Archive for June, 2012

The upcoming issue of REH: Two-Gun Raconteur features an unfinished Pike Bearfield story titled “The Diablos Trail.” The 3,000 word piece ends at a logical point, not just stopping mid-sentence. Here is the opening paragraph of the yarn that gives us a preview of the mayhem and madcap predicaments Howard places Bearfield in:

Well, Wilyum, I hope you will be glad to hear I am here hale and hearty in Fort Sumner, New Mex. You will probably say what the hell is he doing in Fort Sumner New Mex. when I started out for Dodge City, Kansas, with my 1500 head of cattle. But I’ll explain it if you’ll try to have a little patience and control yore arful temper Wilyum. Everything I done was in yore best interests, but I’ll probably have trouble convincing you of it, yo’re sech a bull headed old hyener. I bet yo’re having one of yore fits right now and scaring everybody on the ranch into the aggers. Why you cain’t be ca’m and mild mannered like me I dunno, but you might as well cool off, because I ain’t going to be tromped on by you nor nobody else, and and before you try to ride a Big Sandy over me you better reflect on what happened the last time you tried that. You know that time down on the Nueces when Doc Kirby had to put seventeen stitches in yore carcass Wilyum.

In addition to this story, there is a second Howard short-short story and an illustrated Howard poem. Of course, there’s the usual line-up of outstanding essays and articles by top Howard scholars and great artwork, including a color cover by Terry Plavet.

As mentioned in previous posts, the issue has been delayed due to my injury, but is back on track now. TGR #16 is slated for publication in early August and I will be taking pre-orders shortly.

Hester Jane Ervin (at left) in Missouri circa the early 1890s

My mother was not content in Missouri, and she spent most of the year of 1894 in Muskogee, in the old Indian Territory. An older sister had married a cowman who lived there, and my mother stayed with them. The Indian Territory was still beyond the frontier, the haunt of outlaws and desperadoes—the Doolins, the Daltons, and others. It was, in truth, the last stand of the wild bunch. Muskogee was in the Creek Nation; the Federal Court had but recently been established there. Her stay in the Territory established more firmly than ever her dislike for Indians of any kind. —Robert E. Howard, “The Wandering Years”

While preparing text for an upcoming REH Foundation volume, I read the above and it got me thinking: what do we know about Hester’s time in Oklahoma? I don’t know why this set me off, I never really do, but I had to look into it. I pulled out de Camp’s Dark Valley Destiny and found this, um, paraphrase:

In 1894 Hester Jane was living in Muskogee, in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma, with an older sister who was married to a cattleman. This was a desolate place beyond the frontier, without community or law, peopled by scattered householders, Indian bands, and fleeing outlaws. Many of the Indians were the remnants of tribes who, because the whites coveted their reservation lands, had been arbitrarily swept up by the U.S. Army after the Civil War and dumped into the Territory to root, hog, or die. If Hester Jane’s experience in Lampasas had not persuaded her, her sojourn in this wild region consolidated her dislike of Indians.

And de Camp added the following:

It is unclear what brought Hester Jane Ervin to Oklahoma, whether she herself was ill, or whether it was her sister who had active tuberculosis and needed Hester Jane to care for her. Perhaps she was merely restless, being at this point almost twenty-five and unmarried.

Finding nothing more in the other biographies, I started looking on the internet. Newspaper Archive is a wonderful thing. Its search function and the quality of the images aren’t always the best, but if you’ve got some time to burn, it usually yields results. Of course, looking for all the variations in spelling (Ervin, Erwin, Erving, Irving, Irwin, Irvin, etc.) can be a tad daunting.

The first Ervin I found in the Muskogee papers may or may not be Hester’s older brother, William Vinson Ervin:

Wm. Ervin, a brother of Mrs. Dr. Thomas, came to Fishertown last week to read medicine under Dr. Thomas. He took a run down to Caddo Saturday and will return in a few days, when he will settle down to his work. [Indian Journal – February 28, 1884]

This same Ervin shows up again in the April 10, 1884 issue:

Col. Phillips, of Dallas, came up to Fishertown last week to see his son Wm. Erwin and his daughter, Mrs. Dr. Thomas. He returned Thursday.

There are a few things that make these mentions suspect, but there are also several coincidences. First of all, William’s and Hester’s father’s name was George W. Ervin, not Phillips, but he was called a Colonel, at least in his obituary. News reports published in the Galveston Daily News in 1883 mention George a few times in their “Dallas County Real Estate Transfers” column. Then there’s the Ervin / Erwin problem, though it seems strange that a man named Phillips would have a son named “Erwin.”

Another problem is the “Mrs. Dr. Thomas.” One of George W.’s daughters, Christina Ervin, did in fact marry a man with the last name of Thomas, but while Christina appears in the Muskogee papers as “Mrs. C. C. Thomas” in connection with her milliner and dressmaker business, the only doctor with that last name I have been able to find had the first name Lou. Lots of coincidences, but too many problems for any degree of certainty.

But whether or not William spent time in the Indian Territory, we know that Christina Ervin Thomas was living there at least as early as October 1, 1887, when the first of her milliner ads appears in another local paper, Our Brother in Red:

Throughout 1888 and into 1889, ads and notices regarding her business appear. On May 26, 1888 she “moved into her new store, and invites the public generally to call and see her large and well selected stock of new milliner goods” (Our Brother in Red). On July 26, 1888, we learn that her “millinery stock has been removed to the first door north of Turner & Byrne’s, where she will be pleased to meet all her old customers and new ones too” (Muskogee Phoenix). The June 8, 1889 edition of Our Brother in Red has news of a sister, Marilda Ervin, now Mrs. Mitchell:

The child of Rev. D. R. Mitchell, Forestburg, Texas, was badly hurt not long ago in a hurricane which passed through that town. Mrs. Mitchell is a sister of Mrs. C. C. Thomas of our town.

All of this was interesting, but where was Hester? Possibly in this December 24, 1891 mention from the “Purely Personal” column in the Muskogee Phoenix:

 

A year later, December 22, 1892, there’s another mention: “Miss Ervin of Mo., sister to Mrs. C. C. Thomas, is spending some time with her sister who has been quite sick with la grippe, but is convalescent.” [Note: The date on this paper could be wrong: the front page is damaged and someone has handwritten 1892 near the top. By 1892 Christina Thomas had remarried and become Mrs. J. O. Cobb (thanks to Patrice Louinet for that nugget), so it makes more sense if this mention was also from 1891. Cobb, by the way, was a cattleman, but he also ran a livery stable, a drugstore, and invested in an orchard.] The “Irwin” spelling in the first notice not withstanding, there might be another problem—another sister—but we’ll talk about that in a minute.

We finally hit paydirt (thanks again, Patrice) with the February 16, 1893 edition of the Muskogee Phoenix:

So, if Hester was, in fact, the sister who was tending to Christina, perhaps she caught the bug from her; of course, it’s possible, as de Camp said, that Hester went to Oklahoma because of an illness. I guess we’ll never know. And there is another possibility for the mystery Ervin/Irwin sister.

At some point prior to March 12, 1896, yet another Ervin sister was living in Muskogee: Georgia Alice. The Muskogee Phoenix for that day reported the following:

The friends of Miss Alice Ervin, formerly a resident of Muskogee, and a sister of Mrs. J. O. Cobb, will be interested in learning that Miss Ervin was married on Wednesday of last week to Rev. J. Frank Comer, of St. Louis, Mo., at the home of the bride’s parents at Commerce, Mo. The many friends of Miss Ervin in Muskogee join the friends at her home in wishing the wedded couple all the peace, joy and contentment that life affords.

The widowed mother of Earl Lee Comer before 1910, Alice and her boy moved to Big Spring, Texas, probably to be close to her big brother, the aforementioned William Vinson Ervin, father to Robert Howard’s other cousins Maxine and Lesta. Alice died in 1915 and her son went to live with relatives in the little town of Cross Cut, just over the county line from Cross Plains. But I digress . . .

This is the second post for 2012 of the online version of Nemedian Dispatches. This feature previously appeared in the print journal and is now on 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:

The Complete Marvel Tales
The publisher of the highly acclaimed complete collection of The Fantasy Fan has just completed his next project — a hardback book that collects the five issue run of William Crawford’s Marvel Tales. Each issue was filled with fantasy from top Weird Tales writers, with Howard’s “The Garden of Fear” appearing in the second issue. Publisher Lance Thingmaker will start shipping pre-orders this week. To order, contact the publisher. The price of the book is $50.00 (includes US postage), but if you mention the TGR Blog, you can save $10.00 and pay only $40.00 (includes US postage). Just like The Fantasy Fan, this volume is sure to be an instant collector’s item.

The Sword & Sorcery Anthology
This new anthology is chock full of sword wielding heroes and heroines battling all manner of terrifying denizens and sorcerers written my true fantasy masters. Howard leads off the collection with “The Tower of the Elephant,” followed by the likes of C. L. Moore, Fritz Leiber, Poul Anderson, Michael Moorcock, Karl Edward Wagner and many more. Published by Tachyon Publications and edited by David. G. Hartwell and Jacob Weisman.

Adventures in Science Fantasy
From the REH Foundation Press comes a collection of Robert E. Howard’s sort of science fiction stories. The centerpiece of this collection is Howard’s interplanetary adventure novel, Almuric, backed up by a dozen or so other science fantasy yarns from Howard’s Underwood. The book features a stunning wraparound cover by Mark Schulz, an introduction by Michal Stackpole and is edited by Rob Roehm.

Kindle:

“Hawk of the Hills”
Now available, a Kindle edition of the El Borak story, “Hawk of the Hills.” This Francis X. Gordon yarn was first published as the cover story in the June 1935 issue of Top-Notch, an adventure pulp magazine.

Clothing:

The 2012 Howard House Museum T-Shirt
Michael L. Peters’ design won this year’s competition for a new t-shirt design for this year’s Howard House Museum t-shirt. In addition to this design, you can see more of Michael work in the upcoming issue of REH: Two-Gun Raconteur. To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the first appearance of Conan, Michael has done a “Rogues in the House” portfolio.

The t-shirts can be ordered via Project Pride’s PayPal account: ProjPride@yahoo.com

The shirts are available in both black on white and white on black. Sizes run Medium though XXX Large. Price is $15.00 per shirt, plus $3.00 for US shipping and handling. Overseas shipping will be more. To get the rate for overseas shipping, send an e-mail to Project Pride.

Coming Soon:

Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #5
Coming August 29, 2012, a new issue of Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword. Contents include: Paul Tobin and Francesco Francavilla team-up to bring Dark Agnes back to the pages of Savage Sword with their adaptation of “Sword Woman”; Steve Niles partners with Christopher Mitten to adapt” In the Forest of Villefère”; Ian Edginton and Richard Pace adapt the Bran Mak Morn yarn “Men of the Shadows” and the legendary Howard Chaykin writes and draws a brand-new King Conan story.

New Books from the REH Foundation Press
As noted in a previous post, at least three volumes of Howard stories are nearing completion and several of them may make it into print by the end of the year Those books include: a Pirate Stories book, Volume I of the Boxing Stories and an Autobiographical book. Of course there are a number of books from the Foundation Press still available.

Skullcrusher: Selected Weird Fiction, Volume One
Coming in September, publication of the first volume of a two-volume collection of classic fantasy stories by REH. The stories in this collection feature all of Howard’s most famous creations — Conan, King Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn — alongside others such as Cormac Mac Art, James Allison, Red Sonya, and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey — in a definitive anthology of sword and sorcery, weird adventure, and occult horror in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

Conan Meets the Academy

Scheduled for a Spring/Summer 2013 release, this volume from McFarland & Company, Inc. takes on Howard’s Conan as its only subject. This collection of Conan essays focus on the following topics: stylometry, archeology, cultural studies, folklore studies, and literary history, additionally the essays examine statistical analyses of Howard’s texts, as well as the literary genesis of Conan, later-day parodies, Conan video games, movies, and pop culture in general. By displaying the wide range of academic interest in Conan, this volume reveals the hidden scholarly depth of this seemingly unsophisticated fictional character. The book is edited by Jonas Prida

 

“Better a man’s steed, than a man’s slave, master,” said the girl.

“Aye,” he answered, “for there is nobility in a good horse.”

— Robert E. Howard, “The Slave-Princess”

The above must be the slightest, most tenuous REH quote I’ve ever used as a springboard for a post yet. I’ll be citing other references to horses from a good many of his stories and letters as I continue, but they will effectively all be just that – references. Just the same, they have their significance. As the hero (Conan, Cormac Fitzgeoffrey, or Kosru Malik the Chagatai in “The Road of Azrael”) either dashes to the rescue or boldly escapes his enemies after just killing someone, he generally has a good horse between his thighs, without which his fate would be sudden, gory demise.

Even in a casual sentence, like the mention of Pyrrhas the Argive’s past career in “The House of Arabu” –- “ … the thundering pageantry that rioted through that saga: the feasts, revels, wars, the crash and splintering of ships and the onset of chariots,” the paramount role of the horse lies behind the broad bold colors of the images used. Without horses there would have been no onset of chariots. The invention of the war chariot changed history. The Indo-Europeans with their chariots spread their language and culture from northern India to Britain. In Egypt, the Asiatic Hyksos conquered the Delta with their chariots, and ruled it for two hundred years; when the princes of southern Egypt adopted the chariot themselves, and improved it, they threw the Hyksos lords back into the desert.

Much later, larger, stronger horses were bred that could carry men on their backs for long periods. Even men in armor, with heavy weapons, like the Persian and Byzantine cataphracts and the knights of the Middle Ages. That revolutionized war again. And not just war. The incredibly simple invention of the horse-collar enabled the weight of a towed load to be taken on the horse’s chest and shoulders instead of its neck. It could then pull a plow or a cart or a coach without being choked. Farming and transport received what was effectively an immense new power source. It seems astounding that the horse-collar (and the stirrup) took so long to invent.

In REH’s westerns the protagonist seldom appears in any way but riding a horse, or with one tethered nearby. In the old west, of course, if he lacked a horse a man was soon dead. Being “set a-foot” was a fate the most intrepid feared, and doing it to someone was reckoned among the unforgivable crimes. It called for savage retribution if the victim survived.

Before going further, it might pay us to hark back, a very long way back, for a capsule and necessarily inadequate rundown on the evolution of the horse. The ancestry and fossil record of equidae in itself is one of the strongest arguments for biological evolution, which is still being denied and argued against by many. For a detailed and better informed article than anything I could write, I recommend Horse Evolution by Kathleen Hunt, on the TalkOrigins Archive.

The horse’s earliest known ancestor was Eohippus (the dawn horse), or as it’s most often called by scientists these days, the hyracotherium. No bigger at best than a Labrador dog, it flourished between 55 and 45 million years ago. It front feet had four toes and the hind ones, three. The creature lived in damp hot boggy jungles and chomped on the low-growing foliage. There were no doubt various related species and a branching tree of their descendants, as always, some of which survived and some of which didn’t. By 37 million years ago, Mesohippus had come along, and that was the dominant living member of the horse family – or at least the best-known one of which we still have a fossil record. Mesohippus was bigger than his remote ancestors, and his feet had adapted from swampy ground to the soft earth that was more common by then. Mesohippus also crossed into the North American continent.

By the late Miocene, about 17 million years ago, there were extensive plains with hard grasses growing all over them in North America. Merychippus, a new kind of horse, appeared, well adapted to eating the plains grass and running to escape predators. This model evolved in North America. The central toe had adapted to a large single hoof, and the tough grazing teeth were a lot like those of modern horses. Merychippus roved in herds, too, once again like modern wild horses.

Then came Pliohippus, about 12 million years ago. This one’s fossils have been found from the U.S. Great Plains to Canada. It spread to every continent but Australia and Antarctica – down to South America, across to Asia and thence to Europe, even into Africa. The African equus type became, of course, quaggas and zebras, and there was also a type of zebra, now extinct, in India two million years ago. For that matter the equus sellardsi, now extinct too, of North America, seems to have looked like a zebra without stripes.

Great herds of horses roved the North American plains before human beings crossed the Bering Land Bridge during the last Ice Age. They shared the land with mammoths, mastodons, a type of giant buffalo, giant lions without manes, and the dire wolf – many of the spectacular huge mammals that flourished once. Then came human beings. As the glaciers retreated and the land dried out considerably, the big mammals declined in number. It’s very possible that the early human inhabitants of North America helped them die out by hunting them. They had to come to the shrinking water sources to drink, and their four-footed predators as well as human hunters would have found that a favorite place to ambush them. There would have been multiple, complex causes, not just one, but however it happened, by eight thousand years ago the native North American horse was extinct. Equines weren’t introduced again until the Spaniards brought them over in the fifteenth century. Escaped stallions and mares from early Spanish expeditions went wild and bred until there were large herds of them. Without them, the impressive and dramatic horse-warrior culture of the Plains Indians (a misnomer that arose from Columbus’s conviction, which he never abandoned, that what he’d found was a remote and unknown part of India) would never have existed.

Read the rest of this entry »

This entry filed under Howard's Fiction.

Our own Rob Roehm, the editor of the REH Foundation Press, has some news on the remainder of Howard books scheduled for publication. These are not the actual titles, but rather the subject matter of the books:

  • A book of Pirate Stories
  • Four volumes of Boxing Stories
  • Autobiographical (Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, etc.)
  • Reincarnation (James Allison, etc.)
  • Celtic adventures (Cormac Mac Art, etc.)
  • Two volumes of Humorous Westerns
  • A collection of Straight Westerns
  • Leftovers (various odds and ends, including those recently found in Glenn’s papers)

Three of the above books are nearing completion and some of them might be published later this year. The books are: the Pirate Stories book, Volume I of the Boxing Stories and the Autobiographical book.

The best of the newly discovered Glenn Lord items will appear in the Robert E. Howard Foundation Newsletter. If you are not yet a member of the Foundation, you are missing out on a lot,  including discounted prices on all the Foundation books, so join today.

These books, combined with the Del Reys and previous volumes published by the Foundation Press constitutes the vast majority of Howard’s works. Of course, additional Howard material still continues to bubble to the surface from time to time.

Also, a new edition of Collected Poetry, with recently discovered poems included, is on the drawing board.

So start hoarding those pazoors, guys and gals, there’s a whole passel of new Howard books coming down the pike.

Another Howard Days has come and gone, and with it the euphoric high that can only come with 72 plus hours of full immersion in something that you have a true passion for, alongside dozens of others who share your passion and are some of the few people that can truly understand it. This was only my third Howard Days and so I don’t have the larger perspective that many others do, but for me this year’s Howard Days was my favorite. It didn’t have the giddy excitement of my first year or movie-infused madness of last year—but those weren’t necessarily bad things. It was more subdued perhaps, but it also created more opportunities to just hang out with friends new and old and geek out with folks who “get it.”

Actually making it to Cross Plains this year was more challenging than usual due some severely nasty weather that had flights delayed or cancelled. Al Harron and the Scottish Invasion were stuck in the airport for hours and Bill “Indy” Cavalier and his wife Cheryl didn’t get into to town until 4:00 in the morning Friday. Several Howard Days regulars, including Damon Sasser, Frank Coffman, and Ryan Flessing, were absent this year for various reasons and were sorely missed. For me the trip to Howard Days was unusual as well, as I am actually in the middle of a three-week long family vacation as I write this. My wife, the kids, and I had driven from Florida to Maine (yes, driven!) and had rented a lake cabin. So for me Howard Days was a vacation from my vacation as I flew down to Texas from Maine, then back to Maine just in time to drive back down to Florida. Sheesh!

Of course the unofficial kick-off for Howard Days is Thursday night with dinner at Humphrey Pete’s. I got in on Thursday afternoon just in time to hitch a ride to Brownwood with Paul Sammon, Russell Andrew, and Al. I got to talk with (and listen to) Paul more this year than in the past and I have to say that he is one of the most knowledgeable and interesting people in Howard fandom. Paul has had many incredible experiences and has a wonderful outlook and perspective on life in general. I could listen to his stories and anecdotes forever. Al of course is my old TC blog comrade and it’s always great to see him as well as his entourage, the Wyrd sisters. There were more familiar faces when we arrived at Humphrey Pete’s of course: Rob Roehm, Dennis McHaney, Barbara Barrett, Ed Chazcyk, Jim Barron, and several others. Mark Finn showed up not long after we did, as well as Jay Zetterberg from Paradox. I believe Keith West and Scott Valeri were there as well, but I didn’t get a chance to speak with them until later.

After dinner we returned to the pavilion, where Rusty Burke was waiting with the guest of honor Charles Hoffman. I was thrilled to meet Chuck and was fortunate enough to room with him this year, which gave me more an opportunity to pick his brain and hear his amazing stories about his experiences in fandom. It was a true pleasure to meet him and visit with him and I very much hope he will make it back for future Howard Days. Other regulars began to show up at the pavilion too, including Dave Hardy, Chris Gruber, Todd Woods, and Tim Arney. This was the first time I got meet Tim and he was a lot of fun and very knowledgeable. The lovely Aurelia also returned to Howard Days (no doubt due to Al’s charming presence rather than the rest of us troglodytes).

Perhaps the most special visitors of all were there as well: Lou Ann Lord and her family. This was, of course, the first Howard Days after Glenn Lord’s passing and that reality was omnipresent throughout the weekend. I expect that this weekend was Lou Ann’s farewell to Howard fandom, and I believe that she will be moving on knowing just how important Glenn was to all of us and to all we do. None of this would have been possible without Glenn and nothing Glenn ever did would have been possible without the patience and support of Lou Ann.

Friday morning kicked off the first official activities of the weekend, including a bus tour of Cross Plains led by Rusty. Fans and visitors were just beginning to show up as I wandered over to the pavilion fueled by multiple cups of coffee and a deliciously greasy breakfast from Jean’s Feed Barn. Indy was there, having safely arrived the day before and other regulars soon began showing up including Paul Herman, Gary Romero, Ben Friberg, Joe Crawford, Alfred Bonnabel, as well as Chris Fulbright and Angie Hawkes with family in tow. I made my way through the Howard House only to discover a significant new addition: Robert’s own books from Howard Payne University. Apparently, HPU has donated the remainder of the Howard library to the museum and that was a wonderful surprise. Many of them are inscribed to Howard (and in one case by Howard) and being able to go through these volumes looking for things like highlighting or notes in the margin will be a scholar’s dream.

Another treat waited at the Cross Plains library as all of the typescripts in their collection were on display. It was wonderful to see things like a typescript with Steve Costigan whited-out and Dennis Dorgan typed over it. There is nothing quite like the experience of seeing these cultural artifacts with your own eyes.

The first panel was a dedication to Glenn Lord and Paul, Barbara, and Rusty did a wonderful job of celebrating Glenn’s life and work. It was incredibly moving, but never depressing, as it was truly a celebration of a wonderful life. It was hard not to tear up when Lou Ann spoke though and I thought it was truly a magnificent thing that she had come here to share with us fans her memories and experiences of her life’s companion.

Read the rest of this entry »

This is a day Howard fans take time out of their busy schedules to remember Robert E. Howard. It was 76 years ago today that Texas’s premiere fictioneer took his own life in a moment of indescribable despair. In an instant, a bullet ended his life and forever stilled the flow of words streaming  from his battered Underwood typewriter. Here is an artistic interpretation of that fateful morning of June 11, 1936.

A common theme in Howard’s writings was life as being a relentless, brutal struggle as can been seen in such poems as “The Tempter” and “Lines Written in the Realization That I Must Die.” These poems deal with the subject of man wrestling with the issue of continuing to suffer under the yolk of futility or seeking death’s sweet embrace and the peace it brings. This theme has led to endless speculation by armchair psychologists and hack pastiche writers. But it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out Howard had an unhealthy preoccupation with suicide, which came to fruition on June 11, 1936. Here is one of those aforementioned poems wherein Howard struggles with the Tempter over the dilemma of his life — will it be life or death? Unfortunately the Tempter won.

The Tempter

by Robert E. Howard

Something tapped me on the shoulder
Something whispered, “Come with me,
“Leave the world of men behind you,
“Come where care may never find you
“Come and follow, let me bind you
“Where, in that dark, silent sea,
“Tempest of the world ne’er rages;
“There to dream away the ages,
“Heedless of Time’s turning pages,
“Only, come with me.”

“Who are you?” I asked the phantom,
“I am rest from Hate and Pride.
“I am friend to king and beggar,
“I am Alpha and Omega,
“I was councilor to Hagar
“But men call me suicide.”
I was weary of tide breasting,
Weary of the world’s behesting,
And I lusted for the resting
As a lover for his bride.

And my soul tugged at its moorings
And it whispered, “Set me free.
“I am weary of this battle,
“Of this world of human cattle,
All this dreary noise and prattle.
“This you owe to me.”
Long I sat and long I pondered,
On the life that I had squandered,
O’er the paths that I had wandered
Never free.

In the shadow panorama
Passed life’s struggles and its fray.
And my soul tugged with new vigor,
Huger grew the phantom’s figure,
As I slowly tugged the trigger,
Saw the world fade swift away.
Through the fogs old Time came striding,
Radiant clouds were ’bout me riding,
As my soul went gliding, gliding,
From the shadow into day.

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry.

Well, this year I’m sitting at home on my healing fractured hip instead of attending the Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards Ceremony in Cross Plains this evening. Since my social calendar is clear, I’m posting the winners; giving Brian a break this year. TGR contributor and guest blogger Jeff Shanks graciously agreed to e-mail the winners to me right after the ceremony, so without further ado, here are your winners of the 2012 Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards:

The Atlantean—Outstanding Achievement, Book

Winner: Ann Beeler for Footsteps of Approaching Thousands

The Valusian—Outstanding Achievement, Anthology

Winner: Dennis McHaney for Anniversary: Glenn Lord and The Howard Collector

The Hyrkanian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay

First Place: Winner: Rob Roehm for “The Vinson Papers,” Parts 1 through 10 plus Addendum, from the REH: Two-Gun Raconteur blog, posted July 2 through July 25, 2011

Second Place: Winner: Mark Finn for “Southwestern Discomfort” from the REHupa website, posted December 22, 2011

Third Place: Winner: Brian Leno for “Atali, the Lady of Frozen Death” in REH: Two-Gun Raconteur #15

The Aquilonian—Outstanding Achievement, Periodical

Winner: Glenn Lord for The Howard Collector #19

The Stygian—Outstanding Achievement, Website

Winner: Brian Leno, Rob Roehm, Damon Sasser, Keith Taylor for REH: Two-Gun Raconteur

The Cimmerian—Outstanding Achievement, Blog Posts

First Place: Winner: Rob Roehm for REH: Two-Gun Raconteur

Second Place: Winner: Damon Sasser for REH: Two-Gun Raconteur and REHupa Blog

Third Place: Winner: Brian Leno for REH: Two-Gun Raconteur

The Venarium Award—Emerging Scholar

Winner: Jeffrey Shanks — A former blogger on the defunct Cimmerian Blog, in 2011 Jeff was one of the more active posters on the REHupa Blog, had two articles published, and presented at the Popular Culture Association’s conference.

The Black River Award—Special Achievement

Winner: Rob Roehm for his work in tracking down information, photos and documents for Lone Scout of Letters, School Days in the Post Oaks and The Collected Letters of Doctor Isaac M. Howard.

The Rankin Award—Artistic Achievement in the depiction of REH’s life and/or work

Winner: Jim and Ruth Keegan for “Adventures of Two-Gun Bob” comic strip and covers for Spicy Adventures, Tales of Weird Menace and Steve Harrison’s Casebook.

The Black Circle Award—Lifetime Achievement

Winner: Dennis McHaney

The Black Circle Award—Nominees for next year’s Award

 To be announced.

The Crom Award—Board of Directors’ choice

No award given this year.

Now, how about a big round of applause for the talented winners of this year’s awards.

Editor’s Note: First, special thanks go to Jeff Shanks for the photo and awards results, plus kudos for winning the Emerging Scholar Award. Congratulations go to Brian and Rob who both made out like bandits at the Awards ceremony. And special thanks go to Brian, Rob and Keith, and guest bloggers Barbara and Patrice for their outstanding contributions to this blog and website. As for me, I am deeply humbled receiving The Stygian Award for Outstanding Achievement, Website and The Cimmerian Award for Outstanding Achievement – Blog Posts. It is an understatement to say I am eternally gratefully for all the support given to this website by you, the fans. Your continued support is greatly appreciated by all of us here on the blog.

Last month a woman from Oklahoma named Linda Jones e-mailed me and asked if I’d be interested in a photo of Harold Preece taken on the occasion of his 77th birthday. Also appearing in the photo was his lady friend, the poet Winona Morris Nation. Of course, I replied with an enthusiastic “yes.” The photo appears above and was given to Linda by her good friend Winona with the following inscription on the back:

Winona Morris Nation
Harold Preece on his 77th birthday
January 16, 1983
To Linda Poo: whom we love

“Poo’” was a nickname given to Linda in high school. Winona and Linda were very close – kindred spirits – even though Winona was old enough to be her mother. In addition to providing the photograph, Linda was kind enough to share her memories of Harold and Winona with us, giving Howard fans a rare insight into the later years in the life of one of Howard’s friends. I have incorporated those memories into this blog post.

Linda was friends with Harold too and they shared a common career – being newspaper reporters. Harold recounted to her his adventures as a newspaperman in Chicago. When they first became friends, Linda was a reporter for the Edmond Evening Sun, later the Daily Oklahoman, and as a stringer for the Dallas Morning News. Harold used to tell her he wished the two of them could have covered a beat together — just like the old days.

Of course, Harold Preece is known to Howard fans as a good friend of Robert E. Howard. Born in Austin, Texas on January 16, 1906, Preece was a journalist, writer and an expert on Texas history. Truett Vinson, who was already acquainted with Preece, introduced him to Howard at a 1927 get-together in Austin. However, Preece is often overlooked as a member of Howard’s inner circle due to the fact he was not from the Callahan County—Brown County area and moved around a lot, winding up in Mena, Arkansas attending college in 1931. Sortly afterward, Preece got in some hot water espousing his Socialist political beliefs and Howard’s last known contact with him was in the spring of 1932. For more on Howard and Preece, check out Rob’s outstanding “Harold Preece and Robert E. Howard” blog post from December of 2010. Linda remembers that Harold was still a Socialist in his later years, but not a true communist. She said he was an outspoken champion of the downtrodden worker and very much engaged in union causes.

Harold was immensely proud of his association with Howard, but since Linda was not a fan and knew little about the genre, she didn’t pay much attention to the stories he told. Imagine if she had; we’d have a new batch of Howard’s real life adventures.

Linda does not recall when or where Harold and Winona first met, but odds are it was some time after he moved from New York to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1972. As for Linda, she met Harold after he relocated from Oklahoma City to Edmond, Oklahoma in 1978. She fondly remembers him as the special gentleman friend of Winona. Their relationship was very affectionate and entirely platonic. Harold lived in a low rent housing complex near the university, about ten blocks from Winona.

Winona had what might have been called a “salon” in the old days. Writers of all ages and persuasions gathered at her modest home. Linda often referred it as a tree house. It actually was a second story garage apartment with an enormous tree shading the balcony on the back side. The pair had a large contingent of friends and they liked to give people nicknames. One young lady was called “Tall Susan” and Winona’s mentor, Dr. Cliff Warren was “Teacher.” He still lives and teaches in Edmond, Oklahoma. Harold had a nickname too – Winona always called him “Tex.” The two of them were always joking and making up stories about their friends.

Winona Morris Nation was born in Dryden, Oklahoma on May 7, 1919 to Thomas and Mae Morris. She had a sister and two brothers. Winona was Oklahoma’s “most famous unknown poet.” She won almost every poetry competition she entered but never had a book published during her lifetime. However, one of her sons had a slim volume of her poetry entitled If I Still Hold Earth As Dear published by Vantage Press in 2000.

Winona looked every inch the eccentric poet. She wore dramatic clothing, dyed her hair coal black and wore very pale makeup with black Barbara Stanwyck arched eyebrows, heavy black mascara and bright red lipstick. She turned heads everywhere she went. Winona smoked those little thin brown cigarettes for women that looked like a real skinny cigar (Virginia Slims?) Linda and Winona often went out to eat at local restaurants, and since Linda didn’t smoke, Winona would go up to perfect strangers and ask for a light; she never seemed to have a match or a lighter.

Her eyesight was poor and she had glaucoma. This combined to make things hazy and rosy, which she preferred to perfect eyesight.

She was married at least twice. Her first husband and the father of her three sons was Oliver Nation, Jr. However, Winona was in love with another man, a Native American who was killed in World War II. Her second husband, whose name she never mentioned to Linda, was a horrible, abusive man who would throw her poetry into the fireplace and burn it. Living with such a beastly man created a stressful situation that contributed to a nervous breakdown. After recovering from her mental breakdown, she started school at Oklahoma City University where she met Dr. Warren.

They both moved to Edmond to the University of Central Oklahoma where she earned her Master’s Degree. Her thesis, Under the Shadow of the Hawk, is available in the library there. In the late 1970s she taught creative writing courses in the English department. As a student Winona placed third in the National Collegiate Poetry Contest, behind poets from Princeton and Yale. As a professional writer she received the Lasky Literary Award, and was chosen as one of the Top Twenty Poets in America by Atlantic Monthly. Her poems were widely published in such magazines as The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly and Ebony. In 1991, she donated a large amount of her papers to her alma mater, the University of Central Oklahoma.

There was a time that Winona had no income. Like a Tennessee Williams character, she depended on the kindness of strangers and friends. Linda recalls that Harold fed her and gave her money from his meager retirement, as did Linda and Dr. Warren.  Also, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services paid her a small salary to do light housekeeping and cooking for Harold several days a week. Her children seemed to ignore her plight. Finally, her brother realized she was penniless and shared an inheritance with her from their father’s half-brother — oil money.

Possibly encouraged by Harold, Winona contributed a small batch of poems to Jonathan Bacon’s publications in the late 1970s (Fantasy Crossroads #13, Fantasy Crosswinds #2 and Omniumgathum). Cliff Bird also used two of her poems in Simba #2. Here is her poem “Leopard Night” from Fantasy Crossroads #13:

Leopard Night

by Winona Morris Nation


The golden leopard in the jungle night
Still stalked the leopardess he had been seeking
And found her waiting, compliant and unsurfeited
Beneath a banyan tree dripping black rain
A tympany orchestrating the growing feral rythmos
That had moved his loins to follow her.

In similitude we met,
In a room rented for the night
Where the sounds of nocturnal rains dripped like a Roman fountain
From the mansard roof; our temporary shield against the world.

And some old residual hunger slipped its noose
And dipped its tongue into forbidden water
there was upon my own
The taste of dripping banyan leaves.

Meanwhile, in the indifferent dreaming jungle
The wild things mated
And their unpremeditated consummation
Went unnoticed by strident cockatoos
As the rain fell like a benediction.

From the mansard roof we heard sibilant dripping
And the forbidden fountain was a blessing
Between your lips and mine
Now, day and the cockatoos are still chattering,
Feline and feral the gliding leopardess moves with subtle grace,
Still warm and tumescent with the memory
Of her mate between her thighs

I walk in the harried jungle of the citys morning
Where chattering people move in unison
Obeying the green and red of traffic lights
And I know I am more leopardess than woman,
feeling my silken stride become more supple and sensuous,
And my spots are shining as I remember.

Winona also corresponded with Glenn Lord. Here is one of her letters to him dated May 14, 1979:

May 14, 1979

Dear Glenn,

As Harold writes what will be his great book on Bob Howard, I’ll be seeing that he keeps healthy and happy. Harold is no carpetbagger like that other character with the elegant sounding name, but one of our own kind. He could write with equal ease and knowledge a biography of Bob or a history of the Southwest. Mr. D.C. can do neither without creating a sorry pastiche. I’m hoping that you and Harold can work out soon an arrangement for publication of his emerging fine work on his fine old friend.

Come see us soon.

Sincerely,
Winona

Of course, we all know Harold never completed his biography of Howard. Curiously, Harold’s papers were not donated to a university or other institution and Linda does not know what became of them.

Winona and Harold had a cat they named Mr. Kitty. They made up stories about his escapades. Being a Tomcat, he would disappear for days at a time, and that led to all sorts of story lines. Indeed, Mr. Kitty had an amazing life and traveled to the four corners of the earth in their imaginations. One day Winona found their beloved cat dead and she didn’t have the heart to tell Harold of his passing. They just continued to spin stories of his imaginary life and many loves.

Winona passed away October 30, 1992. Harold joined her in death just 25 days later on November 24, 1992. I find the romantic in me speculating that Harold, upon losing his close companion, could not live on without her and was ready to join her and Mr. Kitty for more adventures in the afterlife.

When I learned that TGR guest blogger and contributor to the print journal Patrice Louinet had won a “major award” — no, not one of those leg lamps from A Christmas Story —  but a bona fide, prestigious literary award, I asked him to tell us a little about the award and what it means. Here is Patrice’s reply:

What I won is the Special Award of the Jury (said jury constituted of critics, University professors and the like) for the 11th edition of the Imaginales (roughly, the French Fantasy Con.) four-day event, with an attendance of about 20,000 people. The trophy is a sort of iron, leather-gloved hand with a few metallic claws, holding a metallic quill.

The award was for my “work editing and translating Robert E. Howard” (that is to say, the books I edited and translated for my French publisher Bragelonne. (four of which, the Conan and the Kull were direct adaptations of the books I edited for WS/Del Rey), and the five others were created entirely by me.

This is the most prestigious award one can hope to get in the domain in this country, and a sort of official recognition that REH has been fully rehabilitated in that country. Or words to that effect.

And as icing on the cake, Patrice has just become a new father. So join me in congratulating him on these two major events in his life. No doubt he is residing on cloud nine — at least until a diaper needs changing!

Not one to rest on his laurels, Patrice has many projects in the works and has just completed an insightful essay on Breckinridge Elkins for the upcoming issue of REH: Two-Gun Raconteur #16, which is coming later this summer.

Photo (c) Emmanuel Beiramar – Fantasy.fr
This entry filed under Howard Scholarship, Howard's Fiction, News.