Archive for September, 2011

The Bloody Lincoln County War was effectively over by the autumn of 1878. It had climaxed in the savage five-day siege of the McSween house in Lincoln, New Mexico, where Billy the Kid and his companions held off the gunmen of the Murphy-Dolan faction until the house was fired by treachery around them. Their employer Tunstall had been murdered some time before, and his partner McSween had died during the siege, shot by Murphy man Bob Beckwith. Four of Tunstall’s “Regulators” made their escape from the burning house one by one at the end, under massive fire from the besiegers. They were Josiah “Doc” Scurlock, Tom “Bigfoot” O’Folliard, Ignacio Gonsalez and Jose Chavez y Chavez. Last to make the perilous dash was Billy the Kid. Like the others, he received covering fire from three of their comrades who had taken positions elsewhere; “Tiger” Sam Smith, who was killed by Apaches two years later, George Coe, and the redoubtable Hendry Brown.

Billy the Kid out of all of them is the only name everybody recognizes today. He’s a western legend, and like many figures of the past who’ve become legendary, the myth-makers have blended his feats and deeds with those of other men, chief among them Hendry Brown. They battled on the same side, were often together in the same fights, were both trigger-fast and deadly, and even resembled each other physically to a degree. Neither was a large man; both were between five foot six and five foot eight, slim, young (Brown one year older than Bonney) and fair in their coloring.

Since many of the fights in the Lincoln County War were mass affairs with a number of combatants on both sides shooting, it’s likely that Billy the Kid received credit for some killings that other men did. Some skeptical modern estimates have Bonney killing only four men in person, one on one, and maybe five others in fights he shared with other Regulators. Well, as this writer mentioned last post, I tend to regard the extreme debunkers (on this matter and others) as Pecksniffian know-alls, but I also recognize that the legend-makers never let facts get in the way of a good story. I might suppose that Billy the Kid shot nine men in personal combat and others in mass firefights, and that the tradition that he’d killed his first man at twelve, with a victim for each of his years when he died at twenty-one, as just that, a tradition – but it’d be sheer guessing, from a man who’s no expert on the south-west’s history. Robert E. Howard knew enormously more, and he wrote that Bonney had “eleven or twelve killings to his name” before he even reached Lincoln County at the age of nineteen.

This is certain. REH regarded Billy the Kid as the greatest western gunman ever. He considered the top three to be Bonney, Hickok and Hardin, with Bonney coming first. As he contended in a letter of May24th, 1932, to H.P. Lovecraft:

If I expressed my opinion as to the three greatest gunmen the West ever produced, I would say – and doubtless be instantly refuted from scores of sources, since you cant compare humans like you can horses – but I’d say, in the order named, Billy the Kid of New Mexico, Wild Bill Hickok of Kansas, and John Wesley Hardin of Texas. The Kid killed twenty-one men in his short eventful lifetime; Hardin had twenty-three notches on his pistol-butt when John Selman shot him down in an El Paso saloon; how many men Wild Bill killed will probably never be known; conservative estimate puts the number at fifty-odd. But Wild Bill had a somewhat softer snap than the Kid, since the quick draw had not attained its ultimate heights when he was at his best.

In the same letter, referring to Pretty Boy Floyd, he says:

He’s being touted as a second Billy the Kid, but deadly as he undoubtedly is, I doubt if he has quite the ability of that young rattlesnake. I consider the Kid the greatest gunman that ever strapped a holster to his leg, and that’s taking in a lot of territory.

REH rated Hendry Brown extremely high, too. In another letter to Lovecraft, written in September 1934, he refers to Brown as “a former partner of Billy the Kid, one of the warriors of the Bloody Lincoln County War, and one of the deadliest gunmen that ever wore leather.” Later in the letter he says, “It was not merely physical superiority that made such men as Billy the Kid, John Wesley Hardin, John Ringo and Hendry Brown super-warriors. It was their razor-edged intelligence, their unerring judgment of human nature, and their natural knowledge of human psychology.” Putting Brown in the same bracket as Billy the Kid, Hardin and Ringo is pretty strong evidence that REH took his gun-prowess seriously. The term “super-warrior” isn’t one that errs on the mild side, either.

With the battle of the McSween house, as stated above, the Lincoln County War had for practical purposes ended. The Regulators who survived were still wanted for the murder of Sheriff Brady – described in the previous post. Billy the Kid, Hendry Brown, John Middleton, Fred Waite and Tom O’Folliard left New Mexico for a while, rustling a herd of cattle and driving it to Tascosa, Texas, where they sold it. (Or by some accounts, a herd of stolen horses, not rustled cattle.) They remained in Tascosa, whoring, gambling and drinking on the proceeds for a time. Billy, growing bored – and remembering the revenge he’d sworn on the surviving members of the “House,” the Murphy-Dolan faction — headed back to New Mexico. Tom O’Folliard went with him. Waite and Middleton didn’t. Hendry Brown opted to stay in Texas and, according to some old (none too solidly verifiable) plains gossip, made a trail drive with one Perry LeFors.

Hendry may have gone to Kansas and then Oklahoma with John Middleton in the first part of 1879. Again, that can’t be solidly supported, but a man named Charles Colcord is supposed to have said that the pair stayed at his camp on the Cimarron River in Oklahoma for some weeks, both in poor shape – Brown ill and Middleton having trouble with his old lung wound. Middleton eventually married Colcord’s sister, so Colcord should have known what he was talking about.

It is definitely known that Hendry Brown drifted back to Texas and worked as a cowboy on George Littlefield’s LIT Ranch in the Panhandle, once again in the vicinity of Tascosa. He worked on other ranches there, though not for long on any of them, as his employers found him more trouble than his abilities as a cowhand were worth. He was “always on the warpath.” It’s consistent with his reputation, and also with what REH wrote about him. “He was like a blood-mad wolf at times … He killed anyone who displeased him – and he was very easy to displease.” Must have taken real early 1880’s Texas nerve to tell him to his face, “You’re fired.”

As best I can ascertain, he moved on from the Littlefield ranch in the autumn of 1880. Then, in a complete turnaround, though one that had been performed before, he became a lawman. One Cape Willingham was then the Sheriff of Oldham County and town marshal of Tascosa. He hired Hendry Brown as his deputy because of his gunfighter’s rep, but turned him off early in 1881 because of his aggressive nature. “He always wanted to fight and get his mane up.” Not really what you want in a deputy marshal. He’s supposed to stop fights.

Brown worked on other ranches here and there. The foreman who was his boss on one of them was named Barney O’Connor. They were to meet again.

Hendry Brown drifted up to Kansas, and in the midwinter of 1881 the city marshal of Caldwell, Meagher, died of gunshot wounds. The Wellington newspaper, The Sumner County Press, took a sniping crack at its neighbor town in its June 29th, 1882 issue, saying that Caldwell was wild and violent because of bad whiskey and prostitutes, made available through the venal city administration. The Caldwell Post fired back on July 6th. It declared, “The editor [of The Sumner County Press] states what he is pleased to call facts, what in reality is a string of falsehoods or mistakes.” It points out that Mike Meagher was killed in a riot, by an outlaw named Talbot, over a supposed insult, “not caused by whisky or women.” Meagher’s successor as marshal, George Brown, had been shot and killed on June 22nd, “in the discharge of his duties. The men who did the killing were not under the influence of whisky or lewd women … They were outlaws and would have made the same play anywhere else in the state.”

Another newspaper not based in Caldwell, the Dodge City Times, declared in November that “The cowboys have removed five city marshals of Caldwell in five years.” The Caldwell Post replied, “We most emphatically deny the charge … ” and went on to assert that only one marshal had been “removed” by cowboys – George Brown – and even his killers had really been escaped convicts posing as cowboys to cover their rustling and other crimes. The outlaw Jim Talbot had killed Mike Meagher. “The other marshals spoken of by the Times were not killed by cowboys, but by male prostitutes, to put it mildly.”

Whether cowboys, outlaws, or male prostitutes, it looks certain that a rowdy and homicidal element existed around Caldwell that made quite pastime of assassinating lawmen. Caldwell, in fact, was to go through fifteen marshals in just six years, between 1879 and 1885. Despite the Post’s denials, wild cowboys just off the cattle drives through Indian Territory must have accounted for the demise of several.

By November 1882, though, Bat Carr had been Caldwell’s city marshal for months, following the murder of George Brown. The citizens seem to have been satisfied with him from the start, since they took up a collection and presented him with a handsome matched pair of six-shooters within a fortnight of his pinning on the badge. The Commercial, Caldwell’s second newspaper, had printed: “Carr is a quiet unassuming man, but there is that look about him which at once impresses a person with the idea that he will do his whole duty fearlessly and in the best manner possible. We have not the least doubt that he will give entire satisfaction . . . ”

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After Howard’s death, the “spicy” pulps continued on, but change was on the horizon.

Hoping to quell some of the criticism coming from moral squads and local governments that were on the warpath to clean-up the sexual titillation prevalent in the spicys, other pulp titles and comic books, Donenfeld and his editors embarked in 1936 on a mission of self-censorship. The company began creating two versions of three of their four Spicy magazines (for some unknown reason, a censored version of Spicy Mystery was not done), each version was marked with a five point star on the cover near that issue’s month. A boxed star meant a cleaned-up version of the magazine, while no star or an un-boxed star indicated the spicy version. In the tamer version, the text was less spicy and the women’s “charms” more concealed. The self-censorship effort was stopped at the end of 1937.

But what determined where the censored, boxed star version was sold? Was it created for the Bible Belt and more conservative states? Was the censoring done to appease the Post Office? But were subscriptions actually sold? (The magazines had no subscription information in them.) Why were the dual issues only restricted to 1936 and 1937? Why was Spicy Mystery, the most notorious of the Spicy line, spared from being censored? Due to the passage of time and lack of surviving business records, we will likely never know the answers to these questions.

However, efforts at self-censorship and other measures were not successful in the long run. When New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia spotted the April 1942 issue of Spicy Mystery Stories magazine on a newsstand that sported a cover depicting a woman strung up in a meat locker being menaced by a homicidal butcher, he declared war on the Spicy line. The Mayor decreed that any magazine with a lurid cover had to be sold with the cover removed. Sadly, Margaret Brundage’s Weird Tales covers were among those singled out for destruction.

By late 1942, a full court press from all sides was on the Spicy line and Donenfeld and company were forced to take action. In addition to pressure from government officials, changes were needed keep the Post Office Department happy and protect the publisher’s coveted second class mailing rate. So, in an attempt to continue publishing these successful pulps under the harsher censorship and scrutiny, covers were toned down, as was content and interior illustrations and the entire Spicy line was renamed “Speed” to eliminate the word “Spicy.” So, Spicy-Adventure Stories became Speed Adventure Stories, Spicy Detective Stories became Speed Detective Stories, etc.

During this time-frame, a scandal of sorts was brewing in the world of the spicy pulps as outlined by Will Murray in his “An Informal History of the Spicy Pulps” article from Windy City Pulp Stories #9 (2009):

The Speed titles were edited by two men who had been with Trojan since the thirties, Wilton Matthews and Kenneth Hutchinson. They were responsible for the increasing use of reprints in the Spicy titles. Apparently some of these Spicy stories were reprinted in the Speed titles, because in June of 1947 it was announced that Matthews and Hutchison had been arrested and convicted of “check-juggling.” They were sentenced to two to four years apiece. It came out they had engineered a racket as sweet as any published in the pages of Spicy Detective. They would “purchase” stories, publish them as new, and pocket the checks – when actually they were passing off reprints culled from the back [issues] of their own titles. Because the Spicys bought all rights, and because this canny duo always changed the bylines when they reprinted, the original authors had nothing to complain about even if they realized their stories had appeared again. (This is why some Robert E. Howard Spicy-Adventure stories were later reprinted under various house names.) Apparently one of these two masterminds pretended he wrote these “new” stories. In any event, they were caught and put away. As a result, the Arrow, Trojan and Speed lines were consolidated.

As Murray mentions, the Clanton adventures that were reprinted in Spicy-Adventure Stories during 1942 fell prey to this scheme. Those reprinted stories included: “Desert Blood” published as “Revenge by Proxy” by William Decatur (September 1942), “The Purple Heart of Erlik” published as “Nothing to Lose” by R.T. Maynard (October 1942) and “Murderer’s Grog” published as “Outlaw Working” by Max Neilson (November 1942).

While the “spicys” arrived on the publishing scene with a bang, they went out with a whimper. By 1946, the Speed titles began fading away, with the last hold-out, Speed Western Stories, biting the dust in 1948. Trojan’s last gasp was publication of a few digest sized pulps during 1949 and 1950 that were reprints of old reprints.

In the ensuing years, the Howard’s spicy yarns slipped into obscurity until two unpublished spicy yarns (“Daughters of Feud” and “Guns of Khartum”) were published in Howard fanzines in 1975 and 1976. A year later, Clanton showed up again when “Desert Blood” appeared in Incredible Adventures #1, a digest sized booklet produced by Bob Weinberg, Gene Marshall and Carl F. Waedt. And sometime in 1983, “Ship in Mutiny” was published for the first time in Cryptic’s Bran Mak Morn: A Play & Others.

In December of 1983, The She Devil, the first collection of all of Howard’s spicy stories was published by Ace. The print run must have been small because the paperback was hard to find and for many years was the most sought after and therefore most expensive Howard paperback on the market.

In addition to Wild Bill Clanton, Howard had another “spicy” hero he was developing. The quick cash from the new market prompted him to start on a story featuring a lead character named John Gorman. While Howard likely had Gorman slated for Spicy-Adventures Stories, he did mention an interest in splashing Spicy Detective and Spicy Mystery as well. Since Gorman was never fully fleshed-out by Howard, we will never know if he would have made Gorman a bigger bastard than Clanton was. Time ran out for Howard and all that he left behind was an untitled synopsis for a Gorman story.

In the mid 1980s when the Gorman fragment was published for the first time in a Cryptic Publications chapbook, two Howard scholars, Marc A. Cerasini and Charles Hoffman, took it upon themselves to expand that synopsis into a full-blow story. Cerasini and Hoffman went on to write four more Gorman adventures for Cryptic. If the proper permissions could be obtained, it would be nice to have these stories collected in on volume. In the meantime, here is the complete bibliography for the Gorman yarns:

By Robert E. Howard:

  • Untitled Synopsis (“John Gorman found himself in Samarkand …”) Risque Stories #1 (March 1984)

By “Sam Walser” (Marc A. Cerasini and Charles Hoffman):

  • “She-Cats of Samarkand,” Risque Stories #1 (March 1984)

By Marc A. Cerasini and Charles Hoffman:

  • “The Temple of Forbidden Fruit,” Risque Stories #2 (October 1984)
  • “Jungle Curse,” Risque Stories #3 (July 1985)
  • “Drums of the Bizango,” Pulse-Pounding Adventure Stories #1 (December 1986)
  • “Hell Cat of Hong Kong,” Risque Stories #5 (March 1987)

After a period of nearly twenty years, Howard’s spicy stories found their way back into print when Girasol Collectibles published pulp replicas of all five issues of Spicy-Adventure Stories that featured Clanton yarns from 2003 through 2006. Adventure House and Wildside Press published a few of the Clanton issues as well. Additionally, “Desert Blood” appeared in TGR‘s sister magazine, The Chronicler of Cross Plains in June 2006.

Around this same time, Paul Herman started pumping out fast and furious those Wildside collections of Howard’s works that were in the Public Domain. One volume that was planned, but never came to fruition was a collection of the PD Clanton stories.

But at last, in 2011, we are getting a truly complete collection of Howard’s spicy yarns, unedited, as he wrote them. The Spicy Adventures volume has just been published by the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press some seventy-five years after Howard wrote his “spicys.” 

The spicys were not Howard’s best work and he knew this, referring to them “potboilers,” written solely to obtain some quick and badly needed cash. But the stories are Howard stories nonetheless and certainly worth reading. Written at the end of his life, as the darkness closed in on him, the tales of the scoundrel Clanton, with seemingly no redeeming qualities — which is in stark contrast to the many chivalrous characters he created  — shows us a darker side of Howard and a side that no doubt was treading water in a vast sea of hopelessness. On June 11, 1936 he found he was too weary to tread the water any longer.

 Quit Pussyfooting Around — Order Spicy Adventures Today!

If you have not already ordered Spicy Adventures, you might want to do so soon. The volume is now shipping and 75% pre-sold – only 50 copies remain unsold. The 211 page hardback volume from the REH Foundation Press collects all of Howard’s “spicy” stories and also contains a large miscellanea section, with drafts and synopsizes. The book features a standout cover by Jim and Ruth Keegan. Don’t procrastinate – you’ll regret it later – order your copy today.

Read: Part I / Part II / Part III / Part IV

This entry filed under Howard's Fiction, Weird Tales, Wild Bill Clanton.

All year long Cross Plains has been presenting a series of celebrations and events to mark its Centennial, culminating with a big parade that was held yesterday. Here is a nice write-up about the event by Jeff Craig at the Abilene Reporter-News:

For residents of Cross Plains, Saturday’s centennial celebration was a chance to celebrate a resilient community’s ability to survive and thrive after 100 years — but it hasn’t been easy.

Cross Plains has survived the arrival and departure of the railroad, an oil boom and bust and a devastating wildfire in 2005 that destroyed more than 100 homes. But on Saturday, the city celebrated the tenacity to overcome those hardships.

“We do seem to have a survival instinct,” City Manager Debbie Gosnell said. “When we had the wildfire in 2005, everyone decided that we couldn’t lose our town. Our citizens rolled up their sleeves and got to work.”

She said no resident moved away after the fire.

“It’s a community that takes care of its citizens and works to support each other,” she said. “This community loves each other and the town.”

Saturday’s celebration included a parade, a ceremony at the veteran’s memorial, a ribbon-cutting for a new medical center, the distribution of commemorative wooden nickels and the dedication of a footbridge over Turkey Creek, the original townsite.

Saturday’s celebration, however, was just another chapter in the yearlong Cross Plains celebration. Arlene Stephenson, a member of the Cross Plains Centennial Planning Committee, said the celebrations actually began on Jan. 11, the official anniversary.

Earlier this year, a re-enactment skit told the story of the city’s founding, from the auction of lots by Col. Rufus J. Lackland, to the construction of the city’s downtown district. A float in Saturday’s parade advertised a festival centered on the city’s most famous former resident, “Conan the Barbarian” author Robert E. Howard.

Another float paid homage to city’s founding in 1911. Mayor Ray Purvis said Saturday’s celebration was a chance to look back at those early days, but also to look forward.

“We have survived 100 years. We’re in the right place,” Purvis said. “In the future we need to do more of the same and keep rolling ahead.”

Longtime resident Burlie Taylor, who is Callahan County’s Precinct 4 justice of the peace, said Saturday’s celebration was a testament to the people who have called the city home for the past 100 years.

“The length of time people live here is something else. People come here and they stay,” Taylor said. “We may fight amongst ourselves, but when it comes to Cross Plains we stick together. It’s a very caring town.”

Bobbie Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Dry Goods downtown for more than 40 years, knows exactly why Cross Plains has survived a century and is prospering today.

“It’s a lot of hard work, we’re all farm people,” she said. “Everyone works hard to make this town great.”

Next up is a fundraising dinner with a special guest speaker!

This entry filed under Howard Days, Howard's Texas, News.

This historical booklet was compiled by James C. White from various sources including Tevis Clyde Smith’s Frontier’s Generation: The Pioneer History of Brown County, with Sidelights on the Surrounding Territory (1931), a 63 page book detailing the early days of Brown County. Of course, Howard had a copy of the book on his bookshelf; beside being written by his friend, Smith’s book also included a chapter on one of Howard’s favorite subjects, John Wesley Hardin.

Published by The Brownwood Banner in 1941, here is a except from the introduction to The Promised Land:

This booklet is not written or published for profit. It is not copyrighted, and quotation from it is not only permitted but invited. It represents the combined efforts of many who have interested themselves in writing the history of the county, including the following, to all of whom our gratitude and obligation is hereby acknowledged: The Rev. F. M Cross, pioneer preacher, from whose book describing pioneer days and conditions we have quoted liberally; Henry Ford, pioneer citizen and banker, whose series of “Calculators” contained much detailed information about the pioneer period; The “History of Brown County” written in 1935 by Professor T. R. Havins of Howard Payne College, after he had spent many months in research work here and in the archives at Austin; Tevis Clyde Smith’s booklet describing many incidents of the pioneer period; personal research work by the late Henry C. Fulleer, once a Brownwood newspaper man who gathered a great deal of information about the early day families of the county; Brooke Smith’s autobiography, published serially in The Brownwood Banner in 1939-40; a voluminous scrapbook kept by Miss Elizabeth Dobbs; miscellaneous clippings from TheBrownwood Daily Bulletin, of articles written while we were editor for that paper; the files of The Brownwood Banner; personal interviews with many pioneers and their descendants; letters and other data offered by scores of citizens; and the records of the Brown County Pioneers Association and many other sources. Clark C. Coursey, editor of The Brownwood Banner, shares with the author whatever credit may be due anyone for compilation of this material.

While Smith’s book is long out of print, you can still find copies of the later editions of the book as Smith published an expanded edition of Frontier Generations in 1980 and in 1982, he reprinted the original 1931 edition with an added index. Of course, many more of his writings can be found in “So Far the Poet…” available from the REH Foundation Press.

Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War are the stuff of legend. Books and movies galore have been made on both subjects, beginning with Pat Garrett’s Authentic Life of Billy the Kid. (This may have been Garrett’s attempt to cash in on his having been the man who shot William Bonney, and not all that authentic.)

Robert E. Howard had a strong interest in the Lincoln County War. His letters to H. P. Lovecraft and others referred often to the lore and history of his native southwest – and, of course, its gunmen. He described the careers of John Wesley Hardin and Billy the Kid in some detail, as well as mentioning Wild Bill Hickok. All three have had so much print devoted to them that I doubt I could add anything.

The notorious Lincoln County War had other warriors than William Bonney fighting it, though in casual memory, movies and comic books he’s often treated as the only one. John Tunstall, whose murder precipitated the war, had employed a number of trigger-fast young cowhands who later became known as the “Regulators.” They took it upon themselves to avenge him. Bonney, “Billy the Kid,” whose real name was evidently McCarty, is the most famous. Others were John Middleton, Jim French, Frank McCabe, Jose Chavez y Chavez, Tom “Bigfoot” O’Folliard – and Hendry Brown. Only one year older than Billy the Kid, he survived him and left New Mexico, but died as violently as Billy (or even more so) in the end. REH describes him as “one of the deadliest gunmen that ever wore leather.”

Like William Bonney, Brown has been immortalized in fiction. Among the best westerns ever written is Guns Up, by Charles Neider – also known by the title, The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones. Its main character is an outlaw and gunfighter by that name, a fictionalized composite of Hendry Brown and Billy the Kid, with the action transferred from New Mexico to California. The Marlon Brando movie One Eyed Jacks was loosely based on Guns Up. Neider has his narrator, a member of “Jones’s” gang, make an occasional tongue-in-cheek comment about the relative gun-skill of “Jones,” alias The Kid, and his real-life counterpart, as when he observes, “The Kid would have cut Billy in two … although I’m not here to run Billy down.”

The narrator, as I remember, is called Doc, and there was a real life “Doc” among Billy the Kid’s associates – Josiah “Doc” Scurlock, close pal and brother-in-law of Charlie Bowdre, another Regulator. The fictional Doc in Guns Up speculates as to who was better with a gun, The Kid or Wyatt Earp, and concludes that, “I would have put my money on Hendry. Wyatt was very good … ” but Wyatt, in the narrator’s view, though he had plenty of cold nerve and shot straight, lacked something Hendry Jones possessed; “wild imagination and that made him unpredictable.” As for The Kid compared with Hickok, Doc just says flatly, “ … for two men of that class to have shot it out would have meant certain suicide for both.”

REH pretty plainly modeled a fictional gunfighter of his own on Hendry Brown – Corcoran, in “Vultures of Wahpeton.” Corcoran is hired as deputy by the perplexed sheriff of a mining camp suffering from the depredations of a mysterious and well-informed gang called The Vultures. They enforce silence and anonymity by murder, while they rob both individual miners and gold shipments with impunity. Double-crosses and killings in plenty ensue before the story is resolved. Corcoran, like the real life Hendry Brown, is lethal, lightning fast and savage. At least one situation in the story is taken directly from events REH recounted, in a letter, as having happened to Brown. This excerpt from “Vultures of Wahpeton” describes it:

The racket was coming from the Blackfoot Chief Saloon, a few doors down, and on the same side of the street as the Golden Garter. With a few long strides Corcoran reached the door. But he did not rush in. He halted and swept his cool gaze deliberately over the interior. In the center of the saloon a roughly dressed man was reeling about, whooping and discharging a pistol into the ceiling, perilously close to the big oil lamp which hung there. The bar was lined with men, all bearded and uncouthly garbed, so it was impossible to tell which were ruffians and which were honest miners. All the men in the room were at the bar, with the exception of the drunken man.

Corcoran paid little heed to him as he came through the door, though he moved straight toward him, and to the tense watchers it seemed the Texan was looking at no one else. In reality, from the corner of his eye he was watching the men at the bar; and as he moved deliberately from the door, across the room, he distinguished the pose of honest curiosity from the tension of intended murder. He saw the three hands that gripped gun butts.

After leaving New Mexico, Hendry Brown did a stint as a lawman in Caldwell, Kansas. REH’s letter to H. P. Lovecraft, circa September 1934, refers in detail to an attempt to set Brown up for murder in a saloon. REH recounts:

The way they generally trapped the deputy was to start a commotion in a saloon. Ordinarily the deputy ran in and saw one drunk – apparently – standing in the center of the saloon and shooting at the ceiling, while a large gang looked on from the bar. When the deputy started to arrest the drunk, the lights suddenly went out, and when they were lit again, there was a deputy with several lead slugs through him. But Brown was wise. When the commotion started he didn’t rush in blindly, turn his back on the gang at the bar and collar the drunk. Your real gunman was always a man of keen perceptions and a high order of intelligence. It was not merely physical superiority that made such men as Billy the Kid, John Wesley Hardin, John Ringo and Hendry Brown super-warriors. It was their razor-edged intelligence, their unerring judgment of human nature, and their natural knowledge of human psychology.

Well, that night in Caldwell Brown entered the saloon with his long easy stride, unhurried, unruffled. He seemed to be watching the pseudo-drunk staggering about in the center of the saloon; in reality he was watching the crowd, and the three desperadoes who crouched back among their fellows with their hands on their guns. Without warning and quick as a striking rattler he wheeled and his guns were out and roaring death before the slower-thinking outlaws realized that the new deputy knew their play. They were down, riddled, dead on the floor without a chance to fire a shot in return … Brown stretched the ‘drunk’ on the floor with the barrel of his six-shooter and dragged him off to jail.

That’s precisely how the scene in “Vultures of Wahpeton” ends. Corcoran kills the three would-be assassins before the lights can be doused. Then he knocks the phony drunk on the head with his gun-barrel and lugs him to the hoosegow.

What about the actual person who was the model for Neider’s Kid and REH’s Corcoran, then?

Well, Hendry Newton Brown was born in 1857. Orphaned young, he and his sister were raised on their uncle’s farm in Missouri. Restless, he left home at seventeen and hunted buffalo in Texas. We can suppose he was already fast with a gun, since at that time he killed his first man, though what the circumstances were and even who the man was, is obscure.

He drifted into Lincoln County, New Mexico, in 1876 at the age of nineteen – or perhaps eighteen, since he’d been born in autumn. Lincoln County was a wild place, seething with trouble. The infamous range war about to begin had been brewing for some time. One of its main figures, though he didn’t actually take part in the violence, was the legendary cattle baron John Chisum. He’d been one of the first to send his herds from Texas to New Mexico, and in partnership with those other western legends Goodnight and Loving, he gained contracts to supply the army with beef. In 1876, Chisum was an established and wealthy rancher near Roswell. Yep, that Roswell. His South Springs Ranch was famous for the hospitality any passing stranger could enjoy there. (John Wayne once played Chisum in a movie with that title.) REH wrote to Lovecraft in a letter of February 1931, “Yes, John Chisum was a giant figure of the early days – much, as you suggest, like the hard headed and hard handed barons of medieval days – with the exception that he never did any of his own fighting himself!”

Regarding the Lincoln County War, he outlined its origins to Lovecraft in one paragraph of vivid, succinct wordage:

It “began in a cattle row. Thieves were stealing John Chisum’s cows and being acquitted in the courts. Dolan, Reilly and Murphy were merchants in the town of Lincoln and all-powerful. Murphy ordered his lawyer, McSween, to defend certain rustlers against the charge brought against them by Chisum. McSween refused and Murphy fired him. McSween was engaged by Chisum, prosecuted the rustlers and sent them up the river. Then McSween, Chisum and an Englishman named Tunstall went into partnership and McSween opened a big general store in Lincoln. He grabbed most of the trade and Murphy saw he was being ruined. McSween won a suit against him and for reasons too complicated and lengthy to narrate here, Murphy got out a writ of attachment against McSween’s store and Tunstall’s ranch – the last an obviously illegal movement, since Tunstall owned his ranch apart from the partnership and had nothing to do with the law suit. A posse of some twenty men rode over to attach Tunstall’s ranch. They overtook him in the mountains, shot him down in cold blood, beat our his brains with a jagged rock and left him lying beside his dead horse. That was the beginning of the Bloody Lincoln County War.

Tunstall, as REH said, had been born in England. Murphy and Dolan, business partners in Lincoln, held a dry-goods monopoly until Tunstall and McSween began competing. Brady, the county sheriff, was in the Murphy-Dolan faction’s pocket like nickels and dimes of loose change. Tunstall was apparently a decent, likeable fellow, and at the time of his murder Billy the Kid was working on Tunstall’s Rio Feliz Ranch as a cowboy. According to REH, Billy had liked Tunstall “almost well enough to go straight for him.” He took Tunstall’s murder hard and all hell was unleashed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Writing to Novalyne Price on February 14, 1936, Howard informs her of his venture into the “spicy” market:

The tales of Sam Walser (a rugged, upright, forthright, typical American name, even if the original was a Dane from Skaggerack) appear — or will appear when they start publishing them — in a magazine called Spicy Adventure Stories. They pay one cent a word, on acceptance, and report fairly promptly. I’ve sold them four yarns so far, and fondly hope to sell regularly, if they ever start publishing my stuff and get a reaction from the readers, who, I feel, are cultured and scholarly gentlemen, who wax enthusiastic over meritous artistic efforts, he remarked with characteristic modesty. The main handicap is the necessity of keeping the wordage down — they take nothing over 5500 words, this being their limit not only for Spicy Adventures, but also for Spicy Mysteries and Spicy Detectives, which I hope to make also. A nice balance must be maintained — the stuff must be hot enough to make the readers bat their eyes, but not too hot to get the censors on them. They have some definite taboos. No degeneracy, for instance. No sadism or masochism. Though extremely fond of almost-nude ladies, they prefer her to retain some garment ordinarily — like a coyly revealing chemise. However this taboo isn’t iron-clad, for I’ve violated it in nearly every story I’ve sold them. I’ve found a good formula is to strip the heroine gradually — she loses part of her clothes in one episode, some more in the next, and so on until the climax finds her in a state of tantalizing innocence. Certain words are taboo, also, though up to a certain point considerable frankness in discussing the female anatomy is allowed. The hero should be an American, and the action should take place in some exotic clime. I’ve laid my yarns in the South Seas, in Tebessa in Algeria, in Shanghai, and in Singapore. Laid one yarn in Kentucky but they said it was too hot for them to handle. The hero doesn’t have to be a model of virtue. In fact, a favorite formula is for the hero to accomplish what only the villain attempts in conventional yarns. My character is Wild Bill Clanton, a pirate, gun-runner, smuggler, a pearl-thief and slaver, and carefully avoids all moral scruples in his dealings with the ladies. These magazines were the object of a rather bitter attack in the Author & Journalist not long ago, but some of the most prominent writers rose up and fought back lustily, notably my friend E. Hoffmann Price, who has been making a good living off them for some time.

If you’d like to try a rap at it, there’s nothing to keep you from it. While the magazines cater mainly to masculine readers, I don’t think there’s any objection or prejudice against women writers. Indeed, I have an idea the editor might like to see some yarns from the feminine viewpoint, providing they were sufficiently lusty and bawdy. Plots should be rather complicated, action fast moving. The handicaps of stories that are short are obvious. Little space for character development or for subtle unfolding of plots; the narration must be dynamic, clear-cut, vivid. Cynicism and humor have their place, but not too much humor. It isn’t always necessary for the hero to rush in and save the heroine’s virtue at the proper moment. Indeed, in most of my yarns, the heroine’s virtue is in more danger from the hero than from anybody else. Price uses a good formula — triumph of the villain, forcibly, over the heroine, and triumph, in turn of the hero over the villain, generally by shooting the hell out of him.

This is a brief sketch, of course, but enough to give you a general idea of the requirements of the Trojan Publishing Company, whose magazines, I might add, though considered somewhat as outlaws in the more conventional circles, seem to be prospering.

Again, Howard seeks to recruit a friend, in this case Novalyne (on Valentine’s Day, no less!), to write for his newly found “sex magazine” market. I imagine she was even less enthused at the prospect than Lovecraft was when Howard made the same suggestion to him a few months earlier.

In addition to the rundown on the spicys, Howard also mentions a bit of a brouhaha among contributors to the spicys set off by an article in a writer’s magazine called Author & Journalist. The article, “Markets in False Face,” was written by O. Foerster Schully and appeared in the November 1935 issue of the magazine. Schully alleged, based on his review of the Spicy line, that one person had authored all the stories in the magazines based on similarities in phrasing and therefore not an “open market” for writers.  The article was followed by a rebuttal of sorts from the editor and Armer’s writing guidelines for the Spicy line of magazines. Three spicy authors, including E. Hoffmann Price fired off responses to Schully, which appeared in the January 1936 issue of Author & Journalist.

Price once told Glenn Lord, the majority of the stories appearing in the spicys were written by a select coterie of half a dozen authors, utilizing a large number of pseudonyms. While six authors is certainly feasible, a more realistic number would be closer to a dozen But nonetheless, Howard did gain a foothold on that limited market. You can read the entire article, along with the responses from the three pulp writers here.

As mentioned in his letter to Novalyne, Howard had just sold a fourth story to Spicy-Adventure Stories. After failing, to sell the two non-Clanton spicy yarns, Howard returned to the tried and true Wild Bill Clanton character with “The Dragon Kao Tsu.” Kline’s assistant, Otto Binder, sold “Dragon” in February 1936, but it did not see print until September 1936. The story exhibited some of the characteristics of E. Hoffmann Price’s Pawang Ali yarns, which were published in Clues Detective Stories. The character appeared in six stories from 1933 to 1936 and was considered the turbaned “Sherlock Holmes of Singapore.”

“Dragon” finds Clanton in the far eastern seaport of Singapore. The plot is similar to “The Purple Heart of Erlik” in that our hero is lusting after a beautiful woman, gets whacked on the head by that beautiful woman while searching for a valuable artifact and winning out over an evil Oriental villain. The femme fatale of this yarn, a spoiled, wealthy heiress named Marianne Allison, has hired Clanton to steal the Dragon of Kao Tsu, an ivory statue of a dragon with a secret compartment that contains an important document the spoiled heiress wants. 

It seems her father, a San Francisco tycoon known as Old Man Allison, and General Kai, a Chinese warlord, entered into an agreement for certain oil rights in China to be given to the tycoon. The elder Allison, desperate for money having lost a large portion of his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929, needs the agreement which is secreted in the ivory statue. General Kai’s men also seek the document and that sparks the conflict that is the heart of this story.

Marianne manages to retrieve the document and in the process attempts to renege on payment Clanton’s fee for assisting in the recovery – that fee being her body. A vengeful Clanton assaults Marianne, forcefully taking her virginity. Clearly this sexual encounter could be viewed as rape and Howard implausibly attempts to diminish Clanton’s action by having Marianne indicate a sense of enjoyment in her eyes:

All her kicking and squirming accomplished was to disarrange the sarong, and he caught his breath at the sight of all the pink and white curves displayed.

“You don’t dare!” she gasped, as he drew her roughly to him. “You don’t dare – ”

Bill Clanton didn’t even bother to reply to her ridiculous assertion …

It was some time later when he grinned at her philosophically. He stooped and kissed her pouting mouth. “Maybe that will teach you not to associate with people like me,” he said.

Her reply was unprintable, but the look in her eyes contradicted her words as she took his arm and together they went out to the street.

Even though Howard attempts to skirt the issue of rape in his Clanton stories by implying the girl wanted it, despite her objections, the bottom line is “no” means “no” and it always has.

“Murderer’s Grog” was the last Clanton yarn Howard wrote and one of the final stories written before his death. “Grog” was written in mid-April 1936, three months after “Dragon” and submitted to Kline at the end of the month. Howard’s writing routine was somewhat sporadic during this period of time due to the constant care his mother required. The story has a darkness about it that no doubt came from deep within Howard’s being, written as his mother’s life was slipping away. The story places Clanton on dry land in an adventure similar to “Desert Blood” that involves gunrunning and exotic, scantily clad women.

Clanton is bringing a large shipment of guns from the Soviet Union to sell them to warring Afghan or Indian tribes. Meanwhile, Sonya Ormanoff, a Russian spy, seeks to steal the rifles from our hero by convincing the agent of a local warlord to resind permission for Clanton to cross the border area. Upon learning of her plot, a dastardly Clanton attempts to rape Sonya, fails and after a drunken bender he tries again and this time succeeds in his sexual assault, leaving his victim humiliated and devastated:

His mouth crushing hers thirstily –the way his muscular arms defeated her frenzied struggles– was enough to convince her. But, jerking her mouth free, she stormed defiantly: ‘Damn you, let me go! I’ll kill you…you can’t–’

Her defiance broke in a despairing shriek as she realized the futility of her resistance.

Presently, as he looked down at her where she lay weeping in rage, shame and humiliation, he started to speak; then he changed his mind, shrugged his shoulders and headed for the door.

There was no mercy in the game she played, and she had no reason to expect any.

Again, as is the case in “Dragon,” Howard is painting the woman as someone who deserves what she gets.

In mid May of 1936, Howard wrote what would be his final letter to H.P. Lovecraft. In that letter he mentions: “[B]ut I have managed to sell a few more bubby-twisters to Spicy Adventures …” Indeed he had, five Clanton adventures were sold by then, three of which would not appear until after his death (“The Dragon of Kao Tsu,” September 1936; “The Purple Heart of Erlik,” November 1936; “Murderer’s Grog,” January 1937).

Howard left us with a total of eight complete spicy stories, which were purely commercial efforts on his part. He certainly would have rather been writing westerns or regional horror yarns, but the spicys were a quick way to make a buck and that was what was most needed by Howard in those dark days toward the end of his life.

To be continued…

A Sophisticated Collection of “Bubby-Twisters”

Spicy Adventures is selling fast and furious, with more than half of the 200 print-run already pre-sold.

This hardcover volume from the REH Foundation Press contains all of Howard’s “spicys” and includes a large miscellanea section, with drafts and synopsizes that allow readers to glimpse Howard’s creative process. For the cover, Jim and Ruth Keegan have rendered yet another beautiful cover painting for this 211 page volume.

Pre-orders are still being accepted at the Foundation’s website. The book will ship the end of September.

Read: Part I / Part II / Part III / Part V

This is the third post for 2011 of the online version of Nemedian Dispatches. This feature previously appeared in the print journal, but now relocated here to the blog. On a quarterly basis, Nemedian Dispatches will highlight new and upcoming appearances of Howard’s fiction in print, as well as Howard in other types of media.

In Print:

Conan the Barbarian: The Stories that Inspired the Movie
This is a mass market paperback collection from Del Rey of five of Howard’s Conan yarns that purported inspired the movie script, though I don’t see how. Contents include “The Phoenix on the Sword,” “The People of the Black Circle,” “The Tower of the Elephant,” “Red Nails” and “Rogues in the House.” A slightly different version was published in Britain by Gollancz.

Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane Movie Novelizations
Also available, the Conan movie novelization by former REHupan Mike Stackpole and the movie tie-in for Solomon Kane by Ramsey Campbell, who has a long history with Kane having completed several of Howard’s uncompleted Kane stories for previous paperback collections.

This new sword and sorcery anthology is now available. Griots features a brand new Imaro novella by Charles Saunders and 13 other stories by gifted authors set in African or African-inspired backgrounds. Each story has a full page illustration accompanying it, with a stunning cover by Natiq Jalil to complete the package.

Kindle & E-Books:

The Deadly Sword of Cormac and From Dark Corners
Howard fan Steve Miller is working on several little eBooks/PDFs of Howard’s stories in the hopes of showing more people that Howard wrote other stories in addition to Conan and Solomon Kane. Two are currently available: “The Deadly Sword of Cormac” and “From Dark Corners.” Here is the projected schedule of coming Howard fiction projects: “Terror on River Street” and “Fists of Foolishness,” releasing 2nd week of September; “From Dark Corners 2,” releasing 2nd week of October and “Shanghaied Mitts”: TBD. Also of interest is the “ROLF!: The Rollplaying Game of Big Dumb Fighters” line.

Conan the Barbarian
River Drafting has just released nine of ten projected e-books all titled Conan the Barbarian and numbered  1 through 10. “The Hour of the Dragon,” “Shadows in the Moonlight,” “Jewels of Gwahlur,” “The People of the Black Circle,” “Queen of the Black Coast,” “Shadows in Zamboula” and “A Witch Shall Be Born” are some of the stories featured in this collection.

Robert E. Howard’s Ancient Terrors
A collection of 14 tales of nail-biting terror and psychological horror by REH. Formatted for Kindle, with original commentary by the editor, David N. Brown.

Gardens of Fear and Beyond the Black River
Volumes 6 and 7 of Wildside’s The Weird Works of Robert E. Howard are now available for Kindle. Edited by Paul Herman with new covers by Stephan Fabian.

Audio Books:

People of the Dark
This audio book is in CD format and produced in partnership with Wildside Press. The stories are read by Wayne Jane, Brian Holsopple, Gary Kobler, Bob Barnes, and Charles McKibben; the book runs approximately 5.5 hours in length.

Graphic Art:

The Forbidden Kingdom and Army Of The Damned
These are two high quality art prints measuring 16″ x 24″ and printed on 8pt stock by Artist Patrick J. Jones from Girasol Collectibles. Special discount applies when you purchase both. Girasol has also just published a replica of the June 1938 issues of Weird Tales that features the first publication of the REH poem, “The Last Hour.”

Coming Soon:

Conan the Destroyer, Conan the Berserker and Conan the Indomitable
It looks like British publisher Gollancz has come up with yet another way to repackage Howard’s Conan tales for sale. These three paperback volumes are coming out in October, November and December, respectively.

Spicy Adventures
Pre-orders are being accepted for this comprehensive collection of Howard’s “spicy” stories, which includes all six of the Wild Bill Clanton adventures. This hardcover book from the REH Foundation Press runs 211 pages and is due out the end of September with a print run of 200 copies. The book also has a standout cover by Jim and Ruth Keegan.

Lone Scout of Letters: Herbert Klatt
Many consider Herbert Klatt to be the Fourth Musketeer who rounded out the group of friends that included REH, Clyde Smith and Truett Vinson. This collection of rare articles from the pages of the Lone Scout and other Tribe newsletters, along with numerous pieces of correspondence among the foursome, is a must have for any Howard collector. Rob Roehm, who compiled and edited this volume, will be publishing this book through his Roehm’s Room Press. Pricing and ordering details will be posted soon here on the blog.

The Dark Man
Due out any day now is Vol. 6, No. 1 of The Dark Man. Contents include: “Faction and Fiction in Barack the Barbarian” by Jeffrey Kahan, “Gloria” by Rusty Burke and Rob Roehm, “Theosophy and the Thurian Age: Robert E. Howard and the Works of William Scott-Elliot” by Jeff Shanks, plus a letters column. Ordering information should be up soon at the TDM website.

Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #3
The third issue of this Dark Horse comic featuring Howard’s heroes in new adventures and restored, re-colored reprints of classic tales. This outing features adventures starring Conan, Kull, Brule, the Sonora Kid and Steve Harrison. Contributors include David Lapham, Paul Tobin, Jeremy Barlow, Joshua Williamson, Wellinton Alves, Patric Reynolds, Cobiaco, Tony Parker and Gerald Parel.

With football season getting started, I was reminded of my first post here at the Two-Gun blog, “Post Oaks and Football.” In that post, I talked about how accurate the opening scene of Howard’s semi-autobiographical novel Post Oaks and Sand Roughs is. This got me thinking, so I pulled the Grant edition from the shelf and read the chapter again. The following conversation between Steve Costigan (Howard) and Clive Hilton (Tevis Clyde Smith), which takes place right after the football game discussed in my first post, grabbed my attention:

“That was sure a great run Franey made, wasnt it?” remarked Steve.
“Yes, it was,” Clive acquiesced.
“Guess you’re here writing the game up for The Rattler?”
“Yes. I guess the student body’ll read it, on account of Franey.”
[. . .]
“I guess I’ll have the title lines in ten point type,” Clive said suddenly. “I think I’ll try a new style for the front page this week. The students won’t know the difference but a man appreciates his own work.”

Given how accurate Howard’s description of the football game had been in this fictional work, I wondered if he had played fast and loose with the post-game conversation or kept mostly to the facts. Luckily, I had a way to fact check it.

At Texas A&M’s Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, they’ve got Smith’s collection of The Tattler, including the edition that came out right after the November 27, 1924 game between Howard Payne and Simmons. Both of my questions are answered on the front page.

First, “Clive” says he’s writing an article about the game for the paper. In the “real world,” Clyde Smith was editor-in-chief of The Tattler for the 1923-24 school year. The paper’s staff box does not list a sport’s editor, so I guess we can’t be certain who wrote the following story, but my money’s on Clyde:

After that, “Clive” says he’s going to experiment with a new style for the paper that week. Clyde Smith did exactly that:

Written in 1928, Post Oaks and Sand Roughs is presented as fiction, but it’s sure got a lot of fact included. If nothing else, this underlines how good Howard’s memory was. I can’t remember a conversation from last week, nevermind four years go.

In a letter to August Derleth written in May 1933, Howard gives his northern friend a taste of the wild west and the fearlessness of a certain legendary rodeo cowboy:

One characteristic of the south Texas cattle country was practically unknown on the northern ranges — the negro cowboy. He couldn’t stand the cold weather; but there were many of his kind in South Texas. It was a negro who first invented “bull dogging”. It was a matter of necessity with him. The old mossy horns took to the brush where he couldn’t swing his riata, so he dived off and grabbed their noses in his teeth and wrestled them down. Eventually all his teeth got jerked out, from time to time, and he got to grabbing their horns in the modern style. I forget his name; but he won a big purse down in Mexico throwing fighting bulls, and he died only recently. If you’ve ever seen a steer bull dogged, you know what a dangerous and exciting pastime it is.

Of course the cow-biting cowboy Howard was referring to was Bill Pickett. Pickett was born on December 5, 1870 in Travis County to Thomas Jefferson and Mary Virginia Elizabeth Gilbert Pickett, former slaves who had thirteen children. He was of African, Caucasian and Cherokee heritage Pickett only attended elementary school until he completed the fifth grade; after that he went to work as a ranch hand. 

The Pickett family moved to Taylor in 1888 where Bill and some of his brothers began a business “breaking” horses known as the Pickett Brothers Bronco Busters and Rough Riders Association. Bill joined the National Guard and was a deacon in the local Baptist church. He also performed rodeo feats at local fairs. In 1890 Pickett married a former slave and daughter to a white southern plantation owner named Maggie Turner, with whom he eventually had nine children. Pickett continued to perform at rodeos around Texas, honing his skills. However, Pickett’s African-American ethnicity prevented him from appearing in many rodeos. He often resorted to claiming that he was of Comanche heritage in order to perform.

In 1903 Pickett was working in Rockdale when he first used a technique he had seen used by cow dogs of the bulldog breed who were known to bite the lips of cattle to subdue them – this is where the name “bulldogging” (steer wrestling) evolved from. Pickett figured that if a forty pound dog could bring down a thousand bound bull simply by jumping on the animal’s head and biting its lip, he could do it too.

While moving a herd of cattle, a stubborn Texas Longhorn refused to enter a corral and was panicking the rest of the herd. Pickett rode his horse at full speed alongside the troublesome steer, jumped off his horse and grabbed the steer by its horns. As the longhorn continued to fight him, Pickett bit it on its lower lip and tossed the animal to the ground. From then on all bulldoggers at rodeos used the lip-biting tactic. However, it has been gradually phased out of the bulldogging event at modern rodeos.

The new method of subduing bulls was such a hit, he was billed as the “Dusky Demon” and showed-off his bulldogging skills at rodeos, fairs and exhibitions all over the country. He first received national attention when he bulldogged a steer at the 1904 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, which had roughly the same appeal as today’s Super Bowl.

Pickett was far from a tall Texan, standing only five-seven and weighing about 145 pounds. His small stature certainly did not deter him or diminish his tenacity when going after and wrestling a full-grown steer to the ground. Pickett was also America’s first black cowboy movie star. He made two movies for the Norman Film Manufacturing Company of Florida — The Bull-Dogger and The Crimson Skull, both filmed in 1921. Unfortunately these films have been lost to time – only a few short clips exist today.

Pickett was so skillful at all things cowboy, in 1905 he joined the 101 Ranch Wild West Show. As a member of the troupe, Bill worked alongside other well known cowboys, namely Tom Mix, Will Rogers and Buffalo Bill. Pickett thrilled audiences all over the world with his extraordinary skills and talents. Though he did have a close call while performing in Mexico. It seems his lip-biting technique was considered an insult to the bull! Odd, considering the grievous punishment dealt to the bulls by the Mexican bullfighters. Luckily, Pickett and his companions managed to exit the arena unscathed. Pickett retired from the Wild West show in 1931 at the age of 60.

Pickett died on April 2, 1932 after being kicked in the head by a horse he was attempting to bridle. His final resting place is on what is left of the 101 Ranch property near Ponca City, Oklahoma. Will Rogers announced the funeral of his friend on his radio show, saying “Bill Pickett never had an enemy, even the steers wouldn’t hurt old Bill.”

Prior to his death Pickett had requested to be buried on Monument Hill. In 1936, the Cherokee Strip Cow Punchers Association erected a simple red sandstone marker at his gravesite that simply reads: Bill Pickett C.S.C.P.A.

Pickett was the first African-American to be elected to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1971 and, in 1989, was named to the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. Today he is recognized the world over as The Greatest Cowboy and has a rodeo named in his honor.

In 1994 Pickett was honored with a U.S. postage stamp bearing his likeness as part of the Postal Service’s Legends of the Old West stamp series. But they got it wrong on the first go-round when they used his brother’s likeness instead of his.

This entry filed under August Derleth, Howard's Texas.

Readers of The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, Vol. 1, might recognize Ottie Gill’s name from a couple of letters to Clyde Smith written in 1926 [Gill is seen above from the late ’30s]. But I’ll refresh your memory, just in case. The first mention is from Howard’s January 14, 1926 letter:

I wrote a poem for Ottie’s magazine. Shame to discontinue The Bard. I don’t know whether it will suit him or not. The meter is jerky and uneven among many other things, but I simply can’t chain myself with form. To hell with meter when I want to say something.

A footnote explains that “Ottie Gill was a member of Howard’s Brownwood circle of literary friends.” The second letter doesn’t say much, either. It’s from the May 7, 1926 letter to Smith, and all it says is “How are Truett and Ottie?” Not much to go on, but that first mention got me thinking. I’d never seen a Bard, and didn’t remember anyone else having mentioned it. Maybe there was an unknown Howard poem out there. I needed more information.

Luckily, last year I scored a stash of letters written to Smith by a couple of other Howard correspondents, Herbert Klatt and Harold Preece, and they had a bit more to say about Mr. Gill. Of course, if my memory was as good as it used to be, I’d have remembered the following passage from one of Preece’s letters that appeared in The Howard Collector:

Ottie Gill, of the Brownwood group, was somebody whom I’d first met in McKinney [. . .] Ottie should also be asked by Glenn to write about Bob. He, I, Truett and Clyde were at the home of the Gills, several times.

But I had to stumble on that again a while later. The first batch of letters I read were Herbert Klatt’s. In his November 26, 1925 letter, he talks to Smith about a possible face-to-face meeting:

I don’t know how I would fit in. However if you must be disillusioned, the sooner the better, so why not run down here next Sunday with Truett, Gill, any or all of the bunch. If you do not have anything special on program for next Sunday. You can come down here better than I can come to Brownwood just now.

Klatt ends up going to Brownwood after Christmas that year, as recounted in Post Oaks and Sand Roughs. A couple of weeks later, January 19, 1926, Klatt writes to Smith: “I have just written a jumbled script to Moody O. Wallis, Shamrock, Texas (mentioned at Gill’s that night) in thanks et cetera” for an award Klatt had received. Since Klatt didn’t travel to Brownwood often, it seems that he must have visited Gill sometime during his Christmas visit, though Howard doesn’t mention it in Post Oaks; it might have been the evening after the one described in his novel.

Klatt’s letter of March 7, 1927, mentions Gill’s poetry:

I still think “Memphis” [included in So Far the Poet] the best of what I have seen of your poetry. It is something like Sandburg’s “Chicago”—only it is personal. Something like that unexplainable poem of Gill’s, not easily understood unless you know the circumstances and the author.

A bit later in the same letter, Klatt asks “By the way, is Gill still living in B-wood?” And that’s it for Gill in the Klatt letters.

Harold Preece started writing to Smith in July of 1928. He first mentions Gill in a September 15, 1928 letter: “I am enclosing a poem written by Ottie Gill, which somehow expresses my mood. I met Ottie about three years ago, in McKinney, but have never corresponded with him.” This is followed by a September 30 mention:

Ottie has a lot of sense, but he is immensely egotistical and pedantic. I don’t get the drift of his poetry at all times; the words are not difficult, but the way they are put together doesn’t mean anything. Perhaps, though, I am mentally deficient.

On February 23, 1929, Preece asks, “Have you seen Ottie’s son and heir?” And that’s it for Gill in the Preece papers, except for the piece from The Howard Collector, which I stumbled on after reading the above. So, no new information on The Bard. Time for some Internet Archeology.

Through various means I found a collection of The Bard at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Before arriving at Howard Days, I made a looong detour and had a look. While I was there, I also looked at their microfilm collection of The Campus newspaper. Everyone remembers Howard saying he sent the editor there a poem, right? Anyway, I looked at The Bard first, all edited (and some with contributions) by Ottie Gill.

Starting with volume 1, number 1, for January 1922, the college had a complete run, all bound in a nice little hardcover, through volume 3, number 1, dated February 1924. Gill explained the purpose of his publication in the first issue’s Foreword:

What? Why? How? The Bard. Because there are people whose life is not complete without the cultural influence and the everlasting beauty of the poet’s art; because the ambition rises in our youthful souls to say in terms both beautiful and meaningful things that will bring a message to a hearer; because of the necessity for a channel of expression, we have navigated The Bard out into the dark waters of Amateur Experiment. How? With the support of all the friends of verse. We intend to give space only to verse which strikes us as having the qualities that constitute excellence. The Bard will be published monthly, and the size of it will depend upon material and the amount of financial backing received.

I asked if the Library had more issues, and was informed that there weren’t any: the collection contained all that had been published. Howard’s 1926 letter was in my mind as I nodded. An amateur affair, similar in appearance to Smith’s All-Around Magazine, I figured that the library just didn’t have any of the issues that were published after Gill left the Dallas area. Or maybe he stopped publishing for a while and picked it up again at a later date. This seems most likely to me.

Anyway, after copying some of the pages with Gill’s poetry, I went over to the other library and had a look at The Campus. Complete details here.

Back home, I got on and and got a little background information on Ottie. To wit: Christophen Octavius Gill, born 12 Feb 1904 in Texas; died 4 Mar 1984 in Dallas. The son of a carpenter, Gill had two younger sisters. The family is all together in Dallas for the 1910 and 1920 enumerations. Christopher O. Gill and wife Mary are living in Brownwood in 1928, according to that town’s 1928 directory. Ottie is listed as “adv mgr Brownwood Semi-Weekly Press.” The 1930 Census has Ottie in Paris, Texas, with his wife and 15-month-old son. Based on Preece’s 1929 letter, it appears that the Gills probably left Brownwood shortly after their son was born, which no doubt ended whatever relationship Gill had with Robert E. Howard.

This entry filed under Herbet Klatt, Howard Biography, Tevis Clyde Smith.