Archive for October, 2012

I’ve watched this disaster unfold all last week, then the formal detailed announcement came Friday as posted on the Deadline website. Universal, in conjunction with Paradox, has a new Conan movie in the works with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning at age 63 to reprise his role as Conan. The new film, being fast tracked for a 2014 release, will be titled The Legend of Conan. Paradox’s head honcho Fredrik Malmberg describes the premise of the film in this excerpt form the film’s announcement:

The original ended with Arnold on the throne as a seasoned warrior, and this is the take of the film we will make,” Malmberg told me. “It’s that Nordic Viking mythic guy who has played the role of king, warrior, soldier and mercenary, and who has bedded more women than anyone, nearing the last cycle of his life. He knows he’ll be going to Valhalla, and wants to go out with a good battle.

Evidently it has been some time since Fred has read the original Conan stories. Last time I checked he was still a Cimmerian and his god was Crom. Howard’s Conan would not want jump into a battle just so he can die and go to “Viking heaven.” He would much rather emerge victorious and save the dying for another day.

This “direct sequel” business has me puzzled too. They will have to explain how he got from being a young Conan to that final shot from the 1982 film with an aged Conan on the throne. Will we see a younger actor with Arnold’s face CGI’d onto his body act out various scenes from Conan’s past as he rises to king as a pirate, bandit, mercenary, seasoned warrior, leader of armies and his ascension to the throne of Aquilonia in a series of flashbacks?  Also, the movie-makers will pretend like 1984’s Conan the Destroyer and last year’s re-boot of Conan the Barbarian never existed. While some strickly Conan fans think this might be a good idea, I don’t get the logic behind it.

Arnold’s obviously too old for some version of The Hour of the Dragon adaptation. Age-wise he’s more suited to de Camp and Carter’s Conan of the Isles — which no Howard fan wants to see. We’ll have to wait and see what screenwriter and producer Chris Morgan comes up with as the film progresses — that is if he finishes the script for the new Fast and Furious movie he’s penning in time to write one or at least oversee another scriptwriter for this Conan, along with his producing duties.

While there was some hope the 2011 movie would at least make an effort to capture Howard’s Conan, it just wasn’t up to the task. Momoa was a pretty good Conan, but the script was a dog. In that case they had some 27 years to get it right and didn’t. I don’t see how they can do it in less than two years. As true Howard fans have learned from previous efforts, Conan is a property to Hollywood, but a treasure to us.

This entry filed under Howard in Media, L. Sprague de Camp, News.

We’ve all heard the story of how Isaac M. Howard (above) ended up in Texas and got his start in the medical field. For those that don’t remember, here’s L. Sprague de Camp in Dark Valley Destiny:

The stable organization of the Howard family was disrupted by the death of James Henry [Isaac Howard’s maternal grandfather] in 1884. Perhaps on the strength of their inheritance, the Howards decided to move to Texas; but before they could complete their plans, William Benjamin Howard [Isaac’s father] himself was stricken and died. Eliza Howard [Isaac’s mother, aka Louisa], determined to carry out her husband’s wishes, sold her property—fine timberland—for fifty cents an acre, and with her children headed west. In 1885 she located on a farm in Limestone County, between Dallas and Austin, near Waco. Mrs. Howard and her daughters, Annie and Willie, may have traveled to Texas on the railroad; but Dave [David Terrell Howard, Isaac’s older brother] and Isaac brought the family goods overland in a covered wagon with a group of other immigrants.

Mark Finn has similar information in Blood and Thunder:

In 1884, when James Henry died, William and Louisa decided to make their fortune in Texas. Before the move could be orchestrated, however, William Benjamin Howard fell ill and died in 1885. Louisa was undaunted by the setback, and she moved her six children (many of whom were now grown) to Texas. The women went by train, and Isaac and his older brother David took the family’s possessions by covered wagon. They settled on a farm in Limestone County, near Waco.

Both biographers go on to say that Isaac didn’t much like the farming life and, by 1891, decided to sell his stock in the family farm to his older brother, David Terrell Howard, and go into medicine.

Here’s de Camp:

In that same year [1891], Isaac Mordecai Howard became his own man. Tired of playing second fiddle to his brother David—described as a stern man who was hard to work for—and knowing little and caring less about working a Texas farm, Isaac decided to sell his share in the property to his brother and become a physician.

And Finn:

David assumed responsibility for the family, and proceeded to whip the farm into shape.  By 1891, Isaac Howard had decided that he was not cut out to be a farmer. He left the family farm, sold his share in the property to his brother, and decided to practice frontier medicine.

On a trip to Limestone County last year, I uncovered documents that support some of this, but that also add a confusing wrinkle or two.

In the county’s Reverse Index to Deeds, 1800 – 1931, I found reference to a couple of transactions between “I. M. Howard” and “D. T. Howard.” The first (at left) is dated March 28, 1885 at Prairie Hill, in Limestone County. It records the sell of “one half of a one hundred acre tract of land” from I. M. to D. T. for the princely sum of $140. D. T. put a down payment of “ten dollars cash in hand” and agreed to pay the rest by November 1, 1895. He may have been a bit late, as the next document (below) is dated February 12, 1898. In this second document, I. M. Howard says that the money has been paid and that he has “hereby released, discharged and quit claim unto the said D. T. Howard all rights, title, interest and estate in and to the property” that is described in the 1885 document.

Now, Isaac Mordecai Howard was most likely born in 1872, the date on his headstone, 1871, notwithstanding. That would make him around 13-years-old at the time of the 1885 agreement and 26ish when the 1898 document was signed. In 1891, when both de Camp and Finn suggest that Isaac sold out and began his medical training, he’d have been 19. It appears that the sale actually occurred in 1885; so, where does the 1891 date come from? Beats me.

De Camp suggests further that Isaac may have received his medical training through an apprenticeship with his uncle, Dr. James T. Henry. Let’s have a look at that medical training, a la de Camp:

Physicians of that day often welcomed their kin as medical students. Such associations with older physicians afforded young would-be doctors opportunities for observation, access to medical books, and such didactic sessions as the preceptor thought necessary in exchange for the apprentice’s help in maintaining the dispensary, cleaning the office, and tending the horse and buggy if there was one. After a few years, when the older man deemed his candidate worthy, he would issue him a certificate to practice medicine. For an ethical man with strong family ties, the certification by a kinsman would be a real throwing of the torch.

Polk’s Medical and Surgical Register gives its first listing of “I. Howard” in 1896 as practicing in Forsyth, Missouri, in Taney County, just over the Missouri line, a short distance from his uncle’s home in Bentonville, Arkansas [about 70 miles, as the crow flies]. It is unclear whether Isaac Howard apprenticed himself to his uncle or whether Dr. Henry had passed him on to another doctor in Forsyth. The dates suggest the former. If Isaac Howard had left Texas in the early nineties, when he turned twenty-one, he could have finished his training and been ready to set up his own practice by 1896.

The young physician did not long remain in Missouri. Perhaps he was homesick. Whatever his reasons, on April 19, 1899, Isaac M. Howard of Limestone County, Texas, was examined by the State Board of Medical Examiners in Texarkana, Texas, and awarded a certificate of qualification to practice medicine. Then he went home.

Finn condenses it down to this:

Isaac’s medical education, a combination of on-the-job training, apprenticeship to his uncle, himself a doctor, and attendance at a variety of schools, lectures, and courses, would spread out over the next four decades. His initial training took four or five years, and allowed him to practice medicine as early as 1896. From that time on, Dr. Isaac Howard moved frequently from place to place, venturing as far out as Missouri and back to the family farm in Limestone County again.

Sounds good, right? Just one problem—turns out de Camp is wrong again. True, “I. Howard” shows up in Forsyth, Arkansas, for the 1896 edition of Polk’s Medical and Surgical Register (above), but he also shows up ten years earlier in the 1886 edition (below; thank you Google Books). Further, Dr. James T. Henry is nowhere to be found in the earlier edition. So, is the I. Howard in these early editions of Polk’s our Isaac?

I guess there are two possibilities. Option #1: immediately after selling his share of the Limestone County farmland in 1885, Isaac went to his Uncle Henry’s place to start his apprenticeship and ended up listed in Polk’s at the tender old age of 14. Both editions of the register indicate that “No report received in answer to inquiry regarding graduation” for I. Howard. So, if this is Isaac Howard, he’s literally “practicing” medicine in Forsyth for at least ten years. Option #2: “I. Howard” is not our Isaac Howard. I lean toward option #2; I have trouble believing Isaac was listed when only 14.

Given this “new” information, let me spin a couple of scenarios that makes sense to me. The first listing of James T. Henry (seen above) in Polk’s (that I’m aware of) is in the 1893 edition, which has him in regular practice at Eagle Mills, Ouachita Co, Ark, population 250.  Henry was an 1873 graduate of the medical dept of the Univ. of Nashville, TN (hat tip: Rusty Burke). He shows up again in the 1896 edition in Millville, Ouachita Co., Ark, population 250. In 1898, he’s back in Eagle Mills. If the future father of Robert E. Howard was an apprentice of Dr. Henry’s, or anyone else for that matter, why would he be listed in Polk’s? Seems to me that he would have moved around with his uncle until he’d received enough training to strike out on his own or was making enough money to get by alone.

The second scenario is that Isaac Howard used brother Dave’s money to pay for training in Texas. (Dave’s headstone, from Mt. Antioch Cemetery, is above.) I like to have documents that support my suppositions, and, if I exclude the 1896 edition of Polk’s, I’ve got nothing to indicate exactly where Isaac M. Howard was between 1885 and 1898, when he was definitely in Limestone County, Texas, signing land documents. I have no problem believing he received medical training in the years in-between, because, according to de Camp: “In July 1899 the newly certified Dr. Howard presented his credentials at the courthouse in Fairfield, Texas, the county seat of Freestone County, adjacent to Limestone County, where his mother lived on the family farm near Delia.” If we exclude the 1896 Polk’s directory, we’ve got no reason to have Dr. Howard in Missouri.

What we do know, thanks to de Camp and Rusty Burke, is that the Medical Board of Examiners, Fifth Judicial District, State of Texas, done at Texarkana, Texas, April 19, 1899, I.M. Howard of Limestone County received his Certificate of Qualification to Practice Medicine in any or all of its branches throughout the State of Texas. We also know that three months later—July 20, 1899—as de Camp said, Dr. I. M. Howard filed his medical certificate in Freestone County (Physicians’ Certificates, Vol. A, p. 64; thanks again, Rusty). Where he received his training is, to me at least, still a mystery.

After he registered in Freestone County, Dr. Howard’s movements start to be a bit easier to track. There are still some gaps, but they’re not decade-wide gaps, at least. As the 1800s turned into the 1900s, Isaac M. Howard’s moves require some work. Perhaps I’ll get to them next time. I’ll let de Camp close out the 19th-Century and start the 20th:

For some reason Freestone County did not seem to meet Isaac Howard’s needs. While most of Texas was rushing southeast in 1901 to Beaumont, where a gusher had blown at Spindletop, starting the first big Texas oil boom, Dr. Howard headed northwest, where he filed his credentials in Montague County, just across the Red River from Indian Territory, which later became the State of Oklahoma.

UPDATE: After receiving Ed’s comment, I went back and found an Isaac Howard on the 1860 US Census in Webster County, Missouri. He’s 41, married to Esther, born in Rhode Island, and has “M.D.” listed under “Profession.” After the Civil War, the 1870 Census has the same Isaac as a “Farmer” in Swan Township, Taney County; the post office is listed as Forsyth and Isaac Howard appears to have been the enumerator—his name is signed at the top of the document as “Ass’t Marshal.” In 1880, he’s listed as a “Physician” in Oliver Township, Taney County. He’s 62 years old here. Most of the 1890 Census was destroyed in a fire, so no help there. All this would make Isaac 78 at the time of the 1896 edition of Polk’s Medical and Surgical Register. Seems pretty clear that the “I. Howard” in Polk’s is not our man.

Part One considered the Pathan warrior Yar Ali Khan who shared adventures with REH’s character Francis X. Gordon, known as El Borak. Both were born in the nineteenth century. Gordon’s adventures in the Middle East certainly take place prior to World War One (“Son of the White Wolf” excepted) and it’s averred that he was a gunfighter in the U.S.A. before he headed out to western Asia. Like Sam Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch, he found himself in a new west that was rapidly becoming civilized, and looked for pastures new.

REH’s story “The Fire of Asshurbanipal” does not feature Gordon, but another American adventurer, Steve Clarney. The yarn exists in two forms; one with a supernatural element in the shape of a Lovecraftian monster haunting the lost city, one without the monster. In both, Clarney’s comrade in adventure is – like El Borak’s friend – a big Pathan warrior named Yar Ali.

Just possibly they were the same man. Yar Ali might have ridden with Clarney before he met El Borak, or they might have become companions later. Before would be more probable. The Yar Ali of “TFoA” does not have the honorific “Khan” attached to his name, and he appears to be much younger than El Borak’s comrade.

There is no way to be sure. Internal clues to the time of “TFoA” are slight to non-existent. Nevertheless, there are a couple. Yar Ali is described in the opening sentence as firing a “Lee Enfield”. The Lee Enfield rifle was officially adopted by the British army in 1895. The short magazine Lee Enfield Mark I and Mark II were both in service by 1906. However, the Yar Ali Khan of the El Borak stories would surely have known Gordon by then, and his loyalty to the man was unwavering. (Rick Lai did a fine, thorough job of analyzing the characters and references, to Yar Ali, the Sonora Kid, and others such as Yasmeena and Lal Singh, in his “The Legend of El Borak”. He concluded that the Yar Ali who knew Clarney and the Yar Ali Khan who rode with Gordon were the same fellow. He could be right. But going over the stories I did find a few reasons to question that.)

Besides the Lee Enfield, there’s another internal clue to the date of “TFoA”. It’s slight, but it’s there. Clarney and Yar Ali first hear of the fabulous jewel of the title in Shiraz, from “an ancient Persian trader”. The trader heard it described by a dying man, “fifty years before”. The man was believed by the old trader to have come “from the northwest – a deserter from the Turkish army, making a desperate attempt to reach the Gulf.”

The Persian caravan had found him near “the southern shore of the Persian Gulf”. If he really deserted from the Turkish army, and came “from the northwest”, he might have been involved in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. That conflict was fought in two main areas, the Balkans and the Caucasus. Both are indeed “northwest” of the Persian Gulf and Arabia. Clarney and Yar Ali encountered the old trader “fifty years” after he’d listened to the Turk’s dying words. That would date “The Fire of Asshurbanipal” to 1927 or 1928.

Francis X. Gordon’s Yar Ali Khan (call him Yar Ali I) would have been a real old-timer by then.

The younger Afridi swashbuckler (Yar Ali II) from the brief back-story given in “TFoA” had been partners in adventure with Clarney for some years. They met in India, then wandered “up through Turkestan and down through Persia”. In the supernatural/weird version of the story (the one I prefer, by the way) Yar Ali declares at one point that he senses danger, and reminds Clarney that he’s sensed it before; “in a jungle cavern where a python lurked unseen … in the temple of Thuggee …” Clarney takes him seriously, as he’s learned to trust Yar Ali’s almost psychic instinct for looming danger. (Modesty Blaise’s henchman Willie Garvin has the same gift; his ears prickle.)

REH’s verse features what may be a third, separate Yar Ali. This one also bears the honorific “Khan”. If he is a distinct person, he’d be chronologically the first Yar Ali. He was possibly born in the early nineteenth century, since the verse describes a mass battle of Afghans against Hindu Rajputs. Or possibly they were Sikhs, as the Punjab is the Sikh homeland and Sikhism grew out of the Hindu religion. The verse in question first appeared in one of REH’s letters.

Now bright, now red, the sabers sped among the racing horde,
The Afghan knife reft Hindu life and leaped the Rajput sword.
Oh, red and blue, the keen swords flew where charged the hosts in whirls,
And as in dreams rang loud the screams of ravished Hindu girls.
And through the strife, where sword and knife clashed loud on spear and shield,
With sword in hand, Yar Ali Khan rode o’er the battle-field.
From heel to head the chief was red, the blood was not his own
In crimson tide his sword was dyed that had so brightly shone.

The Sikhs of the Punjab had taken control of Peshawar at that time, and the Afghans resented it. They attempted to retake it, led by Muhammad Akbar Khan, in 1837. At the resulting Battle of Jamrud, the Sikh commander, Hari Singh Nalwa, was killed. The above verse could conceivably refer to that fight.

Afterwards, Akbar Khan (a historical personage of note) appealed to the British for aid against the Sikhs, but it was refused. Akbar Khan then sought help from Tsarist Russia instead. The British decided they couldn’t have that – they feared Russian designs on British India – and so they actively supported the Sikhs. They also replaced Akbar Khan’s father, Dost Muhammad, with a puppet of theirs on the Afghan throne. They regretted it later. The result of their policy was the First Afghan War and the British army’s disastrous retreat from Kabul early in 1842. Perhaps that earlier Yar Ali Khan was in the thick of it as one of Akbar’s aides.

Call him Yar Ali III. He might have been thirty years old at the Jamrud fight. That would make his birth year 1807. He would have been thirty-five when he helped harry the British army to destruction in the appalling retreat from Kabul. Steve Clarney’s comrade of the 1920s could have been his great-grandson and namesake. It isn’t likely that an Afghan battle of any size against Rajputs and Hindus would have taken place after 1850, because by then India was under British control and the British held Peshawar. They were occupying Afghanistan too. Keeping its Amir on their political puppet strings to block Russia’s imperial ambitions seemed highly necessary: beyond Afghanistan lay British India.

Another verse of REH’s – “The Song of Yar Ali Khan” may refer to this hypothetical Yar Ali III.

These are the hills and the mountains
And the forests of Yar Ali Khan,
Every man’s hand is against me,
My hand is against every man!
Friends have I of my tribe only,
They follow me against my foe,
My foemen? Why, they are the peoples,
Above and beside and below.
English and Afghan and Russian,
And the swart Punjabi man,
All men are the foes of Yar Ali
Excepting Yar Ali’s clan.
But Yar Ali is strong and his sword is long,
And his tribe are men of war
And the fame of Yar has reached afar,
From Sikhland to Candahar.

It mentions “English and Afghan and Russian, and the swart Punjabi man” as Yar Ali Khan’s enemies, a situation rather more likely in the first half of the nineteenth century than in the second. The Punjab and Peshawar were under British control by then. After the First Afghan War, Akbar Khan died suddenly. It’s believed by many, including some serious historians, that he was poisoned by his jealous and fearful father. Supposing Yar Ali III had admired him and fought in his cause, Akbar’s death might indeed have brought him to think his only friends were those of his own clan. He’d have trusted nobody else after that – Afghans included.

Another poem by REH, although it does not mention Yar Ali Khan, does refer to an Akbar Khan. Its title is “The Tartar Raid”. It describes a battle on the “Oxus’s southern bank” against the raiders, with “the horse of Akbar Khan … the man who knew no fear,” placed “nearest the foe” to “guard the front.” That might have been Muhammad Akbar Khan. He was certainly an experienced soldier by the time of the battle against the Sikhs at Jamrud, and the Tartar raid of the poem might have occurred a few years before that. Yar Ali III might have been there; may even be the narrator of the poem.

Men of the Afghan hills we were, from Kabul to Delhi,
Warriors who well could sit a horse or wield the Khyber knife,
From Kabul and from Kandahar, from Balkh to Abazai,
Well skilled in border warfare, well trained in tribal strife.

The poem appears to be unfinished. The Tartars have ravaged the “cities of Yarkand” and left them ablaze. The survivors are fleeing west, and the narrator sees the plain filled with them, “half mad with fear.” (Yarkand is a region of Sinkiang, near the eastern Afghan border.) He declares that only one man in five escaped the devastated cities with his life, but the actual battle of the Afghans against the Tartars isn’t described, nor are we told who won. This blogger likes to believe the Afghans did, and that Yar Ali III was present. But we’ll never know.

As stated above, I like to believe that Steve Clarney’s comrade was a descendant (perhaps great-grandson) and namesake of the Yar Ali Khan who was (hypothetically) Akbar Khan’s aide. It’s conceivable that the name ran in their family, and that the grizzled grey wolf Yar Ali I was Yar Ali II’s grandfather. If he wasn’t that, he might at least have been a kinsman of Yar Ali II’s father. They were all Afridis, anyhow, and I’d hypothesize that their clan was the Zaka Khel. (One Conan story, “The Devil in Iron” features a superhuman demon of living iron named Khosatral Khel.) Rudyard Kipling mentions the clan in his poem, “Lament of the Border Cattle Thief,” only he spells it Zukka Kheyl.

They have taken from me my long jezail,
My shield and my saber fine,
And heaved me into the Central Jail
For the lifting of the kine.

It’s woe to bend the stubborn back
Above the grinching quern,
It’s woe to hear the leg-bar clack
And jingle when I turn!

The man’s pride is offended and he promises bloody retribution once he’s out.
Tis war, red war, I’ll give you then,
War till my sinews fail,
For the wrong you have done to a chief of men
And a thief of the Zukka Kheyl.

Robert E. Howard’s Yar Ali – or all of them – would have approved every word. El Borak’s comrade, I’m assuming, was born in 1858 and fought in the Second Anglo-Afghan war – perhaps even fired the jezail bullet that wounded an army doctor named Watson, who later recorded many of Sherlock Holmes’s cases. It’s probable that he was also among the leaders of the North West frontier rising of 1897, when the younger Yar Ali was two. Francis Xavier Gordon, a wild young Texan, had either just arrived on that fierce frontier, or was about to.

Further, more definite details can be found in REH’s El Borak stories.

Read Part One

Some members of REHupa were having an email chat about early trips to Cross Plains. This reminded me of a letter that Glenn Lord wrote to Oscar J. Friend, who was the agent for the Howard heirs at that time. Glenn was searching out Howard’s poetry for Always Comes Evening. The letter is presented below:

 13 June 1957

Dear Mr. Friend:

You might be interested to know what I have found in the way of Robert E. Howard material in the Brownwood-Cross Plains area. First, the Howard Memorial Collection is no longer at Howard Payne College—it remained there only a few years until Dr. Howard discovered that the material was being mutilated by students; so he carried it home with him forthwith. Dr. Howard had went to Ranger shortly after Robert’s death and went into co-practice with Dr. Kuykendall in the latter’s hospital there. Upon Dr. Howard’s death in 1944, Dr. Kuykendall found himself, to his surprise, the administrator of the Estate. I talked with him in Ranger and find that he is not being remiss by not answering his letters apropos the Estate but is not aware of anything of interest in his possession; no pictures and no material. He remembers Dr. Howard, shortly before his death, sending tear sheets and other material in a trunk to “Robert’s friend in California,” he believes that it was E. Hoffmann Price of Redwood City.

I did find, in the hands of the head of history department at Howard Payne, a previously unpublished poem entitled THE TEMPTER, probably one of the last Howard wrote. It has definite suicidal tendencies.

I could find fault with Mr. de Camp’s statement on page 7 of KING CONAN that Howard drove 30 miles into the desert and shot himself. From the CROSS PLAINS REVIEW, June 12, 1936, he walked out of his home, got into his car, shut the door, and shot himself—probably not over 15 feet from his house. Also, the Cross Plains area is not desert—it is rolling plains dotted with scrub oak and looked quite green to me.

From Lindsey Tyson of Cross Plains, who seems to have been Howard’s closest friend there, I obtained 2 snapshots of Howard, both better than the one that Derleth has. He also promised to look for other pictures he once had, including a portrait. Seems that pictures of Howard are really hard to find, took me 2 days of searching to turn up these.

I’ll send along the Mss. shortly. If I find something after I send them along, however, I will put it in the volume. I presume that you want the 10 copies of the book sent to you, but should like to know if Dr. Kuykendall gets one of those as I promised I’d see that he got a copy upon publication.


Glenn Lord

[Date-stamped: “JUN 17 1957”]

Last year, Rusty Burke and I wrote a piece for The Dark Man entitled “Gloria.” The essay was a study of Echla Ovie Laxson, who was Clyde Smith’s girlfriend in the mid-1920s and, according to Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, was the first girl Robert E. Howard ever kissed. At the end of that essay, Burke wonders, “Whither Echla?” At the time of our writing, the 1940 Census had not been released, so we ended with what we knew from Post Oaks and the 1930 Census; a recent search has turned up lots of details, including the 1940 Census, a couple of marriage records, and several listings in city directories. There’s enough “new” information to warrant this addendum. To wit:

In Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, Howard wrote that, in the midst of a pregnancy scare, Tevis Clyde Smith and Echla Laxson—“Clive” and “Gloria” in the novel—had “married and left town the same day,” with “Gloria” reportedly going to Kansas City. In her introduction to Report on a Writing Man, Novalyne Price Ellis gives us the real location: not Kansas, but Oklahoma City. A bit later in the novel, Howard tells us that “Clive returned. He had been in New Mexico, where he had kept in hiding until he heard that his wife had sued for and had been granted a divorce on the plea of desertion.”

Thanks to Charlotte Laughlin’s research notes in the de Camp files at the Harry Ransom Center, I knew the date of the marriage and was able to obtain a copy of the marriage certificate (at left) from the Brown County courthouse; the divorce records were not so easy. I called several counties in Oklahoma and had them search for Echla, without success. Then I stumbled on a few genealogy websites and found the following:

I’m not sure why my call to OK County didn’t turn this up. Thank goodness for the internet!

The next Echla sighting is in the 1930 Census; she is living in Oklahoma as the wife of William T. Hay with son William T., Jr (2.5 years old). That’s where Rusty and I ended our article, but the release of the 1940 Census, as well as other documents, has finally rounded out the life of Howard’s first kiss.

I couldn’t find Echla Hay in 1940; I did find William T. living in New Mexico with one of his children from a previous marriage. He is listed as “widowed”; William Jr, is not listed with him. After poking around some more, I found one Echla O. Geist living in “Davis town,” Oklahoma, with husband Charles C. and son Wayne T., 12-years-old. Like Echla Laxson-Smith-Hay, this Echla was also born in Texas and was the correct age—her son, too, was the correct age. Must be our girl. Armed with the new name, I did another search and found the Geists in a 1935 Enid, OK city directory. “C. Clarence” is the proprietor of Geist Drug Store. The 1941 San Angelo, Texas, city directory has “Chas. C.” working at the City Drug Store; his wife, “Echla E.” is “div. head Sears Roebuck & Co.” The 1946 Springfield, Missouri city directory has Echla Geist working at JC Penny—no other Geists are listed. In fact, there is no mention of a son in any listing; indeed, following Wayne T’s 1940 Census appearance, I have been unable to find any other documents related to him.

I had some trouble finding more on Echla, too. In his article, “The Mysterious Isle” (The Dark Man, vol. 3, no. 1), Patrice Louinet says that Echla died in Texas in the 1950s, and there is a family tree posted at that says just that; however, no source is given for the information: the only documents linked to the tree are the 1910 and 1920 Census forms. Curious, I searched the Social Security Death Index and turned up yet another Echla: Echla Jones.

Now, the Echla Laxson on the family tree has a birth date of May 5, 1908, but the Echla Laxson who attended Daniel Baker College with Clyde Smith wrote November 7, 1908 on her college forms; Echla Jones has the same birth date and, moreover, her Social Security number was issued while she resided in Oklahoma. Sounds like our girl to me.

A search for “Echla Jones” returned an April 12, 1946 marriage license for “Echla E. Geist” and Oliver W. Jones in Springfield, Missouri, where Echla is listed by herself in the 1946 city directory. So, either Charles had died or the pair had split up, presumably. Following their wedding, the couple appears to have moved to Natchez, Mississippi, where there is a “Jones, Echla L. Mrs. – slswn Byrne’s” and “Jones, Oliver W.—slsmn Pure Oil” listed in the 1950 city directory. In 1959, Oliver was promoted to “prod eng Pure Oil” and they lived in Houston, Texas. Echla Jones died in June 1985 in Fairfax, Virginia.