Archive for August, 2011

One of my duties for the Robert E. Howard Foundation is monitoring the email account. Besides the usual questions about when something will be printed or where a particular story or poem has appeared, we get a lot of requests for copyright information and contacts. Every once in a while we also get little nuggets of information provided to us.

This morning the Foundation received an email from Manuel Barrero in Spain. He wanted to let us know about a book he wrote, Conan: La Imagen de un Mito. That’s Conan: The Image of a Myth for us Anglos.

The book is only available in Spanish, but Barrero tells us that it is “about the image of the Cimmerian warrior created by Robert E. Howard and its perversion and manipulation over the years by others (authors and artists, illustrators and film makers). Of course, it is also a book about the image of heroic fantasy in film, from Cabiria to Nispel’s Conan the Barbarian.”

I haven’t heard of Barrero and can’t read Spanish, so I have no opinion to offer on this book. Anyone interested can look here for more details.

This entry filed under Howard in Media, Howard Scholarship, News.

Howard often wrote proudly of his beloved Texas in his correspondence with H.P. Lovecraft. Here, in a letter dated February 11, 1936, he tells HPL about one of his favorite Texas towns:

San Angelo is a likable town of about 25,000 people, on the bank of the South Concho, amongst vast, rolling prairies. It is the biggest mohair market on this continent, and much more Western in air and viewpoint than the hill-towns in this vicinity, as well as more cosmopolitan. This phrase, used in connection with such a small town, may seem incongruous. But it must be remembered that a town of 20,000, 30,000, or 40,000 in the West is much more important in the pattern of things than an Eastern town of the same size. San Angelo is the largest town between Fort Worth and El Paso, and draws from an enormous trade territory extending for hundreds of miles in every direction, including vast, rich areas of farming land and cattle country. The streets are broad and straight, everything modern and up to date, the attitude of the people friendly and good natured, typically Western. Technically and mechanically West Texas is more highly developed than East Texas (of course excepting the cities of East Texas, such as Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, etc.) and it seems to me that general standards of education are higher — higher than in this Central hill-country, too, I believe. The contrasts of costumes on San Angelo streets are interesting: suits and dresses such as you would see on the streets of San Antonio or New Orleans contrasted with ten-gallon hats and spurred boots. San Angelo is, by the way, famous for its hat-shops and boot-shops. People living in San Antonio, Saint Louis, Santa Fe and other distant points often have their boots made there. I got just the sort of a hat I had been looking for, and unable to find, for some time. It’s a fast stepping town, and comparatively wide-open. As in any typically West Texas town there is plenty of drinking, fighting and love-making going on all the time. I believe you would find much of interest in the museum in the administrative building of old Fort Concho, established, as I remember, in 1868 and abandoned as a post in 1889. A public school now stands in the middle of the parade-square, but many of the old buildings are still standing, some of the officers’ houses now being used as residences.

In that same letter, Howard described his recent trips there to attend to his mother who was in a sanatorium and a hospital in San Angelo. Since he was spending a considerable amount of time there, he took a few breaks to do some sightseeing. One of the places he visited was a former frontier outpost known as Fort Concho.

Fort Concho was established in 1867, along the banks of the Concho River, the location was then at the junction of the Butterfield Trail, Goodnight Trail and the road to San Antonio. The site itself was chosen for its strategic location at the junction of the North and Middle Concho Rivers and because of the major trails in the vicinity. By March 1, 1870, several buildings had been completed, including a commissary and quartermaster storehouse, hospital, five officers’ quarters, a powder magazine and two barracks – all built of limestone. In 1873 units of the 10th Cavalry Regiment began relocating to the Fort to help quell the Indian uprisings.

The 10th Cavalry Regiment was formed as a unit of the United States Army. It was a segregated African-American unit and one of the original “Buffalo Soldier” regiments. In April of 1875, the 10th Cavalry moved its regimental headquarters to Fort Concho. Other Companies (later called Troops) were assigned to various Forts throughout the west Texas region. At various times from 1873 through 1885, Fort Concho housed 9th Cavalry Companies in addition to the 10th Cavalry Companies; some infantry Companies were stationed there as well.

There are a number of stories floating around about how the Buffalo Soldiers go their name — here is one:

In September 1867, Private John Randall of Troop G of the 10th Cavalry Regiment was assigned to escort two civilians on a hunting trip. The hunters suddenly became the hunted when a band of 70 Cheyenne warriors swept down on them. The two civilians quickly fell in the initial attack and Randall’s horse was shot out from beneath him. Randall managed to scramble to safety behind a washout under the railroad tracks, where he fended off the attack with only his pistol until help from the nearby camp arrived. The Indians beat a hasty retreat, leaving behind 13 fallen warriors. Private Randall suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder and 11 lance wounds, but recovered. The Cheyenne quickly spread word of this new type of soldier, “who had fought like a cornered buffalo; who like a buffalo had suffered wound after wound, yet had not died; and who like a buffalo had a thick and shaggy mane of hair.”

The 10th’s mission in Texas was to protect mail and travel routes, control Indian movements, provide protection from Mexican revolutionaries and outlaws and to gain knowledge of the area’s terrain. The regiment was very successful in completing their mission. The 10th scouted 34,420 miles of uncharted terrain, opened more than 300 miles of new roads, and laid over 200 miles of telegraph lines. The scouting activities took the troops through some of the harshest and most desolate terrain in the nation. These excursions allowed the preparation of excellent maps detailing scarce water holes, mountain passes, and grazing areas that would later allow for settlement of the area. These feats were accomplished while the troops had constantly to be on the alert for quick raids by the Apaches. The stay in west Texas produced tough soldiers who became accustomed to surviving in an area that offered few comforts and no luxuries.

Santa Angela, or San Angelo was a village across the Concho River from the Fort and had established itself as place for “whiskey and sin” to separate the soldiers from their monthly pay. One of the Buffalo Soldiers stationed at Fort Concho was a young cavalryman named Ellis, who was prone to crossing the river and going into the town to enjoy these illicit pastimes, especially imbibing copious amounts of liquor. Indeed, the young soldier had a problem knowing when to quit and frequently over indulged.

On one of his drinking binges, Ellis passed out in one of San Angelo’s many saloons. His friends quickly gathered him up and carried him back to the barracks, Exhausted from dragging his carcass back, they threw him on his hay-stuffed mattress before calling it a night themselves.

When the sound of reveille echoed through the barracks early the next morning, the hung-over soldiers reluctantly climbed out of their beds, dressed and assembled on the parade ground. Everyone was present except Ellis.

Enraged at his absence, the company’s sergeant went looking for the wayward soldier. Ellis’ sergeant was ready to kick the drunken trooper out of his bed and escort him to the stockade. But upon finding Ellis and discovering he was non-responsive, his rage turned to concern when the sergeant noticed Ellis had gone rigid. He was still warm, but did not appear to be breathing.

Word was sent to the post hospital to for a surgeon. The doctor soon arrived and examined the unconscious trooper. Unable to find a heartbeat or pulse, the surgeon pronounced Ellis dead from alcohol poisoning and ordered his body be removed to the small white frame house behind the hospital, a structure known as the Death House.

Remember, this was before refrigeration and the common practice of embalming, so the death house was a standard ancillary structure at most hospitals. Bodies went to the death house to be prepared for burial, a process on the frontier that did not amount to much more than cleaning up the newly departed and placing the body in a pine box for burial in the post cemetery the following day. The only other thing the post surgeon could do for Ellis was complete the necessary paperwork so that his family could learn of his demise while in the service of his country.

Ellis had several good friends, most of them having been present on his drinking spree the night before. In a final gesture of respect, his soldier pals gathered in the death house to sit with his body. To allay their sense of loss, his comrades took turns drinking from a jug of whiskey somehow slipped past the guards whose job it was find and confiscate contraband from those who passed between the Fort and San Angelo.

Sometime after midnight, some 24 hours after Ellis’ death, the mourners heard what sounded like a low moan coming from their departed friend’s coffin. Dismissing the noise as the prairie wind, the soldiers continued drinking and heard the sound again. It was a moan, no question about it. While readily prepared to fight hostile Indians, the soldiers had no interest in taking on inhabitants of the spirit world.

The troops dove through the nearest window or door, not caring how they got out as long as they exited that house and got away from Ellis’ ghost as quickly as possible. But, as the old saying goes, reports of Ellis’ death had been greatly exaggerated. In truth he had only been dead drunk, not dead.

Ellis’ friends had found the situation no less terrifying than Ellis, whose blood-alcohol level had finally dropped low enough to allow a return to consciousness. Realizing he lay in his dress uniform inside a wooden coffin just a few hours away from being buried alive, the soldier jumped from the box and crashed through a window to catch up with his fleeing friends.

The newly resurrected Ellis and his comrades soon recovered from their fright and returned to the barracks. The post commander ordered the formerly “dead” soldier to pay for the damage to government property and spend some time in the stockade as punishment for his drinking binge. But he also gained a nickname that lasted the rest of his long life: “Dead” Ellis.

Fort Concho was abandoned by the military in 1889, with the last company of soldiers marching off to San Antonio. The military reservation reverted to private property and the hospital was converted into a rooming house. Later, it became a hay barn. Due to the sturdy construction of the limestone buildings, most of them were re-purposed as residences for the locals.

By the late 1920s there had been several efforts to save the fort as a memorial to the 19th-century U.S. Calvary and pioneers. Ginevra Carson, an educator and businesswoman, started the Fort Concho Museum in the old Headquarters Building, which opened to the public in 1930. It was this museum Howard visited and referenced in his letter to HPL.

Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961, Fort Concho includes most of the former army post and includes twenty-three original and restored Fort structures. Today the old frontier army post is a historic preservation project and museum which is owned and operated by the City of San Angelo.

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

Encouraged by his first sale to Spicy-Adventure Stories, Howard was soon at work on another spicy adventure. Like “She Devil” (aka “The Girl on the Hell Ship”), “Ship in Mutiny,” Howard’s second spicy effort was set in the South Pacific and featured Clanton’s love interest, Raquel O’Shane from the first yarn. However, “Mutiny,” written as a sequel to “She Devil,” was doomed from the start.

In “Mutiny,” Howard really turned up the heat, literally bringing the sexual tension to a boil. Howard used the device to build-up the overall suspense of the story and it worked, perhaps even too well. Remember that “jaunty’ style Editor Armer wanted? With all the tension, the jauntiness went out the window. Indeed, the story was so grim Howard could have easily rewritten it into a Conan story.

In the story, Clanton enjoys the sexual “charms” of an island princess named Lailu, but he returns to the arms of Raquel, violating one of the main edicts of the spicys – thou shalt not be monogamous. His bringing Raquel into the story surely raised Armer’s eyebrows and helped the story along toward rejection. Howard learned his lesson and forever banished Raquel from the Clanton stories.

The villain of the yarn is Tanoa is a half-breed who possesses both European and barbarian characteristics. At one point in the story, Clanton is in the clutches of Tanoa, who boasts: “We’ll find the girl and make her watch while I skin him alive! I’ll make a garment of his hide and force her to wear it always about her loins to remind her how her lover died!” This outburst of male-on-male sadomasochism may have been a bit much for Editor Armer to stomach. As I said above, pretty grim stuff.

When “Ship in Mutiny” didn’t sell, Howard kicked around the idea of reworking the story for Thrilling Adventures, but never got around to it during the short amount of time he had left to live. Thus, “Mutiny” remained the only unpublished Clanton until its appearance in The She Devil (Ace, 1983)

But as a professional writer, Howard did not dwell on the rejection and soon had another Clanton yarn ready for submission. With “Desert Blood,” Howard returned to the jaunty style that made “She Devil” a success. The story is also much lighter fare than the failed “Ship in Mutiny.”

Written in November 1935, “Desert Blood” is set in Tebessa, Algeria where Clanton is pursuing a local temptress Zouza while he waits for the sale of a cargo of rifles he has in his ship’s hold to be completed. While Zouza successfully rebuffs the advances of Clanton, she manages to convince him that only a man who has killed a lion is worthy of her “charms.” Clearly thinking with the wrong head, Clanton falls for this malarkey and agrees to go on a lion hunt in the middle of the desert. Leaving Zouza’s quarters, he runs into an American school teacher (Novalyne, is that you?) he has seen in his travels. The vacationing teacher, Augusta Evans, is somewhat snooty and quickly rebuffs Clanton’s advances. After striking out twice, the burly brawler hits the nearest dive to drown his sorrows.

Soon a drunken Clanton is riding off into the desert on the back of a mule, all part of a plot hatched by the scheming Zouza, a desert sheik Ahmed ibn Said, his henchmen and yet another seductress, Zulaykha. It seems the group is after that load of guns Clanton has on his ship.

This is certainly one of Howard’s spicier tales, featuring four different women for Clanton to woo. Clearly his favorite of the foursome was Aicha, a concubine of Ahmed ibn Said, one of the yarn’s villains:

He had forgotten Zouza; this girl had everything she had and more; she was vibrant with that intangible quality some call glamour, which sets the natural artist apart from the willing worker, however skilled and lovely.

All his life Clanton had been following his impulses, and now there was no revisiting the peremptory urge of his primitive nature. He saw in this girl’s eyes the same light he knew burned more fiercely in his own, and that was enough.

“To hell with Ahmed!” In sudden savage hunger he crushed her to him, found her red hot lips, until she caught fire from his ardour and her arms locked in equal fierceness about his neck, as she gave him kiss for kiss. There was a profusion of silk pillows in one corner. She yielded meltingly in his arms as he lifted her from her feet and carried her across the tent. The soft white gleam of her flesh in the mellow light made his head swim. Then for a time, Time stood still in the little striped tent.

Some time later the girl squirmed blissfully in Clanton’s arms, stretched her white arms luxuriously above her head and then threw them about his thick neck, laughing with pure joy. She kissed him with a gusto still not satiated in the slightest.

This encounter is only a brief respite from Clanton’s life and death predicament, with Ahmed and Shaykh Ali ibn Zahir after his shipment of guns meant the Berber chiefs and their fighters battling the French for control of Algeria. In El Borak-like fashion, Clanton’s sympathies lie with the Berbers fighting the imperialistic French.

The story concludes with Aicha saving Clanton by taking and wearing Augusta Evan’s garments as a disguise to distract the bad guys while Clanton makes good his escape.  The haughty schoolteacher gets her comeuppance by being put on a donkey and sent riding though the countryside wearing only a pair of eyeglasses.

An argument could be made that Howard was having a bit of fun at Novalyne Price’s expense by having his attractive schoolteacher character humiliated in such a way. No doubt Howard was still smarting from the betrayal by his best friend, Lindsey Tyson and his girlfriend, who were dating behind his back.

“Desert Blood” appeared in the June 1936 issue of Spicy-Adventure Stories – it is not known if Howard saw it in print before he died.

After writing “Desert Blood,” quickly started writing another spicy story, “The Purple Heart of Erlik.” The story centers around a pretty young woman who is blackmailed by a scoundrel named Duke Tremayne into stealing a valuable jewel. For this outing, Howard makes his spicy hero a real bastard. While he does not actually rape Arline Ellis, the story’s heroine, he sure seems to be giving it his best shot.

Clanton runs into Arline in Shanghai – again. It seems he’s been following her across the globe and tells her “…I came to Shanghai just because I heard you were here…” It sounds like Clanton has been stalking his lovely prey. He further states:

If I didn’t think you were so good-looking, I’d smack your ears back!…Now are you going to be nice or do I have to get rough?…Nobody interferes with anything that goes on in alleys behind dumps like the Bordeaux…Any woman caught here’s fair prey.

Apparently not a big believer that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, Clanton attempts to take her by force. In the ensuing struggle, Arline crowns him with a water pitcher, momentarily rendering him senseless as she makes good her escape.

It is interesting that in hiding behind the Sam Walser pseudonym, Howard could channel all his frustrations and negative thoughts into the character by pretty much making Clanton a bastard. With his problems collecting money he was owed from Weird Tales and his mother’s failing health, coupled with the stress of his failing relationship with Novalyne, he certainly needed some outlet for his anger.

Getting back to our heroine, who jumps from the frying pan into the fire when, impersonating an English noblewoman, she meets with Woon Yuen, yet another of Howard’s Oriental villains, who possesses the “Purple Heart of Erlik,” the jewel she has been sent to Shanghai to steal. Yuen, it seems, is a bigger bastard than Clanton, and after figuring out her game, he promptly rapes Arline and tosses her into an alley. Regaining his senses, Clanton comes to her rescue, deals with Tremayne and Woon Yeun, and gets his reward in the arms of Arline.

“The Purple Heart of Erlik,” along with “Desert Blood,” were quickly scooped up by Editor Armer for Spicy-Adventure, and with the year winding down, Howard accomplished his goal of breaking into new markets. He mentions the new markets he’s cracked in a December 17, 1935 letter to Robert H. Barlow:

In the past few months I have made three new markets, Western Aces, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Adventures. In addition to the magazines above mentioned my work has appeared in Ghost Stories, Argosy, Fight Stories, Oriental Stories, Sport Stories, Thrilling Adventures, Texaco Star, The Ring, Strange Detective, Super-Detective, Strange Tales, Frontier Times and Jack Dempsey’s Fight Magazine.

However, after successfully selling “Desert Blood” and “The Purple Heart of Erlik,” Howard falls off the spicy wagon again with two rejected non-Clanton spicy stories.

To be continued…

Don’t Dilly-Dally Around – Place Your Order Today!

The REH Foundation Press has already sold half the print-run of Spicy Adventures. The book is due out the end of September with a print run of 200 copies. This 211 page volume collects all of Howard’s “spicys” and is the first time many of these stories have appeared in hardback. In addition to all of the complete tales, this volume contains a large miscellanea section with drafts and synopsizes that allow readers to glimpse Howard’s creative process. A standout cover by Jim and Ruth Keegan completes the package. Pre-orders are now being accepted at the Foundation’s website.

Read: Part I / Part III / Part IV / Part V

Conan: “Lucius has no nose.”

Artus: “How does he smell?”

Conan: “Awful!”

That pretty much sums up the new Conan movie.

By now you’ve seen the movie and read the reviews, perused the discussion boards, seen the dismal box office numbers. Reviews have run the gamut from Leo Grin’s short and to the point review to Dennis McHaney’s favorable review to Al Harron’s extensive deconstruction at the Conan Movie Blog and everything in between. Online discussions have been hot and heavy. As for the box office, well Conan the Barbarian finished fourth with $10 million behind Richard Rodriquez’s Spy Kids 4 that features an android dog that fires large ball bearings out of its arse.

After reading the early reviews I went into the movie with low expectations, still I nearly came out of my seat a few times early on to rail at the screen with raised fist. Thankfully my wife managed to calm me down and the restraints she brought were not needed. I had to literary switch off my brain, turning the grey matter between my ears to oatmeal, in order to make through the entire movie.

As I sat there in the dark watching a disaster unfold before my eyes, I got to thinking why should I have to lower my expectations? Why can’t Hollywood make a decent Robert E. Howard movie? Given the amount of source material, they could have easily adapted a story or several stories instead of doing a ham-handed remake of Milius’ Conan. Yes, I know that I am like Charlie Brown attempting to kick the football, but thwarted every time by Lucy pulling it away at the last moment. I guess I hope just one time the football won’t be pulled away.

I did like a few things about the movie. I thought the sand monsters fight scene was well done, sort of homage to Ray Harryhausen’s skeleton warriors scene from Jason and the Argonauts. The scenes of Corin with young Conan were well done, as was the scene with the wheel Tamara was tied to was falling down the well shaft (or whatever it was) with Conan and Khalar Zym fighting on top of it. But overall, the negatives far outweighed the positives.

With the poor showing at the box office, I doubt if we will see a sequel, unless it is a surprise hit overseas and DVD sales go through the roof.  The powers that be had one chance to produce a hit, but they failed and the lackluster ticket sales also dooms other Howard movies on the drawing board.

“Behold and despair” indeed.

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

In an April of 1932 letter to H. P. Lovecraft, Howard recounts one of his visits down to south Texas, also referred to as “the Valley” by the locals:

I’m glad you found the South Texas views of some interest. I do not believe that cocoanuts thrive anywhere in Texas. As to the abrupt contrasts in the lower country, you can meet with them driving along paved highways. A great deal of the country is furnished with good roads, and even when they are not paved, as in many cases they are, they can be traversed with comfort most times of the year. Tourists swarm into South Texas by the thousands, and many naturally find their way into the less settled areas. But there’s still plenty untouched, and if you ever get out here to Texas, I’ll show you places no tourist has ever seen — less interesting from a scenic standpoint, but rich in tradition. I’m enclosing a post-card view of a grotto, built in imitation of the famous one of Lourdes, the work of a very interesting character in Rio Grande City — the Rev. Gustav Gollbach, of the Oblate Fathers. I found him a remarkably interesting man, of unmistakable culture and erudition. He is a native of Hesse — a province against whose inhabitants I always had an instinctive prejudice, from memories handed down since the Revolution. I can remember when “that old Hessian” was a term of anathema in the Southwest. But my prejudice — which after all was active only in my extreme youth — did not extend to the Reverent Gollbach. He was dolichocepalic, typically Nordic, with light blue eyes and fair skin. He has thirteen thousand Mexicans under his spiritual guidance, and body and soul they are much the better for his aid. Although the Catholic religion is fast losing power in Old Mexico and along the Border. Ten years ago the priest was all-powerful among our southern neighbors. Now he is as likely to get a bullet in the back as a layman. I have an idea that a priest on this side of the Border really wields more power than one in Mexico.

This particular anecdote deals with Howard’s visit to Rio Grande City, located near the Mexican border. The city is rich in Texas history, being one of the oldest settlements along the river, and is the seat of Starr County. It was once a port for steamboats that worked the river from Brownsville. Rio Grande City is also the home of Fort Ringgold (1849-1944). Many of the Fort’s buildings remain standing and open to the public. Howard did a bit of sightseeing in the town, with one of his stops being Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, which was built to resemble the Shrine of Lourdes in southern France.

As Howard recounts in his letter, the grotto is principally the work of one man, Father Gustav Gollbach, a Catholic priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate order. The Father was born in Germany on September 24, 1878, but spent most of his life in Texas. Gollbach served in churches around the state for nearly 20 years after his ordination in 1906, including serving not too far from Cross Plains at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Coleman from 1914-1923. He eventually was assigned the position of pastor at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Rio Grande City where he served for 13 years.

The Oblate order has a long history of work in Texas, especially the Rio Grande Valley between Laredo and Brownsville. The order was founded in France in 1816, and its priests arrived at the mouth of the Rio Grande soon after Texas joined the Union. The stoic, black-robed priests built missions, established schools, and fought for social justice in a rugged land where the six-gun was frequently the law. Often called the “Cavalry of Christ,” the priests’ primary mission was riding on horseback to ranch settlements where they ministered to the poor.

Howard also mentions how dangerous it was on the border. This was true, particularly in the case of Father Pierre Yves Kéralum, a fellow Oblate priest, who traveled the lawless borderlands for 20 years. The French-born priest built many of the first churches in the valley. Father Kéralum was a model of religious poverty, obedience, and unpretentiousness. At least every three or four months, he made missionary circuits over a vast territory of some 70 to 120 ranches where he preached, catechized, baptized, confessed and married the residents.

At the age of 56, nearly blind and in poor health, Father Kéralum disappeared near the present-day town of Mercedes while out ministering to his flock. Undeterred by his advancing age and failing health, Father Kéralum began what would be his final tour of his circuit on November 9, 1872, ignoring the objections of his fellow Oblates and the people of Brownsville. An exhaustive search was mounted by the local population after his riderless horse, missing its saddle, turned up on a nearby ranch. Mexican vaqueros even volunteered to search south of the border, but the ailing priest was not found.

Ten years later a rancher went into a thicket to rescue two cows that were entangled in the underbrush and found the Oblate priest’s bones and personal property. All his personal possessions were with him, including his saddle; so he did not meet his end at the hands of a bandit. It is believed he stopped to rest and either died from a rattlesnake bite or natural causes. Today Father Kéralum is being considered for sainthood and is known among the Mexican people as El Santo Padre Pedrito.

In later years the Oblate fathers helped organize the first farm workers’ union in Crystal City. They lobbied local growers and ranchers to pay their workers living wages and provide schools.

The story of the shrine of Lourdes in Southern France goes that 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous was approached by the Virgin Mary as she and friends were gathering firewood in 1858. When Bernadette scratched in the ground on the hillside, a spring bubbled to the surface that has run continuously since. The waters are said to be a cure for spiritual and physical infirmities.

The French waters attract more pilgrims than any other Christian shrine in the world. It is almost a certainty that Father Gollbach visited the shrine before leaving Europe and immigrating to America. Famous replicas of the grotto have also been built in New York, Indiana, and Pennsylvania and other locations in Texas.

Beginning in 1926, Father Gollbach built much of the mountain himself. The rocks were collected from around Roma, with petrified wood gathered near Escobares. Concrete posts were etched to look like tree branches. In the center of the grotto, a 7-foot-tall statue of the Madonna in a flowing white gown with a blue sash looks down on a life-sized statue of the little French peasant girl kneeling in prayer. The grotto is 33 feet high and 90 feet wide, with cacti growing from the walls to give it a very natural appearance. The Oblate Father envisioned the grotto as a monument to the hope for a lasting peace following the horrors of World War I. The project was completed in 1928 and was an immediate favorite among tourists and locals alike.

Father Gollbach passed away on December 26, 1955 at the age of 77 and is buried in the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate Cemetery in San Antonio. But his tribute to Our Lady of Lourdes lives on and at night the handcrafted hill is bathed in floodlights that give it a soft glow.

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Rio Grande City is across the street from the Starr County Courthouse and behind the Immaculate Conception Church. The shrine is open free of charge to the public, except during church services.

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

Last evening, a special sneak preview of the new Conan the Barbarian was screened in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.  Howard Days videographer Ben Friberg was in attendance and gives us his first-hand report on both the movie and its star, Jason Momoa who was at the screening.

I was lucky enough to see it at a special preview Wednesday night with Dennis, and the Baums.

Momoa showed up. During question and answer after the film, I asked what his favorite Howard Conan story was. He said “Queen of the Black Coast” and “The Frost Giant’s Daughter.” Every other lamo there wasted question and answer time with “when are you running for Governor, and do you have a hot maid?” type of shtick. I think his sequel screenplay that people have been razzing him about is actually based more on Howard’s stories than this film. At least that’s the feeling I got from him. He was wanting to use more of the original material if there is a sequel, and said there was so much material from the original stories he wanted to use.

I also brought my Lancer Conan the Adventurer with me since it’s the only Conan book I could fit in my pocket. He was hanging out talking with the Drafthouse owners after the Q and A and I asked him if he would mind signing it. He paused, and said that I was the first person who had asked him to sign a Conan book. “Man, you’re the first!” And he paused again and said, “Actually, this is kinda emotional to me. This was the first Conan I read too.” He pointed at Frazetta’s cover. “I wanted to do my best to be that guy. These were the first Conan stories I read, and that’s why it was important for me to try and get it right. I don’t want to sign the cover over the art, but I will sign the inside.” He seemed actually very appreciative and moved I had asked him to sign it. He shook my hand. I told him he pretty much nailed Conan. (Which he did. Maybe a bit too cocky, but it was still a great characterization. Almost feral in some instances, which I do believe Howard described him as in his early adventures.) He thanked me, said that meant alot to him, and that he hopes to be having more adventures down the road. “So many more stories to tell.” Pointing again at the Frazetta book. “Though they will take place when Conan is a bit older.” He seems to me to be a very genuine guy. A cool drinking buddy. But you can definitely tell that when this guy goes on a tear, furniture is broken and the cops are called. Ha! He was polishing off a full bucket of beers as the Q and A progressed. Really fun guy.

Though far from perfect, and I still wish they had just sunk all that 90 million into a movie based on one of Howard’s stories, it was still a fun flick. Great popcorn movie. Good action, nice ultra violent battle scenes. Nice amount of humor sprinkled in. Lots of awesome violence. Probably not a classic, but who knows. I would say the same of the Milius film. I hope it’s certainly a starting point for more Howard big budget projects. I will see it again in 2D. Far better than Solomon Kane or the Milius Conan. The Baums and Dennis enjoyed it too. Jack said it just needed to be darker, more scary. But his wife loved the action. Frankly, and this might be going out on a limb, but I think Bob would have thoroughly enjoyed it.

My two cents.

Sounds like it was a blast and this photo just confirms it.

This entry filed under Howard Days, Howard Fandom, Howard in Media, News.

Hawaii was afire.

In 1932 it still remained a territory of the U.S.A., not a state, and its governor was Lawrence McCully Judd, whose father had been a judge and whose grandfather an American missionary. His active and constant concern for the patients in the leper station on Molokai was admirable, but it’s not certain that he was equal to the controversial storm that had broken late in 1931. At first the publicity – and fury – surrounding it were largely confined to the islands, but that had changed by the following year.

A socially well-connected Navy wife named Thalia Massie had gone to a party with her husband, apparently had a few drinks too many, and quarreled with one of her husband’s fellow officers when he wasn’t nearby. She left on her own in a huff. In the small hours of the morning her husband, Lieutenant Thomas Massie, came home, and was told by a distraught Thalia that she had been attacked and raped on a dark road by a group of Hawaiians and Asians. He promptly called the police, even though Thalia was reluctant.

Thalia at first could neither describe her attackers nor remember the license number of their car. The police had five young men from the crowded urban slums of Honolulu in mind as the probable guilty ones. They had been riding around in a car after a luau, and been in trouble already on the night in question. The police coached Thalia, suggested a license number to her, and carried out a line-up identification in which the procedure wasn’t correct, but prejudicial. They all but pointed out the suspects she should pick, or so it appears. They also took the car the five had been driving to the scene of the attack to compare tire tracks, instead of making a plaster cast and taking it away – which was so close to faking evidence that the police photographer refused to be part of the process.

The trial of the five – Horace Ida, Joseph Kahahawai, Ben Ahakuelo, Henry Chang and David Takai – resulted in a hung jury. A mistrial was declared. The five had been under pressure from the beginning to turn on each other and give evidence that would result in a guilty verdict; Horace Ida had been taken into the bush by navy men and savagely beaten with belt buckles. All five firmly maintained that they were innocent and never budged from that.

They were defended by lawyers who took their case without pay. William Heen, a Chinese Hawaiian attorney of talent, was one. Greatly to his credit, William Pittman, a prominent white man originally from Mississippi, was another. He became unpopular and more with his own class by representing the defendants. Robert Murakami, a young local Japanese lawyer, was a third. All of them would have been better off socially and financially if they’d refused to touch the case with tongs. Instead they opted to serve justice.

Before a new hearing could ensue, Thalia’s mother from the mainland, Grace Hubbard Fortescue, took matters into her own vigilante hands. With her son-in-law and two Navy men, she kidnapped Joe Kahahawai and took him to her rented house, planning to beat a confession out of him. The matter was bungled, as private vigilante action often is, and Thomas Massie (or perhaps one of the other men) shot the six-foot Hawaiian boxer in the chest at point blank range. Fatally. Grace coolly took the lead and drove the car as they went to dispose of Kahahawai’s corpse in the sea – the violent blowhole at Koko Head that wouldn’t have left much of the body. Instead they were caught driving the car, with the sheet-wrapped body of their victim in the back, and arrested.

That, briefly, is the story so far. Part One of “Murder in Hawaii” went into more detail.

Grace Fortescue’s arrest, readers, was when the conflagration really started. Until then, the issue and the controversy had been confined to the Hawaiian Islands. More or less. Neither the governor nor the Naval commandant had wanted it to become widespread. There was enough prejudiced belief that the tropical paradise of Hawaii was in fact a powder-keg of native rebellion ready to blow. Memories of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine War were still fresh. Many soldiers who had taken part in the latter weren’t even middle-aged yet. The Rough Riders’ deeds in Cuba had passed into legend – and Grace Fortescue’s husband Major Granville “Rolly” Fortescue was a cousin of their commander, former President of the U.S.A. Theodore Roosevelt. Fortescue had served in the Rough Riders himself, and been wounded at San Juan Hill. Grace was the daughter of Charles John Bell, a first cousin of the telephone’s inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, who had married her aunt. Grace’s grandfather Gardiner Hubbard had been the first president of the Bell Telephone Company.

This was a woman who socially sat at the right hand of God – and my blood oath, didn’t she know it? A woman whose daughter had been pack-raped by bestial natives and Asiatics, a woman of culture, breeding and courage who had avenged the outrage when the law would not, and was now being indicted for murder in this hive of mongrel Polynesians; that was the picture, the image. The majority of the mainland population bought it uncritically. It foamed at the collective mouth. There was almost unanimous agreement with Admiral Yates Stirling’s first reaction. (“Seize the brutes and string them up on the trees.”)

The main English language papers in Hawaii, the Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin from the beginning slanted the stories about the case with the unquestioned assumption that five suspects were guilty. GANG ASSAULTS YOUNG WIFE and MALTREATED BY FIENDS were the Advertiser’s first banner headlines. Mainland papers followed the example. They claimed uncritically that rape of white women in Hawaii was common, in fact rampant, and committed with impunity. Governor Judd denied it officially, and stated that the numbers cited were wildly exaggerated, but he wasn’t believed. Instead he was branded a gutless appeaser of the natives.

I believe it’s all but impossible for us, seventy years later, to grasp the attitudes and beliefs that were taken for granted in 1932. Hitler ran for President against von Hindenberg in Germany in that year, but was beaten, and many people thought, “Well, we’ve heard the last of that fruitcake.” Many others didn’t think him a fruitcake at all. World War Two and the Holocaust were still in the future. Racial and national stereotypes were a staple of popular fiction. Above all, it was believed, it was ordained, that the white race, particularly Nordics and Anglo-Saxons, had produced all real civilization, and were its natural guardians. People of racially mixed parentage were routinely described as “mongrels”, and the cliché, “They inherit the worst traits of both races,” was accepted as fact.

Hawaii, on that basis, was bound to be regarded as a “melting pot of peril,” especially in the atmosphere created by the Massie case. When William Randolph Hearst’s tabloid papers swung into action they made the situation considerably worse. Hearst, after all, was the man who invented yellow journalism in its twentieth-century form. He’s well known to be the model for the protagonist of Orson Welles’s movie Citizen Kane, which doesn’t flatter him, and he was probably the inspiration for the fictional character Gail Wynand, a corrupt and formidably powerful newspaper baron, in Ayn Rand’s best-seller The Fountainhead. The phrase yellow journalism derives from the comic strip character the Yellow Kid, who starred in the funnies in Hearst’s New York Journal. His coverage of the Massie murder case was classic yellow journalism – that is, sensation, scandal and biased opinion presented as fact. His and other lurid news accounts presented the murder as an ‘honor killing’, justified by the so-called “unwritten law”

Read the rest of this entry »

Readers of School Days in the Post Oaks may recognize Edith Odom as the salutatorian of Cross Plains High School’s class of 1922, the same class that Robert E. Howard graduated with. There were only ten members of the class, so I did a little research to see what I could find out about them. There’s not a lot of information for most, but Odom is an exception.

Born Edith Jewel Odom, possibly on October 9, 1906, she spent most of her early life in Callahan County with her parents, Simeon Edward and Julia Velma. Both the 1910 and 1920 Census records list her father as a farmer. In 1922 she graduated second in her class (Howard’s friend Winfred Brigner was first), but missed the graduation ceremony, which had been delayed due to bad weather. The Cross Plains Review reported that she was “unable to reach town in time for the exercises.”

Like Robert E. Howard, Odom went to another high school to pick up the extra year of schooling necessary for college attendance. She moved to Clyde, Texas, at the opposite side of Callahan County, and attended her senior year in Abilene. After graduating in the spring of 1923, she enrolled at McMurry College in the fall (along with REH’s friend Austin Newton). By December of that year, she was already making a name for herself on campus. She was elected secretary of the French Club and chosen as “Class Beauty.” The school’s newspaper, The War Whoop, described her as “not only physically beautiful, but is well-rounded, radiating a charming personality. It might easily be said, ‘To know her is to love her.’”

Her “Class Beauty” status was elevated in 1925, when she was chosen as the yearbook’s “Most Popular Girl.” The quote next to her photo in that volume might explain her popularity: “My ambition, as you know, is to make men happy and keep them so.” Another factor in her popularity was her membership in the McMurry Girls’ Quartet. The group performed at many local functions and private parties. The Abilene Morning News, April 23, 1927, under the headline “Business Men’s Bible Class Has Quarterly Feed,” reported the following:

[. . .] Other entertainment for the evening was given by students of the Fine Arts Department of McMurry College. The girl’s quartet composed of Carolyn McNeely, Irene Meador, Edith Odom and Beulah Tracy gave a group of numbers.

Odom was queen of the “McMurry Fete” and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1927. Beneath her senior picture in the yearbook, we learn that “Yes, she is going to teach school—for a while,” as well as the following:

Edith is everybody’s friend, and when she goes away McMurry will have lost a great little joy spreader, and the world will have gained through McMurry’s loss.

After visiting relatives at Big Spring that summer, Odom started teaching at Denton, just south of Clyde. The 1930 Census has her living in Callahan County, with her parents. The War Whoop gave its students an update on their popular alumnus in its May 16, 1930 edition:

Alumni Directory
Edith Odom, B. A. 1927. Edith is still spanking youngsters at her home in the hinterland near Clyde. She is hard pressed for time to teach by stove sellers, hardware peddlers, school teachers, farmers and highway inspectors. The “Queen” is still as friendly as ever.

As the summer ended, Odom changed locations and was up in Miami, Texas, in the panhandle, teaching school for the 1930-31 school year. The next summer she was married:

(Pampa Daily News – Aug. 31, 1931)
MIAMI, Aug. 31. — (Special) —A marriage of much interest in this community was solemnized recently at Abilene when Miss Edith Odom became the bride of Bill O’Loughlin of this city. The bride is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S. E. Odom of Clyde, and was a teacher in the public schools here last year. The groom is a son of Mr. and Mrs. M. W. O’Loughlin of Miami.

After her marriage, Mrs. Bill O’Loughlin shows up pretty regularly in the Pampa Daily News’ “Society Page” as a member of a bridge club and president of the Junior Home Progress club. The February 16, 1940 War Whoop reported some sad news:

[. . .] They also told us of the recent death of Edith Odom’s father. Edith, as many of you know, is Mrs. Bill O’Loughlin of Miami and has a two-year old daughter, Ann.

Odom also had at least one other child, a son, whom the Pampa Daily News reported on May 27, 1955, won the American Legion Award and was valedictorian of his 8th grade class. And that’s where the record ends. Odom died on July 19, 1969 in Pampa, Gray Co., Texas; she is buried in Miami Cemetery, Miami, Texas.

This entry filed under Howard's School Days.

In the last year of his life, money was a big issue in Howard’s life – his mother’s health was declining rapidly and the medical bills were piling up. Also, Weird Tales owned him over $1,000 and Editor Farnsworth Wright was not giving in to Howard’s urgent pleas for at least some money to be sent to him. Considering the team of Howard and Conan were one of the biggest draws for the magazine, it is perplexing that Wright could not come up with the money that was owed to Howard. Consequently, he was exploring new markets, looking for ways to increase his income. He had already hired fellow pulp writer Otis Adelbert Kline as his literary agent and a suggestion from another pulp writer and friend put him on the trail of a new market.

In this letter to  H. P. Lovecraft, dated December 5, 1935, Howard boasts of cracking that new market and suggests HPL give the market a try as well:

In my efforts to make new markets I’ve been “splashing the field” as Price calls it. One market I tried was Spicy Adventures, a sex magazine to which Ed is the star contributor. I sold the first yarn I tried, but doubt if I could make that market regularly, as it requires a deft, jaunty style foreign to my natural style. However, I’ll probably try it again. Why don’t you give it a whirl? You can use a pen name if you like; I did, and I think most of its contributors do. The maximum length is about 5000 words. That sort of yarn is easy to write, if not to sell. If they reject it, you’ve only wasted a day or so. If they accept it, you’re fifty bucks to the good, and they pay promptly. They like good strong plots, but the sex element is a cinch; any man can write that part of it. Just write up one of your own sex adventures, altered to fit the plot. That’s the way I did with the yarn I sold them.

No one knows if Lovecraft fainted when he read Howard’s suggestion that he try his hand at writing a story for a “sex magazine,” but for certain the Gentleman from Providence, with his Victorian morals, was not too keen on the idea.

As Howard notes, E. Hoffmann Price was a star contributor to Spicy-Adventure Stories and unlike most contributors, Price was bold enough to use his own name rather than a pseudonym for his “spicy” work. Indeed the spicys were Price’s single largest pulp market; over 150 of his yarns were published in them throughout the years.

The first “spicy” pulp appeared on newsstands in April 1934 with the publication of the first issue of Spicy Detective Stories. The publisher that released this first “spicy” was Modern Publications, based in Delaware, possibly for tax and censorship purposes, with main offices in New York. Soon the company’s name was changed to the unlikely name of Culture Publications. Spicy-Adventure Stories appeared in November 1934, with Spicy Mystery Stories’ first issue premiering in mid-1935. December 1936 saw the publication of Spicy Western Stories, which rounded out the “spicy” line.

The publishing staff was a shady bunch, to say the least, starting with Frank Armer, an editor and a publisher who had previously self-published the Ramer Review and Zeppelin Stories. The Donefeld family, led by Harry Donenfeld, was the printer and primary financial backer for Culture Publications. Back during Prohibition, it was suspected that some pulp publishers were used to launder money for the bootleggers. The Donenfelds and their Donny Press seemed to be high on this list.

This same publishing family helped usher in the golden age of comics when they acquired National Allied Publications, a company that owned them a great deal of money. That company later became DC Comics and soon Superman and Batman comics were rolling off their presses.

It’s tough to nail-down the start of the Armer/Donenfeld publishing empire, but it may have begin in 1932 with the acquisition the defunct  publisher of Spicy Stories, Pep and La Paree, straight sex magazines along the lines of Paris NightsGay Life and Venus. Shortly before the first issue of Spicy Detective Stories appeared, another detective magazine, Super-Detective Stories, edited by Armer, appeared with the promise of additional Super magazines to come. However, this venture was soon abandoned in favor of the Spicy line of magazines. Super-Detective Stories was discontinued after 15 issues, but resumed publication in 1940.

Due to censorship concerns and obscenity issues with the U.S. Post Office, Harry Donenfeld’s publishing empire used several names at during its history. In addition to Culture Publications, other names used included D. M. Publishing, Trojan Publishing and Arrow Publications. The location of business offices changed just as frequently. Indeed, the red hot spicys had as many detractors as they did fans. But, bottom-line, they were popular and flying off the newsstand racks. 

The recipe for the “spicy” pulps was to take fairly tried and true genre stories and mix in the ingredient of sex. This gave the spicy line a whole new slant on the pulps — spicys were racy and titillating, pushing the envelope of decency and providing the reader with a new experience by blending the spicy element with the standard pulp fare of adventures in faraway lands, hardboiled detectives, sinister and menacing manifestations and cowboy shoot-em’ ups.

A strict set of guidelines for writers was drawn up by editor Frank Armer. These included women could not be fully nude (unless they were a corpse!) and had to retain at least some article of clothing, even if it was some small piece of tattered lingerie. Descriptions of women’s nipples and areola were strictly forbidden – the same rule applied to the pubic area. The man had to remain fully clothed and no sexual descriptions were allowed of men’s bodies. Action in the sex scene between the man and woman had end at the point of consummation. Long-term relationships between the male and female characters were forbidden — these were strictly one-night stands, leaving the hero free to bed other women in subsequent adventures.

Overwhelmingly, the sex in the spicy magazines was very tame by today’s standards. The “spicy” element in the stories came from several sources: the heroines scanty undergarments, her willingness or unwillingness to give herself to the hero, her enticing bedchamber and her luscious “charms.” After a bit of foreplay and kissing, sexual contact was indicated by a sentence trailing off in ellipses (…). This was followed by a prudent line drop before the yarn resumed in the ensuing paragraph. This left any actual sexual activity the reader’s imagination.

In reality, the spicy pulps were selling the sizzle with no steak to back it up. While the bright color cover paintings and the interior illustrations suggested that the magazine’s contents were filled with steamy sex, in reality the actual stories came up short in fulfilling that promise. Despite the tameness of the sexual element, they were widely condemned by straight-laced critics as an insult to decency and frequently sold from under newsstand counters.

The spicy pulps were just what the doctor ordered for Howard, providing him with a dependable stream of revenue that he urgently needed. Spicys were considerably more expensive than their non-spicy counterparts with, a cover price of 25 cents versus 10 cents for most of the regular pulps. No doubt this higher cover price pumped in a lot of cash and allowed the publisher to pay a good wage and pay it promptly. Plus, the spicy authors were paid upon editorial acceptance of their stories, rather than on publication as was the case with Weird Tales and many other pulps. The stories could be no longer than 5500 words, not leaving much room for character development, but that was not the spicys’ aim. After getting the hang of the formula and story length, Howard seemed comfortable writing spicy yarns – no doubt he planned to splash further into the market by branching out to Spicy Mystery and Spicy Detective.

To protect their names in other markets, many spicy authors used pen names for their walk on the wild side. E. Hoffmann Price usually used his own name, but also used “Hamlin Daly” in instances where he wanted to place two stories in the same issue. Ditto for Henry Kuttner, though I don’t what pseudonyms he used when he had two yarns in the same issue. Hugh B. Cave wrote as “Justin Case,” Victor Rousseau Emmanuel wrote as “Lew Merrill” and “Clive Trent,” while Howard Wandrei (the brother of Donald Wandrei, who co-founded the publishing company Arkham House with August Derleth) wrote as “W.R. Rainey.” The most prolific of the spicy authors was Robert Leslie Bellum, who wrote under his own name and at least six pseudonyms. So Howard picked the name “Sam Walser” – the name of someone he erroneously thought was his ancestor – for his spicy writing alter-ego. Howard now needed a hero for his spicy yarns.

Even though he did not realize it at the time, Wild Bill Clanton would be the last series character he would create. Clanton was certainly a different kind of cat for Howard. The reckless adventuer was not exactly the type of guy a girl would bring home to meet her parents. He was a pirate, gunrunner, pearl-poacher, blackbirder (aka slaver), brawler extraordinaire and general all around scoundrel, having a penchant for mistreating women.

This is how pulp expert Morgan Holmes describes Clanton in his article “The Saga of Wild Bill Clanton and Two-Gun Bob: The Spicy Robert E. Howard” (Windy City Pulp Stories #9, 2009):

Clanton is a cross between Howard’s earlier character Sailor Steve Costigan, who had appeared in Fiction House’s Fight Stories, and Conan of Cimmeria. Known for everything from pearl diving to piracy, Clanton is good with his fists like Costigan, but also crafty, much in the same way Conan would insert himself into a situation and manipulate events to his own benefit.

The first Wild Bill Clanton yarn was written in September 1935 and published as “She Devil,” the cover story for the April 1936 issue of Spicy-Adventure Stories. Originally titled “The Girl on the Hell-Ship,” the editor re-titled the yarn to match a stock cover painting he wanted to use. Rather than depicting a girl on a ship in the South Pacific, the cover shows a bar in Alaska or some other cold environ, with rough looking male customers wearing furs and other heavy clothing. A scantily clad, young brunette girl dances in their midst, coyly raising a shot glass.

The plot of “She Devil” is one that Howard had used previously in the Conan story, “The Pool of the Black One” (Weird Tales, October 1933). Here is a summary of the plot from Charles Hoffman’s “Blood Lust: Robert E. Howard’s Spicy Adventures” (The Cimmerian, V2N5):

Like Clanton, Conan appears after swimming to a ship, having abandoned a leaky boat. Both protagonists were in that situation as the result of earlier predicaments. Aboard ship, Conan meets the pirate captain, Zaporavo, who has abandoned his usual trade to sail into unknown waters. Zaporavo, like the tyrannical Bully Harrigan encountered by Clanton, broods over maps and charts as he searches for some mysterious treasure kept secret from the crew. In both stories, the captain meets his fate after landfall on an island. Conan and Clanton assume command of their respective ships, which must take flight from the island’s dangers. Conan also appropriates Zaporavo’s sultry mistress, Sancha. Sancha is from Zingara, Howard’s Hyborian Age counterpart of seventeenth-century Spain. Like Raquel O’Shane, she is possessed of fiery Latin blood.

In the above excerpt from the HPL letter, Howard groused that writing for the spicys “requires a deft, jaunty style foreign to my natural style.” Despite his misgivings, Howard was able to capture that jaunty style for his first effort. However, he stumbled somewhat with his follow-up story, “Ship in Mutiny,” a sequel to “The Girl on the Hell Ship.”

To be continued…

A Shameless Spicy Plug

Coming late next month from the REH Foundation Press is Spicy Adventures. This 211 page volume collects all of Howard’s “spicys” and is the first time many of these stories have appeared in hardback. In addition to all of the complete tales, this volume contains a large miscellanea section with drafts and synopsizes that allow readers to glimpse Howard’s creative process. A standout cover by Jim and Ruth Keegan completes the package. Pre-orders are now being accepted at the Foundation’s website.

Read: Part II / Part III / Part IV / Part V

Howard wonders in a September 1932 letter to Tevis Clyde Smith what his fellow Weird Tales author Robert Carr has been up to:

Remember Robert Carr, “the prophet of the flamboyant younger generation”? I‘ve often wondered what ever became of him since he dropped out of sight in the literary world. Price writes me that he forsook American literature in order to help build up Soviet Russia. According to Price, he is holding down some sort of job there, apparently a pretty good one.

Robert Spencer Carr was born on March 26, 1909, in Washington, D.C. and was considered a child prodigy. By the age of 14, he had stories published in national magazines, including Weird Tales. Between 1925 and 1928 Carr sold six short stories and four poems to The Unique Magazine, the best known of these is “Spider-Bite.” By age 19 he was a huge literary success with the publication of his first novel, The Rampant Age in 1928, which was made into a movie starring James Murray and Merna Kennedy in 1930.

He moved to Russia in 1932, which was on friendly terms with the West, perhaps believing he had something to contribute to the fledgling Soviet Republic. In 1933 formal diplomatic ties were established with the U.S. and in 1936 Josef Stalin even promoted a new Soviet Constitution, which many considered to be a bogus document created for propaganda purposes. Stalin was no Thomas Jefferson. In 1938 Carr returned to the United States, probably disillusioned with the broken promises of a utopian society.

After his return to the U.S., he only authored two more novels, The Bells of Saint Ivan’s (1944), and The Room Beyond (1948). A collection of his Science Fiction works, Beyond Infinity was published in 1951 and two short stories, “The Coming of the Little People” and “The Invaders” were published in 1952 and 1954, respectively.

Following the Roswell incident of July 1947, Carr became a well-respected proponent of UFOs (well-respected among UFO aficionados, I suppose) and is alleged to have perpetrated several major hoaxes, including the notion that alien bodies were recovered from a UFO crash in Aztec, New Mexico and autopsied by the U.S. government.

The alleged Aztec landing was first mentioned by Hollywood humorist Frank Scully in his column in Variety in 1949, and later in his 1950 bestselling book Behind the Flying Saucers. In the book, Scully claimed that the U.S. government possessed at least three Venusian spaceships from various crash sites and the humanoid corpses of the ships’ occupants. It seems the author had been duped into believing this tall-tale by two fast-talking confidence men who had hoped to sell a petroleum-locating device allegedly based on alien technology. This and other similar stories in the book were later exposed in True Magazine. Interestingly, the town of Roswell is not mentioned in the Scully book. As a sort of homage to Scully, the creator of The X-Files named the Dana Scully character after him.

The incident allegedly involved a disc shaped craft had large metallic rings revolving around a central core, which was supposedly the control bridge of the object, that crashed on March 25, 1948 near Aztec, New Mexico. The exterior of the craft was not damaged and contained no apparent seams, rivets, or any hint of the material being pieced together. The UFO was supposedly 100 feet in diameter and operated on magnetic principles.

A government investigative team gained access to the ship’s interior by the use of a long pole, which they pushed through a porthole in the saucer. A knob was then engaged which opened a previously hidden door. The inside showed that the craft was put together with a framework of grooves and pins.

Inside, the team found 16 small humanoid beings, all dead, their bodies charred from fire. The aliens’ height was reported as 36-42 inches. The spaceship and the alien bodies were allegedly sent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The Aztec story was pretty much forgotten thereafter until it was revived in 1974 by Carr, who discussed this alleged landing in a number of public lectures and interviews. He claimed to have received his original information from having seen an advance copy of Scully’s book manuscript in 1950. However, he told many of the details of the story quite differently than Scully did, even claiming firsthand knowledge of where the pickled aliens were stored. When Carr first made his claims, several researchers interviewed Carr and others making similar claims. Needless to say they were not favorably impressed with the overall evidence for the Aztec UFO crash. You can hear Carr drone on about alien crashes here.

One author who met Carr described him this way in a write up for Magonia 89 magazine:

Robert Spencer Carr was a kindly old gent who looked very much like a Kentucky Colonel. He had the ability to tell his story so convincingly that he appeared on numerous syndicated radio and TV talk shows. He also lectured at quite a number of universities throughout the country and caused something of a stir in the UFO community too.

In 1984 an editor of a UFO magazine and several associates interviewed Carr at his spacious retirement home in Clearwater, Florida. Over the years Carr had quieted down about Aztec, but was claiming that spaceships frequently landed on the water right in front of his oceanfront home and that the occupants exited their ships, coming inside the house to chat with him. Few people knew about this story, as he only told it privately. He made anyone he told of these events promise not to print it until after his death and the promise was kept.

A nurse, who accompanied this group, suspected that Carr was hallucinating because of a specific physical disability. However, the more likely answer came from Carr’s son, who advised the editor by mail shortly after his father’s death on April 28, 1994, that his father had a lifetime habit of spinning yarns in order to get attention and to be more interesting. This indeed seems to have been the case — the aliens existed only in his mind.

Or, perhaps those saucer men who regularly visited Carr were helping him make preparations to escape to Venus at the end of his life. We will never know for certain unless we find the secret file the FBI kept on Carr, no doubt buried in a hidden bunker deep beneath the sands near Aztec, New Mexico.

This entry filed under Tevis Clyde Smith, Weird Tales.