Archive for November, 2013

I’m on the road in Texas this week and realized that I haven’t posted anything here in a good long while. So, here’s a quickie, something that I just found today.

As most of us know, Robert E. Howard was born in Peaster, Texas, on January 22, 1906. Peaster is in Parker County and, back in 1906, the county seat, Weatherford, had several newspapers going. Most of the papers ran little columns about the surrounding communities on a very irregular basis. In The Weekly Herald, news from Peaster appeared as “Peaster Pencilings.” I found the following in that column in the paper for February 22, 1906; it might be the first reference to Robert E. Howard ever published.

1906 02-22 Weekly Herald-bu

This entry filed under Dr. Isaac M. Howard, Howard Biography.

Western TalesWho can forget that great line uttered by Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales, one of the best western movies ever made. Eastwood certainly made his mark and fortune starring in westerns, taking a chance on them when everyone told he was making a mistake by starting his own production company. In fact, he named that company “Malpaso,” which is Spanish for “bad step.”

In general, the genre of the western holds a special place in America’s heart. We are still a relatively young country and the rugged individual of the western hero personifies the protector of the defenseless against greedy, violent men – and even though flawed, the western hero triumphs because of his inherent heroic spirit.

The western held a special place in Howard’s heart as well. He lived in a time when the old west had faded, but yet wrote voluminously about it in his letters — almost as if he wished he’d been born 60 years sooner. The stories of real life gunmen, desperados and lawmen were always on his mind and toward the end of his life, he seemed to be moving more and more in the direction of writing a great western novel. In a letter to August Derleth, written in the middle of October 1934, he mentions a certain western novelette he had just finished writing, “The Vultures of Wahpeton.”

What I feel is one of the best stories I’ve ever written was a 30,000 word Western, the first draft of which I knocked off in two and a half days, but which I have my doubts if anybody will accept it. Yet I feel that if I ever do write anything of lasting merit it will be fiction laid in the early West. Some day I hope to be able to use the life of John Wesley Hardin, either as a biography, or a basis for a historical novel. I rate Hardin along with Billy the Kid and Wild Bill Hickok as the three greatest gunmen who ever lived. I use the word “great” advisably. A gunman of their type had to be more than merely a man whose hand was quicker and whose eye was truer than the average man. He had to be a man of extraordinary intelligence, a practical student of psychology and of human nature, and the owner of a keen analytical mind. I made this point clear in that latest western I mentioned above, though my main character was drawn from Hendry Brown rather than Hardin in that case. Gunmanship was more than a matter of muscular superiority.

Aside from Howard’s “weird westerns” (a subgenre he was a major contributor to), Howard’s straight westerns have not gotten the attention they deserve – fans are more familiar with his humorous westerns featuring Breckinridge Elkins and a few other humorous characters he created. Well, thanks to the REH Foundation Press, the straight westerns are finally getting their due. Western Tales is a definitive book of Howard’s straight westerns. For the first time, all the stories, verse, etc. is collected between two covers and not scattered across several volumes and fanzines, plus there are items previously unpublished in this volume. As usual, Rob Roehm has done an outstanding job of collecting and editing the material. To cap it all off, there is an introduction by the greatest living western fictioneer, James Reasoner, with the whole package wrapped in a cover by Tom Gianni.

The book is due out the in December and would make a fine Christmas present for either you or another Howard or western fan. Here are the contents:

Western Tales
Contents

Introduction

“Robert E. Howard: Western Pulp Pioneer” by James Reasoner

Western Tales

“Drums of the Sunset”
“John Ringold” (verse)
“The Extermination of Yellow Donory”
“Old Faro Bill” (verse)
“The Judgment of the Desert”
“The Sand-Hill’s Crest” (verse)
“Gunman’s Debt”
“The Devil’s Joker”
“The Feud” (verse)
“Knife, Bullet and Noose”
“Law-Shooters of Cowtown”
“Over the Old Rio Grandey” (verse)
“Wild Water”
“Cowboy” (verse)
“The Last Ride” (with Robert Enders Allen)
“The Vultures of Wahpeton”
“Vultures’ Sanctuary”
“Ace High” (verse)
“The Ballad of Buckshot Roberts” (verse)

The Weird West

“The Horror from the Mound”
“The Valley of the Lost”
“The Man on the Ground”
“Old Garfield’s Heart”
“The Thunder-Rider”
“The Dead Remember”

Essays

“The Strange Case of Josiah Wilbarger”
“The Ghost of Camp Colorado”

Miscellanea

“Six-Gun Interview” (Unfinished)
Untitled, “I met him first at the Paradise Saloon . . .”
“The Killer’s Debt” (Fragment)
Three Synopses (“Gunman’s Debt”)
“Wild Water” Timing
“The Devil’s Joker” (Alternate Version)
Untitled Synopsis (“The Vultures of Wahpeton”)

Juvenilia

“A Faithful Servant”
“‘Golden Hope’ Christmas”
“The Sonora Kid—Cowhand”
“The Sonora Kid’s Winning Hand”
“Red Curls and Bobbed Hair”
Untitled, “Madge Meraldson . . .”
Untitled, “The Hades Saloon . . .”
Untitled, “A blazing sun . . .”
Untitled, “The way it came about . . .”
Untitled, “The hot Arizona sun . . .”
Untitled, “Steve Allison settled . . .”
“Brotherly Advice”
“Desert Rendezvous”
“The West Tower”
“Drag” (aka Untitled, “It was a strange experience . . .”)

Notes on the Text

Complete ordering details for Western Tales can be found on the REH Foundation website. While you are there, check out the other available REH Foundation Press books and sign up for a Foundation membership, which entitles you to discounts on the books and other perks.