you read it and go, “Woah. That was really cool.”  There were a few stories where Grub and I were like, “This is going to knock their socks off!” It makes me doubly-glad we didn’t use pastiches, honestly. I think the original works were so much more entertaining than “Oh, here’s a Conan story, let’s see how he screwed that up.” I mean, we’ve got in this book cowboys, pirates, knights, barbarians, mercenaries, frontier scouts, boxers, monsters, bandits, cowards, phantoms, and a dog-faced imbecile. If that’s not a Howardian line-up, I don’t know what is!

TGR: I assume the book will premiere at Howard Days next month. For the folks who can’t attend, how can they purchase the book?

Mark: It will be available on Lulu very soon. I’ll have a link to you just as soon as I get the proof copy and it checks out.

TGR: In addition to raising money for Project Pride, what else would you like accomplish with this collection?

Mark: Obviously, a fundraiser for Project Pride was the first goal. But I really wanted to dispel the notion that the REHupans can’t write fiction. There’s such a stigma in our current ranks about it, but I know from firsthand experience that some of these guys are insanely talented. Now everyone else can see it, as well. It would be nice if this could be another proud feather in the REHupa cap, but the reviews will bear that out one way or another.

TGR: Can we expect to see a sequel?

Mark: Only if the reviews are great and everyone is clamoring for more. These kinds of projects are hard! Logistically, spiritually, intellectually, they take you away from other projects and they merit a lot of extra attention. I hope Chris and I were good editors for everyone. We tried to be. Certainly no fights broke out during the process. But yeah, if this goes over and the fans are buying copies and leaving good feedback, we would certainly talk about getting the band back together again.

TGR: What’s next on the horizon for you? I understand the updated edition of Blood and Thunder is in the pipeline.

Mark: Well, yes, Blood & Thunder is down to a bunch of niggling little details and tedious drudgery–like building a frickin’ index. Chapter notes. Soul-sucking things like that. But it is in the pipeline, and it will come out this year. Also, me and Grub are tag teaming on the Boxing volumes from the Foundation Press. Chris’ comes out first, and then mine, and so forth. We are personally so excited that this criminally neglected area of Howard’s most successful and most commercial work are finally, after more than a decade, are getting the attention they have deserved all along. Both of us feel that Howard studies is at a standstill until all of this sees the light of day–not just the boxing, but the funny westerns, too. You guys all know that we are talking about one third of Howard’s total fictional output, and yet it’s still taking a back seat to everything else. I’m sorry if I seem so strident about that, but I’ve been nice about it long enough. I understand that Conan and Kull and Solomon Kane had to come out first; I get it, I understand, I really do. But now that the big stuff is all out, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get down to it.

And I’m not picking on Rusty, or Patrice. They have unenviable jobs, and they have committed to getting all of it out there for us to sift through and read and comment on. They’ve put their own personal and professional projects on hold to do this. That’s why both me and Grub are saying, “We’ll help! Let’s go!” And I may volunteer to help with the funny westerns, too, if they will have me. I seriously believe that Howard’s humor work is a goldmine of study and insight for scholars, and a real avenue to getting new fans who might be repulsed by Conan and Kull.

To assuage my frustration with all of this, I’ve been writing comics again, after a fifteen year hiatus. You all know about the comic book debut of El Borak later this month in Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #2. We’ll see how you guys like me after that. I’m doing some other work for some small press companies, too, but they aren’t necessarily Howard related. And me and John Lucas are shopping a few things around. It would be great if I could get something going with these novels and short stories, but right now, comics are paying, so that’s what I’m doing.

TGR: As usual, you are a fount of information and insight; thanks for taking the time to fill us in on this amazing volume of fiction and poetry.

Mark: My pleasure.

Update: Dreams in the Fire is now available for purchase through

My heart is stone in my frozen breast,
For the feathers fall from the eagle’s crest
And the bright sea breaks in foam.
Kings and kingdoms and empires fall,
And the mist-black ruin covers them all …
                  Robert E. Howard, “Shadows on the Road”

“What are we all, too, but ghosts waning into the night?”
                 Turlogh Dubh O’Brien in “The Grey God Passes”

Part One of the Dalcassian’s adventures in England closed with Canute of Denmark invading the island. The traitor Eadric Streona had gone over to him with forty English ships and left Prince Edmund in the lurch. Only Edmund, with his new-found Irish henchman Turlogh at his side, still resisted, and the army he’d gathered had melted away because Edmund’s father, King Ethelred (the Unready), was doing nothing. Turlogh had gone to the Danish camp pretending to be a deserter himself, hoping to find a chance to kill Canute, but that had come to nothing and he’d barely escaped, with wounds to show for his trouble.

Now Edmund and Turlogh faced the New Year of 1016 with damned little in the way of support. Uhtred the Bold, ealdorman of Northumbria, did come down from the north and campaign with them. Edmund, Uhtred and Turlogh did some hard fighting in Cheshire, but then word came that Canute and his army were ravaging the north. Uhtred knew that the Scots, a constant menace to his region, would take advantage of the situation. He reconsidered, marched back north, and did homage to Canute – or was about to. While riding to meet the Danish king, he and forty of his men were ambushed by a hard lad named Thurbrand, and killed. The complete forty.

Edmund travelled to London in an effort to win support from the citizens there. They had let him down before, but he hoped they would do better now. He might have been disappointed again, but in April his father, King Ethelred, died. London acclaimed Edmund as king.

Canute brought his army south, a fierce host of Danes, Jomsvikings, Icelanders, Swedes and a couple of thousand wild Poles — ten thousand in all. He besieged London. Edmund broke through, headed for Wessex with Turlogh at his side, and called on the nobles and people there to support him. They had submitted to Canute earlier, but now they changed sides and Edmund was able to raise fresh troops.

Black Turlogh cut a gory path through the Danes and their English collaborators in the fighting at Penselwood in Somerset. Battling their way east, Edmund and Turlogh met the enemy again at Sherston in Wiltshire, just after Midsummer. Neither battle, though both were bloody, proved conclusive.

Edmund then marched on London and broke the Danish siege of the city. The Thames ran red. Turlogh Dubh without doubt did his full share of the fighting. The Danish army retreated to the shelter of its fleet of dragon-ships. This fight had ended as a definite English victory.

There is a document of the time — written about 1042 — called the Enconium Emmae Reginae, a fulsome litany of praise to the largely forgotten-by-history Emma, half sister of the Duke of Normandy, wife to Ethelred of England and later to Canute the Dane. The author opens his prologue with the words:

May our Lord Jesus Christ preserve you, O Queen, who excel all those of your sex in the admirability of your way of life.

I, your servant, am unable to show you, noble lady, anything worthy in my deeds, and I do not know how I can be acceptable to you even in words. That your excellence transcends the skill of any one speaking about you is apparent to all to whom you are known, more clearly than the very radiance of the sun.

The bloke would appear to be a direct ancestor of Uriah Heep.

His effusion does contain a pretty detailed account of Edmund’s campaign against Canute, though. The description of the Danish war-fleet is both graphic and dramatic. It’s worth reproducing here.

So great, in fact, was the magnificence of the fleet, that if its lord had desired to conquer any people, the ships alone would have terrified the enemy, before the warriors whom they carried joined battle at all. For who could look upon the lions of the foe, terrible with the brightness of gold, who upon the men of metal, menacing with golden face, who upon the dragons burning with pure gold, who upon the bulls on the ships threatening death, their horns shining with gold, without feeling any fear for the king of such a force ? Furthermore, in this great expedition there was present no slave, no man freed from slavery, no low-born man, no man weakened by age; for all were noble, all strong with the might of mature age, all sufficiently fit for any type of fighting, all of such great fleetness, that they scorned the speed of horsemen.

The Encomiast gives an interesting description of the enchanted war-banner the Danes carried with them, too.  In peace time it was blank white silk. Whenever it was taken to war the figure of a raven appeared on it. In victory its pose was jaunty and aggressive, its beak wide open, its wings spread, restive on its feet. When the Vikings were defeated, though, it became “very subdued and drooping with its whole body.”

It must have looked pretty dejected after Edmund broke the siege of London. The Danes would come back, though. They always came back. Canute’s forces were largely professional, and they were in a foreign country where they could simply take what they wanted from the countryside and chop anybody who argued. Edmund, by contrast, had a fighting force that simply dispersed and went home to its farmsteads and villages after every battle. This occurred at harvest time especially, and it was harvest time then — late August and September.

Edmund Ironside was no mean leader or commander, even working at a disadvantage. He didn’t wait around or allow the Danes to regain the initiative. Nor did he give his men time to get restless and disperse. Striking at once, he moved against the Danes while they were still reeling, hitting them just two nights after breaking their siege of London, at a place called Brentford. (The Brent is a small river that empties into the Thames.) It was the toughest battle the English had yet fought in that momentous year, and he won it.

Picture Black Turlogh in his element, mail-shirted and helmed, spattered with gore, swinging his Irish ax with diabolical skill, past, over and around his shield like a shuttle speeding through a crimson war-loom of the Fates as he takes down Dane after Dane, howling “Lamh Laidir Abu!” (The O’Briens’ war cry, and the MacCarthys’, too; “the strong hand to victory”). 

He’d forged the ax himself, as REH tells us, and it wasn’t over-large, but beautifully balanced, keen, and heavier than it looked, like its wielder. The edge bit through mail, ribs and heart, while the three-inch backspike gave many a man his last surprise on the return stroke. So Turlogh led the way to victory beside Edmund, looking out for Athelstane or Eadric, but not meeting either. In the end, panting, red from brow to heels, they glanced at each other with fierce grins, the day won. A few more like this, they must have thought, and the Danes will not be able to row home fast enough.

Then there ensued a more welcome — in a  way — surprise. Eadric “the Grasper” left Canute’s camp and came skulking to Edmund with an offer to return to the English side!  Turlogh advised hanging him out of hand, but Edmund looked further. This was promising. The crafty Eadric would never change sides unless he thought that in Edmund he’d now be backing a winner. He’d know everything about the mood of Canute’s war-host and any divisions or disloyalties within it. After his career in English politics, too, he’d know exactly who could be trusted and who couldn’t in the English realm, once the Danes were defeated.

With considerable distaste, Edmund accepted Eadric’s presence — provisionally.

The young king now had to risk going into the countryside again to recruit more soldiers for his army, even though it swarmed with Danes foraging and raping. The Vikings who met Turlogh Dubh while about their business did not, as a rule, survive. Canute, though, didn’t become known as “the Great” later on for no reason. He had scouts and spies out. He knew Edmund’s movements.

Edmund’s army fell back to Mercia, Eadric Streona’s home kingdom, and raised its numbers there. This was now much easier, with harvest time over and English morale higher because of Edmund’s victories. Eadric’s influence made it possible to recruit men more quickly, also. Mercia was his seat of power. Turlogh still didn’t trust him an inch, and thought death would improve him.

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

You can now pre-order the 15th issue of The Definitive Robert E. Howard Journal.  The new issue will make its debut at Howard Days on June 10th in Cross Plains. Pre-orders will ship the following week. Short of attending Howard Days, this is the fastest way to get a copy the newest issue of the journal. Of course, if you want to show up at Howard Days, you can find all the details here. With all the important anniversaries to celebrate this year, this event will be one for the record books.

All of the issue’s contributors have stepped up to the plate and swung for the fences to knock the ball out of the park for Howard fans. It is a great mix of former contributors and new contributors, each with their own particular insight into the life and writings of Robert E. Howard. Over the past several weeks, sneak previews of some of the contents of TGR#15 have been posted, so without further ado, here is the complete, stellar line-up of fiction, essays, articles, reviews and artwork you’ll find in issue 15:

  • Bran Mak Morn Cover by Michael L. Peters
  •  Inside Front and Back Covers by Terry Pavlet
  •  Back Cover by Jeff Stewart
  •  “Sailor Costigan and the Yellow Cobra” by Robert E. Howard, illustrated by Clayton Hinkle
  •  “Gouged Eyes and Chawed Ears: The Rough-and-Tumble World of Breckinridge Elkins” by Jeffrey Shanks, illustrated by Robert Sankner
  •  “Behind the Phenomenon” by Paul M. Sammon, illustrated by John Lucas
  •  “Robert E: Howard and the Heroes of the Historicals: A Portfolio” by Nathan Furman
  •  “Arrested Development: The Fanzines of Arnie Fenner & Byron Roark” by Lee Breakiron
  •  “Top Notch, Street & Smith and F. Orlin Tremaine” by Morgan Holmes
  •  “Atali, the Lady of Frozen Death” by Brian Leno, illustrated by Petri Hiltunen
  • “Miser’s Gold” verse by Robert E. Howard, illustrated by David Houston
  •  “Walk on the Wildside: A Brace of Reviews” by Don Herron
  • Plus additional artwork and features

Unfortunately, this new issue includes is a price increase. I’ve held the line on raising the cover price for five years, but like everything else, printing prices are increasing to the point where a price increase was necessary.

To pre-order, go the to Pre-Order Issue #15 page where you will find pricing and shipping information.

All fans of Robert E. Howard’s work will know that his character Black Turlogh fought at the Battle of Clontarf, on Brian Boru’s side, against the Danes in 1014. Moody, given to wild battle-frenzy and fits of near madness, he hated the Danish invaders of his country with a bitter loathing, and killed them where he found them. Of all men, Turlogh would be the least likely to “intrigue” with them against his own folk. Yet shortly after Clontarf and the death of King Brian, he was accused of that very thing and driven from his clan to starve in the heather. Asked about it later – by the few who dared raise the subject – he’d growl, “Jealousy of a cousin and spite of a woman. Lies. All lies.”

Among the many interesting things about this Howard character is that he’s either intended to be a real, historical Turlogh O’Brien, or is very closely modeled on him. There were two Turloghs in the O’Brien clan in the reign of Brian Boru, both grandsons of Brian, and they’re both mentioned in the REH story, “The Grey God Passes.”  The younger Turlogh, son of King Brian’s son Murrogh, fought at the Battle of Clontarf when only fifteen. He was killed. The other, described by Howard as being his cousin, and “a few years older” had at birth been “tossed into a snowdrift to test his right to survive.”  Myself, I’ve taken “a few years” to mean four, making Turlogh nineteen at Clontarf, and thus born in 995 A.D. Robert E. Howard bears this out in “The Grey God Passes” by describing Turlogh as a formidable warrior “despite his youth.”

The same story features the historical Viking chief, Brodir of Man, in a sinister role. He was one of the Viking leaders at Clontarf, and he appears in the Burnt Njal, or Njal’s Saga. In section 156 of the “Njal”, the battle of Clontarf is described from the viewpoint of Icelandic poets. Brodir, a noted warlock, is credited with divining the future and discovering by his magic that if they fight on Good Friday they will lose the battle, but their enemy Brian will die, while if they fight on any other day, they will still lose, but Brian will survive. In “The Grey God Passes”, REH has Brodir’s divination performed by a bloody human sacrifice in which the victim’s heart is ripped out and studied. Undeterred by the prediction, Brodir snarls that they will fight against Brian on Good Friday, “… fall fair, fall foul!”

Brodir, according to the traditional descriptions, was tall and powerful, with black hair grown so long that he could tuck it into his belt. He wore an enchanted mail shirt on which no weapon could bite. He had become enemies with his brother Ospak, and Ospak as a result was fighting on King Brian’s side. Brodir, like many other historical and literary characters, appears in John Myers Myers’ glorious book Silverlock. He fishes Shandon and Golias out of the sea and recruits them to fight on his side. Shandon mutters to Golias, “Why should I … I don’t even like the son of a bitch,” and Golias answers that they’d better. He cautions his companion, “I don’t know Brodir, but I do, too. When he can’t get men to do his will, he’ll murder.”

Silverlock also describes the battle, and the aftermath in which Brodir, having lost the day, leads a gang of Vikings into the aged King Brian’s tent and cuts him down. Shandon says of Brian, “For a minute there I looked upon greatness, until Brodir slew it.”

Before that, according to the Njal, Brodir had come against an Irish warrior the Vikings called Wolf the Quarrelsome, and been bested in a short, savage encounter. Only his impenetrable mail saved him, and he fled the field. Now, there wouldn’t have been too many warriors alive at the time that could make Brodir the Warlock run away. Further, when Brodir had killed Brian in his tent, this same Wolf the Quarrelsome discovered it, called a group of Irish warriors, and set out in pursuit. As the Njal tells it:

Then Brodir called out with a loud voice, “Now let man tell man that Brodir felled Brian.”

Then men ran after those who were chasing the fleers, and they were told that King Brian had fallen, and then they turned back straightway, both Wolf the Quarrelsome and Kerthialfad.

Then they threw a ring round Brodir and his men, and threw branches of trees upon them, and so Brodir was taken alive.

Wolf the Quarrelsome cut open his belly, and led him round and round the trunk of a tree, and so wound all his entrails out of him, and he did not die before they were all drawn out of him.

Brodir’s men were slain to a man.

That sounds to me as though the warrior the Icelandic skalds named Wolf the Quarrelsome was actually Black Turlogh, no other. Brian was Turlogh’s grandfather as well as his king; his vengeance for the killing would be awful, and even without a kinsman to avenge, Turlogh had at all times, REH attests, an “almost insane hatred” for the Vikings. In “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth” he rages, “I hate your breed as I hate Satan!  Your wolves have ravaged my people for five hundred years! The smoking ruins of the Southland, the seas of spilled blood call for vengeance! The screams of a thousand ravished girls are ringing in my ears, night and day!  Would that the North had but a single breast for my ax to cleave!”

Yes, that’s an entrails-ripping avenger talking, and no mistake. Wolf the Quarrelsome is alleged – by men who were no more at Clontarf than I was – to have been King Brian’s brother. Break it down. Brian Boru was seventy-three by the time of Clontarf, which is why he wasn’t in the actual fighting. Even a half-brother a full generation younger than he could hardly have been less than fifty. I cannot picture a man fifty years old taking down the lethal Brodir in hand-to-hand combat. That was a job for a grandson of Brian’s, not a brother. How Turlogh became known to the Vikings as Wolf the Quarrelsome is a matter for speculation that I’ll get to later.

Howard doesn’t mention the parents of his fictionalized Turlogh. In real life they were Teige O’Brien, son of Brian Boru (in Gaelic Tadg ua Briain) and his wife Mór, of the Cenél Fiachach. The actual Turlogh is supposed to have been born in about 1009 or 1010, but of course that would have made him too young to fight at Clontarf, even in the live-fast-die-young era of Brian Boru’s Ireland. He’d barely have been housebroken yet. From a fiction writer’s point of view, the most convenient thing about this eleventh-century hard case is that nothing concrete is known about him before he turned forty, so REH could invent and write anything about him he pleased.

After King Brian’s death, Turlogh’s father Teige became a strong candidate for the kingship of Munster. He never attained it, though, since in 1023 he was murdered by his half-brother. Considering the way Turlogh had reacted to the slaying of his grandfather, he would have done extreme things indeed to his father’s killer. Not immediately, though. By 1023, Turlogh was far from Ireland, and wouldn’t have heard about the slaying for years.

A few years after the decisive Battle of Clontarf, he appeared as the protagonist of that great REH story, “The Dark Man.”  Single-handed, he sailed to the rescue of a kidnapped Irish princess in a requisitioned fishing boat. The fisherman he confronted as the story opens says that he’d last heard of Turlogh in the Wicklow hills, “preying off the O’Reillys and the Oastmen alike.”  Turlogh didn’t deny it, but merely answered, “A man must eat, outcast or not.”

That causes me to question where he went and how he lived between Clontarf and the Wicklow hills. The accusations that made him an outlaw would seem to have come very soon after Clontarf and Brian Boru’s death. As ever, there was no unity among the Irish. Turlogh says to the fisherman of the west coast, “All Erin is rocking under the Dalcassian throne since great Brian fell.”  Turlogh was probably discredited as a result of such bickering.

Where would he have gone initially?

I think to England.

Anywhere there were Danes to fight would have been congenial to him. England no less than Ireland had been assailed by Danes for generations. Olaf Tryggvason, King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark, and Thorkel the Tall had all ravaged the country. In 1013 – the year before Clontarf – the battered, weary English had accepted Sweyn as their king. The lawful English king, Ethelred, with his wife and younger sons, took refuge in Normandy.

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

Born in Chicago on July 1, 1891, and author of at least thirteen novels (most appearing as serials in the pulps), not to mention all the short stories, articles, letters, and even poems, Otis Adelbert Kline is perhaps best-known to readers of the Two-Gun blog as the author of The Swordsmen of Mars, and as the one-time agent for Robert E. Howard. In the 1920s, Kline hobnobbed with Farnsworth Wright and E. Hoffmann Price at his Chicago home. A successful pulp writer himself, Kline started agenting for others in 1932 or 1933. At the suggestion of Price, himself a client of Kline’s, Robert E. Howard joined the stable of authors that Kline served.

The earliest Kline-Howard connection that I’m aware of is Kline’s May 11, 1933 letter to Howard. In that missive, Kline mentions having at least four Howard stories already on hand: “The Yellow Cobra,” “The Turkish Menace,” “The Jade Monkey,” and “Cultured Cauliflowers.” Not only did Kline attempt to place Howard’s fiction in different markets, he offered tips and strategies to more effectively produce those stories.

According to the Kline Agency ledger, “Wild Water” was received on June 15, 1933. The very next day Kline returned it, saying that while it was loaded with “excellent local color, powerful characterizations and fast action,” he was afraid he couldn’t sell it “because the plot is not powerful enough to support a story of this length.” While I don’t agree with Kline’s assessment, he apparently knew what he was talking about at the time. Howard rewrote the story and sent it back that October. It was shopped around by V. I. Cooper, who sent it to Fiction House, Wild West Stories, and others, to no effect. The story remained unpublished long after Howard’s death.

And so it went; Kline continued to place, or not place, Howard’s work. In 1935, business must have been going well, as Kline enlisted the aid of Otto O. Binder. Binder went to New York late in 1935 to be closer to the publishing scene than Kline’s Chicago offices allowed. And he had some success, placing several of Howard’s “Spicy” stories with Trojan Publications, as well as other items, like “Black Wind Blowing” and “The Curly Wolf of Saw-Tooth.” After a rough start in New York, when things started picking up, Binder wrote the following to his brother Earl on June 7, 1936:

The business is beginning to pick up a bit at that, though. I wish all our authors were like Robert E. Howard. Since I’ve been here, I’ve sold $700 worth of his stuff, getting him into Argosy, and into Star Western, and Complete Stories S&S. He’s thirty years old and has sold 22 different magazines and over 125 stories altogether. I’ve seen his picture—he’s a rough and ready Texan and claims he wears no underwear because there’s no sense to it!

Howard’s suicide a few days later certainly negated that “wish.” Binder sent a postcard to Richard Frank, a friend in Pennsylvania, mentioning the suicide. Rich responded in a July 9, 1936 letter:

Give me more dope on the suicide of ROBERT E. HOWARD. Funny thing about my hearing of the tragedy. Your card arrived telling me of the suicide and while I was waiting at the post office I saw a magazine thrust into my box. I pulled it out and it was the July issue of WEIRD TALES with Howard’s latest story, “Red Nails,” featured on the cover. It gave me a peculiar feeling to hear of an author’s death and then, in the same mail, receive his latest tale.

And while there would be no new Howard items to show, Kline Associates got first crack at the fabled trunk, and Kline continued to represent Howard through his father, Doctor I. M. Howard. During this time, A Gent from Bear Creek was published, and the foundations for Skull-Face and Others were laid. This stormy relationship would last until the doctor’s death in November 1944, but that was not the end of Otis Kline Associates’ relationship with the works of Robert E. Howard.

In his will, Doctor Howard left “all property, both real and personal” to his friend Doctor P. M. Kuykendall. This included the literary rights to Robert’s work. And, while the actual items—typescripts, clippings, letters, etc.—were shipped off to E. Hoffmann Price in California, Dr. Kuykendall received royalty checks from Kline. Business was slow.

Kline died in October 1946, but his agenting business lived on. His daughter, Ora Rossini (later Rozar), took over the practice for a year and a half, but when her husband was transferred to Texas, of all places, she “turned over everything to Oscar Friend, including material published and unpublished, records, files, etc.” Oscar Jerome Friend was a veteran writer himself, as well as editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories from 1941 to 1944. Upon purchasing Kline’s business, he set out to fatten it by contacting various authors, including Binder and British science fiction writer Eric Frank Russell, and asking them to let him represent them. The Howard items were probably not very high on his priority list. Things change.

In 1950, a small specialty publisher purchased the rights for Howard’s The Hour of the Dragon—Gnome Press. Conan the Conqueror, as the novel was re-titled, was the first in a series of books covering the Cimmerian’s exploits. From all accounts the series wasn’t exactly lucrative, but it did show some possibilities. Enter L. Sprague de Camp.

According to de Camp’s introduction to Gnome’s King Conan (1953), he had been acquainted with Oscar Friend and, when he learned from Donald Wollheim that Friend had “a whole pile of unpublished Howard manuscripts,” he rushed right over. This was November 30, 1951. Upon his arrival, he met Harold Preece, and then Friend “hauled out the carton of manuscripts—about twenty pounds of them.” Among the stash, three Conan tales were discovered, and “it was agreed that [de Camp] should rewrite these stories—not, however, to turn them into typical de Camp pieces, but to create as nearly as possible what Howard would have produced if in his later years he had undertaken to rewrite them himself with all the care he could manage.”

Meanwhile, Doctor Kuykendall had decided that he’d had enough of the literature business and made Friend an offer: “We would consider a sale price of three thousand dollars for all rights, and a complete release of any claim to future royalties that might accrue.” Friend responded on March 14, 1954, saying that the property wasn’t really worth that much, and offered $1,250, instead. The reasons for this reduction in price seem quite reasonable, for the time. There was, after all, no guarantee that the Conan name would take off.

Friend described his efforts to continue the Conan series, and the amount of work that would entail:

Now let us consider the future prospect of a continuation. In the first place, I have to guide, cajole, help plot, supervise, etc., the future books, and keep a firm rein and control—or the project would go completely haywire and finally bog down in complete ruin. There is one rather smart writer now who has been doing some work for us in rewriting several Howard stories, and he keeps pressing for a larger cut and keeps slipping in side remarks to the effect that if he wants to he can and will go ahead on his own and write about Conan as the author is dead, etc., etc. And I’ve warned him that I’ll sue the pants off him if he makes one silly move of this nature before the CONAN material runs out of copyright (56 years).

We all know how that worked out.

Sometime later, Kline’s daughter recalled that “Oscar moved to another place and I suspect disposed of practically all OAK material, records, and files.” This may be when the Howard items listed on the Kline lists disappeared. Items like “The Phantom Tarantula” and “Footprints of Fear,” which are listed on the list, but no copies have ever turned up.

Friend enlisted the aid of his wife, Irene M. Ozment, as vice president, and his daughter, Kitty F. West, as early as 1955, with West acting as secretary for Kline Associates and sending letters to the above-mentioned Eric Frank Russell. Around this time, also, a young Howard fan named Glenn Lord secured the rights to Howard’s poems and published Always Comes Evening (1957) with Arkham House. Friend’s health began to fail in the early 1960s, and he died on January 19, 1963. His wife and daughter continued the agency through 1964. In the interim, Dr. Kuykendall had also died, leaving the rights to Robert Howard’s works to his wife and daughter. With the Kline agency closing up shop, the heirs were in need of a new agent.

In Costigan #7 (REHupa mailing #9, May 1974), Glenn Lord explains what happened next: “The Howard heirs asked Mrs. West to find another agent to handle the Howard material, and L. Sprague de Camp was asked, but turned it down due to his own writing. De Camp suggested that I might be a good possibility.”

The Kuykendalls apparently agreed and, in the winter 1965 issue of The Howard Collector, Lord made the announcement: “Otis Kline Associates, the agent for the Howard Estate, went out of business at the end of 1964. I have accepted the handling of the Howard material for the Estate.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

[Note: Most of the information used to write the above came from the forthcoming collection from the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press, The Collected Letters of Doctor Isaac M. Howard. Ora Rozar’s information is from OAK Leaves #2, Winter 1970-71, edited by David Anthony Kraft. The letters to and from Otto Binder are unpublished; copies were provided by the Cushing Memorial Library at Texas A&M. Binder’s list of sales appeared in OAK Leaves #5, Fall 1971. Letters from Kline Associates to Erick Frank Russell are unpublished; they are housed at the University of Liverpool Special Collections and Archives; for a listing, look here.]