Archive for the 'Don Herron' Category

schultz medium pool of the black one robert e howard

Robert E, Howard’s “The Pool of the Black One” (Weird Tales, October 1933) features a magical pool that kills humans by transforming them into miniature statues.  There is firm evidence that the concept was borrowed from the works of Sax Rohmer and Robert W. Chambers, two authors whom Howard frequently listed among his favorite writers.

“Robert E. Howard’s Library” in Don Herron’s The Dark Barbarian (Greenwood Press, 1984) lists Sax Rohmer’s Tales of Chinatown (1922) among the books owned by Howard. One of the stories in this collection, “Tchériapin,” is a mixture of science fiction and supernatural horror. The title character was a Eurasian violinist who wrote a controversial composition with Satanic themes, “The Black Mass.”  The musician seduced a young model loved by an artist, Colquhoun. Deserted by Tchériapin, the woman eventually committed suicide. To avenge her death, Colquhoun strangled the violinist. One of the artist’s friends, Dr. Kreener, was a brilliant chemist who developed a scientific process that could transform a subject into a tiny statute. Kreener sought to cover up the murder by shrinking the corpse. In the conclusion, the tiny petrified cadaver returned to life in order to haunt Colquhoun by playing “The Black Mass” on a violin Although the resurrection wasn’t explicitly explained, the tale hinted that Tchériapin’s reanimation was due to a cloaked figure who may have been Satan in disguise.

sax-rohmerRohmer’s “Tchériapin” was possibly influenced by two stories in The King in Yellow (1895) by Robert W. Chambers, “The Mask” and “In The Court of the Dragon.” Both stories are connected to an artificial mythology revolving around the King in Yellow, a Satanic hooded figure dwelling among the black stars of outer space. “The Mask” featured Boris Yvrain, a sculptor who invented a liquid pool that could petrify human being into statutes. “In the Court of the Dragon” had an artist pursued by the spectre of a musician whom he killed in unrecorded circumstances. Playing organ music, the ghost transported his quarry to the cosmic realm of the King in Yellow.

Rohmer borrowed from Chambers the petrifying process, the artist and musician characters, and the shrouded Satanic entity. The surname Kreener may have been derived from Mr. Keene, the protagonist of Chambers’s The Tracer of Lost Persons (1906).  “Tchériapin” never detailed the exact nature of the petrifying process invented by Kreener. The chemist merely took the corpse into his laboratory and returned with a small statue.  The concept of a liquid pool only exists in “The Mask.” That fact raises the question of whether Robert E. Howard read “The Mask.”

In his letters, Robert E. Howard described Robert W. Chambers as one of his favorite writers. “Robert E. Howard’s Library” lists five books by Chambers: The Maid-at-Arms (1902), Little Red Foot (1921). America or the Sacrifice (1924), The Drums of Aulone (1927), and The Slayer of Souls (1920)/ The first four novels are historical adventures involving either colonial or Revolutionary War America. The depiction of the Native Americans in those books influenced the portrayal of the Picts of the Hyborian Age in “Beyond the Black River,” “The Black Stranger” and the fragmentary “Wolves Beyond the Border.” The Slayer of Souls is a supernatural thriller which pitted the American Secret Service against the cult of Erlik, the Mongolian god of the underworld. Chambers altered Erlik, an actual figure from Asian mythology, into a variation on the King in Yellow. While the King in Yellow vaguely paralleled Satan, Erlik was explicitly identified with Satan. Rather than lurking in Hell, Erlik resided on a dark stat called Yrimid.  The Slayer of Souls was a sequel to Chambers’s The Dark Star (1917) in which Erlik’s extraterrestrial abode sent forth telepathic emanations to Earth that resulted in World War I.  While there is no evidence in either Howard’s library or letters that he read The Dark Star, a recently discovered poem indicates that he did. “Whence Cometh Erlik” from The Robert E. Howard Foundation Newsletter (Volume 6, #3, Fall 2012) contained these lines:

Erlik the Dark Star,
Forerunner of war

Howard would use the cult of Erlik in several stories such as “The Daughter of Erlik Khan,” “Black Hound of Death” and “The Purple Heart of Erlik.” Howard’s “Dig Me No Grave” (Weird Tales, February 1937) mentioned the “Eight Brazen Towers” from The Slayer of Souls.   The story featured the Peacock King, a version of the Devil utilized by Howard’s friend and correspondent, E. Hoffmann Price, in stories like “The Stranger from Kurdistan” (Weird Tales, July 1925) and “The Word of Santiago” (February, 1926).

Howard gave the Peacock King an Asian appearance (like an idol of Erlik from The Dark Star) and dressed him in a yellow robe. This choice of wardrobe for the Peacock King was probably a subtle tribute to Chambers. Price’s avatar of the Devil was now a Peacock King in Yellow.

Even if Howard had never read Chambers’s The King in Yellow in its entirety, he could still have read “The Mask.” That short story was reprinted in the February 1930 issue of Ghost Stories. Howard was familiar with the magazine. It had published his story, “The Apparition in the Prize Ring,” in the April 1929 issue.

Howard probably read “The Mask” and recognized it as the inspiration for “Tchériapin.” Combining the petrifying pool from “The Mask” and the shrinking process from “Tchériapin,” Howard fashioned “The Pool of the Black One.” This wasn’t the only story by Howard that grew out of a conflation of elements from Rohmer and Chambers,

CasonPublished decades after Howard’s death, “Casonetto’s Last Song” (Etchings and Odysseys #1, 1973) featured Stephen Gordon and his friend, Costigan. The names are similar to John Gordon and Stephen Costigan from Howard’s “Skull-Face.”  One wonders if Howard simply confused the first name of the earlier John Gordon with his associate.

Giovanni Casonetto was an operatic singer who led a cult of Satanists. Witnessing Casonetto performing a human sacrifice in an underground chamber, Gordon eluded the pursuit of the singer’s underlings. Contacted by Gordon, the police arrested Casonetto. Gordon’s testimony at the trial resulted in the singer being sentenced to the gallows. After Casonetto’s execution, Gordon received a record in the mail. This was a recording of Casonetto singing the invocation of the Black Mass.  Foolishly playing the record, Gordon found himself in a trance in which he imagined himself as a sacrificial victim on Casonetto’s underground altar to Satan. Before the knife descended to dispatch Gordon in this nightmarish realm, Costigan rescued his friend by breaking the record with a sledgehammer.

Casonetto is Howard’s version of the violinist Tchériapin. Sax Rohmer based his musician on Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), a great violinist rumored to be both a Satanist and a womanizer. Seeing the historical connection, Howard made his diabolical singer an Italian like Paganini.

While “Casonetto’s Last Song” was primarily inspired by Rohmer’s “Tchériapin,” clear echoes of Robert W. Chambers’s fiction can be found in Howard’s story. Casonetto talks of “the red-stained altar where many a virgin soul has gone winging up to the dark stars.” The passage suggests that the devil made his abode among the dark stars like Erlik and the King of Yellow. There are also elements that suggest Howard was familiar with other stories collected in The King in Yellow besides “The Mask.” Stephen Gordon described his emotional state upon hearing the invocation of the Black Mass in the following manner: “In the darksome caverns of by soul, some blind and monstrous thing moved and stirred like a dragon waking from slumber.” Is the reference to a “dragon’ paying homage to “In the Court of the Dragon?” The title of Howard’s story, “Casonetto’s Last Song,” is also reminiscent of “Cassilda’s Song,” the poem that Chambers included as a preface to “The Repairer of Reputations,” the first story in The King in Yellow.

ky2At the very least, Howard was aware of the existence of The King in Yellow by 1930.  In that year, H. P.  Lovecraft mailed a copy of his essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” to Howard. The essay prominently mentioned The King in Yellow, but only summarized “The Yellow Sign” from that collection. The surviving Lovecraft-Howard correspondence was collected in A Means to Freedom (Hippocampus Press, 2009) edited by S. T. Joshi, David E. Schultz and Rusty Burke. In a letter to Lovecraft written around August 10, 1931, Howard made this remark: “Your splendid article — which I have re-read repeatedly — whets my appetite for the bizarre. Someday I must read ‘Melmoth” and the tales you mentioned by Blackwood, Chambers, Machen etc.”  Howard’s Melmoth reference is to Charles Robert Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), and need not concern us. The significance or the letter is that Howard hasn’t read at least one Chambers’s story discussed by Lovecraft prior to August 1931. Most likely this is “The Yellow Sign,” although Lovecraft’s essay briefly noted two other collections by Chambers, The Maker of Moons and In Search of the Unknown. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Howard read The King in Yellow collection prior to August 1931. However, he still could have read “The Mask” in Ghost Stories during 1930, and possibly read The King in Yellow after August 1931.

Rick Lai is accomplished essayist and author in the field of pulp studies. You can find his books on Amazon.com.

“The Pool of the Black One” painting by Mark Schultz
“Casonetto’s Last Song” illustration by Marcus Boas

sonya-en-rehtwogunraconteur

“Well, now, the Emperor Charles has given them Malta, and all the rent he asks is one insignificant bird per annum, just as a matter of form. What could be more natural than for these immeasurably wealthy Knights to look around for some way of expressing their gratitude? Well, sir, that’s exactly what they did, and they hit on the happy thought of sending Charles for the first year’s tribute, not an insignificant live bird, but a glorious golden falcon encrusted from head to foot with the finest jewels in their coffers. And — remember, sir — they had fine ones, the finest out of Asia.” Gutman stopped whispering. His sleek dark eyes examined Spade’s face, which was placid. The fat man asked: “Well, sir, what do you think of that?”

“I don’t know.”

The fat man smiled complacently. “These are facts, historical facts, not schoolbook history, not Mr. Wells’s history, but history nevertheless.”

— Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

Dashiell Hammett’s famous detective novel was published in 1930, while Robert E. Howard’s “The Shadow of the Vulture” first saw print in the pages of  The Magic Carpet Magazine for January 1934. As Don Herron wrote of REH, “He came into the fiction magazine scene virtually on Hammett’s heels.”  The glorious jewelled falcon that everybody in Hammett’s novel – and the legendary film noir starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor – is chasing, was fashioned by slaves of the Order of Saint John in 1530.

Gottfried von Kalmbach, a former Knight of Saint John, and the hell-for-leather adventuress Red Sonya, were an active partnership in that year, following the 1529 siege of Vienna. They had not only survived, they had sent Sultan Suleyman their defiance and the head of his fiendish henchman, Mikhal Oglu, the Akinji leader known far and wide as the Vulture. Suleyman had failed to take Vienna and left thirty thousand of his soldiers dead outside its inadequate walls. Gottfried particularly enjoyed that knowledge. For him it partly compensated for the loss of Rhodes, and the bloody defeat at Mohacs in Hungary.

More importantly still, it meant that Suleyman would not conquer Austria and then move against Gottfried’s own homeland, Bavaria.

haseki-huerrem-sultan-roxelaneThis was splendid, but Gottfried knew the Sultan would now reckon it a matter of pride to destroy him. As for Sonya, she held a similar conviction about her sister, now the Sultan’s favourite, Roxelana, Haseki Sultan, also known as Khurrem the Joyous, the Laughing One. To Sonya she was a slut. They had been girls together, when Roxelana was Alexandra Lisowska, daughter of a priest; Sonya knew her ruthlessness and malice. Besides, it would seem desirable to her to have her relationship to the red-haired warrior woman remain secret, and nothing holds secrets better than a grave.

They turned their faces west.

Their first halting place was the Holy Roman Empire – actually, as has been pointed out again and again, an empire of the German states, then ruled by Charles V. The Archduke of Austria, Ferdinand, was Charles’s younger brother – and Gottfried despised him. The big drunkard entertained hopes of making some sort of peace with his father, who considered him a disgrace to their ancient line. He travelled with Sonya to the von Kalmbach castle near Regensburg in Bavaria, hoping his conduct at the Battle of Mohacs and at Vienna would make a difference.

It did not. Gottfried’s father, Graf Rudolph von Kalmbach, would not see him and said that Gottfried might be fed in the castle kitchen if he so desired, since the Graf “had never refused beggars.” Sonya, for perhaps the only time in her wild life, kept her temper and humbled herself before the old man, pleading with him to relent and at least see his scapegrace youngest son. She assured him that whatever else Gottfried had done, he had borne himself in battle like one of his breed, at Vienna and elsewhere. Never, at any time, had he shown himself to be any sort of weakling, coward or traitor.

“I am somewhat pleased by that, at least,” Rudolph said. “He may not have wholly forgotten that he carries von Kalmbach blood, but he was guilty of murder while still a youth, and when I sent him to redeem himself as a Knight Hospitaller, he broke his sacred vows again and again before they degraded him and struck his name from the Order’s rolls. If he had fought at Armageddon and slain the Devil, I could not forgive him those faults.”

Sonya did not upbraid him. He had received her and spoken her fair. He said nothing about her morals, or even looked askance at her, much less called her a camp follower and worse, as some men had – not that they lived long afterwards. She saw past his harsh face to the grief Gottfried had caused him. She thought him obdurate and cruel, but clearly it was no good. She could not move him.

When she rejoined Gottfried, she found him completely, silently sober – in him a more disturbing sign than if he’d been wrecking a tavern, roaring drunk. His mother and brothers had not seen him either. His sister Verene was the only one who did, braving their father’s displeasure.

MHB90654Gottfried and Sonya departed for Italy. They had both been there before – Sonya in Milan, where she had saved the Duke of Burgundy from Louise of Savoy’s assassins, and Gottfried at the sack of Rome, where Burgundy had died. This time they visited the Republic of Genoa, a first for both of them. Shortly after being thrown out of the Order of St. John, Gottfried had incurred the wrath of the great Genoese admiral, Andrea Doria, but since then Doria had changed his allegiance from the French king to the Emperor Charles. In the light of his deeds at Vienna, Gottfried had hopes that Doria would let bygones be bygones.

That legendary fighting seaman had become the greatest power in his home republic since Gottfried last crossed his path. Then, in 1524, Andrea Doria had been serving the French king Francis I, as commander of his Mediterranean fleet. He had ordered Gottfried von Kalmbach to be summarily hanged if taken, the Bavarian having plundered a Genoese ship. Since then Doria had become disenchanted with the French monarch’s meanness, like the Duke of Bourbon, and when his contract with France expired, in 1528, he entered the service of Francis’s foe, the Emperor Charles.

He had once helped place his native city under French domination. Now, with the help of some leading citizens, he briskly kicked the French out, establishing Genoa as a republic once more, under the aegis of the Empire. By the time Gottfried and Sonya arrived, Andrea Doria had reformed the constitution and ended the factional strife which weakened the city – a major achievement – by creating a new ruling class from the city’s main aristocratic families, twenty-eight “Alberghi” or clans. He declined the rule of Genoa, but the council appointed him “perpetual censor”, in the ancient Roman meaning of the title and not the modern one; the officer responsible for the census, and to an extent for state finances. Genoa awarded him two palaces, and the title “Liberator and Father of His Country” in addition.

Gottfried and Sonya found the city buzzing with news of the Bavarian’s former Order, the Hospitallers or Knights of St. John. The Emperor Charles had offered them a new base on his possession, Malta. His only conditions were that they devote themselves to fighting the Turks, which was their raison d’etre anyway, and garrison Tripoli in North Africa. The rent for the Maltese Islands was to be purely nominal; a falcon each year.

Kniphausen-HawkThe Knights decided to show their appreciation with, as Gutman tells Spade in The Maltese Falcon, a magnificent golden bird crusted with the finest jewels.  Naturally they kept the nature of the first tribute to the Emperor Charles a close secret.  So far as almost everybody knew, they were despatching an ordinary live peregrine falcon to Charles’s court.  Such would all subsequent rent-falcons be, and delivered to the Emperor’s Viceroy in Sicily, but not the first, priceless, one.  That was going to Genoa in the Knights’ own galleys.  Philippe Villiers de L’Isle Adam, the Grand Master, knew quite well that Sicilian Viceroys as a rule were incompetent, crooked, or both.

The payment was due on All Saint’s Day – November 1st – which was imminent.  The frustrated Turks had quit the siege of Vienna on October 14th the year before. Gottfried and Sonya had taken a well-deserved holiday after Vienna and the miserable visit to Ratisbon, getting to know each other and build their relationship, in bed and out.  They arrived in Genoa about a year after the siege of Vienna was lifted and the falcon was about to be delivered.

Andrea Doria was among those who knew about the jewelled bird. A great personage, a great fighting seaman, and a friend of the Emperor (now) he was asked to deliver it to Charles’s court after the Order’s galleys brought it to Genoa. He agreed. But upon hearing that Gottfried von Kalmbach was in the city, with his warrior mistress Red Sonya, Doria jumped to the conclusion that they knew about the jewelled falcon themselves – doubtless through indiscreet friends in the Order – and were planning an audacious theft. He had Gottfried hurled into prison.

Gottfried thought it was a matter of his attack on a Genoese merchant ship in 1524. He pleaded his recent brave services to the Emperor Charles’s brother at Vienna and asked for leniency. Not a spiteful fellow, and loving brave men even they were vagabonds and rogues, Andrea Doria felt inclined to issue a pardon on account of Vienna and Mohacs, but he still suspected Gottfried of designs on the falcon. He decided von Kalmbach would be safer in a dungeon until the bird was delivered, and that sweating it out a little would do his character no harm.

BarbarossaHe was right to fear for the security of the falcon, but he had looked in the wrong direction. On Malta itself, in the workshops where the gemmed golden bird had been wrought, someone had betrayed the secret in hopes of reward. The corsairs of Algiers knew about it – specifically, the greatest of them all, Khair-ed-Din, whom the Christians called Barbarossa (Redbeard). “Khair-ed-Din” was an honorary title meaning “Goodness of the Faith”, but his personal name was Khizr. His older brother Aruj, who died in 1518, had been known as Barbarossa before him. They and their other sibling Ishak had wrested Algiers from the Spaniards in 1516, and founded the corsair state which would still be a menace in the 18th century. In 1519 Khair-ed-Din, the last surviving brother, defeated a Spanish-Italian army that came to retake Algiers, and he raided Sardinia, Italy and Spain throughout the 1520s.

He wanted the falcon for a pirate’s reasons, but he had become a statesman too. Based on Malta, the Knights could curtail his raids and even threaten Barbary. If Barbarossa seized the falcon, their first year’s rent to Charles, and it became a trophy in Moslem hands, the Order’s humiliation would be intense. The Emperor might even doubt they were worthy of his support, and change his mind about giving them Malta.

Sultan Suleyman, of course, would be delighted.

Aflame with predatory, violent energy even though he was past fifty now, Khair-ed-Din led a squadron of pirate galleys eastward, past Sardinia into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Knights of St. John had begun their voyage to Genoa with the falcon, in a squadron of their own galleys, rowing up the east coast of Sicily through the Straits of Messina. From there they followed the Italian coast to Naples and the port of Rome, Civitavecchia. (After the Sack of Rome in 1527, Pope Clement VII had been forced to cede Civitavecchia to the Empire.)  Upon setting forth again, the Knights found themselves beset by Barbarossa in a no-quarter sea fight.

Red Sonya in the meantime had not been passive or idle. She spied, bribed, threatened, committed assault, and for all we know, seduced, to spring Gottfried from prison. She had friends at the Sforza court of Milan, less than eighty miles north of Genoa, from her eventful months there in 1525, and they may have assisted. Gottfried knew about the jewelled falcon by then. Andrea Doria had told him about it while questioning him, thinking it would do no harm since he fully meant to keep the German under lock and key until the falcon reached its proper destination.

andrea-doria-piombo-smallThere was a Venetian galley in port. Sonya had paid its captain to take them out of Genoa when he departed; he was bound for Crete and then home. Andrea Doria nearly burst when he heard that Gottfried had escaped, with the information he had, and set out in pursuit with a full squadron of galleys, in person.

The Venetian galley’s captain had a guilty conscience over many dealings with the Barbary corsairs. Seeing the ships following hard, and the standard of Andrea Doria at the forefront, he supposed they were after him. Had he known Gottfried and Sonya were the admiral’s quarry, he would have handed them over – or tried, despite the casualties it would have meant – but they didn’t enlighten him. Racing across the Tyrrhenian Sea, they ran straight into the desperate fight between the Knights of Malta (carrying the falcon) and Khizr Khair-ed-Din Barbarossa himself.

The knights were getting the worst of it. The Barbary galleys, with a single bank of oars each, also carried a cannon at the bow and a swivel gun on each side. At the stern was an enclosed roofed area to shelter the company of Janizaries (a hundred or more) that a corsair galley usually carried for a boarding action. The Knights too were expert sea-fighters, with a fleet of galleys, but in this instance they were somewhat outnumbered, and up against Barbarossa.

Sbonski_de_Passabon-Galeasse_a_la_voileGottfried had encountered the veteran corsair before. Before he was twenty, Gottfried had been in a sea-fight against a squadron of galleys Khair-ed-Din commanded, and now he faced the master of Algiers again. The Venetian captain, seeing the sort of battle that faced him, gave orders to turn and flee, but Gottfried countermanded the order with a sweep of his huge broadsword. The captain fell dead. The Venetian galley, under new command, went into the thick of the fight with Andrea Doria’s squadron close behind.

The result was a furious, no quarter combat, the Maltese and Genoese galleys against the Barbary corsairs, with Gottfried and Sonya in the middle. Not even in his years with the Order had the huge German known a sea-fight so savage, on which so much depended. Sonya had seldom trod the reddened deck of a galley, but she had still known fierce water-borne fighting, in her Cossack days. The Cossacks had already begun raiding across the Black Sea in their low, keelless longboats, called chaika (seagulls) which carried about seventy men each, moved very swiftly, and were hard to see before they came to grips with their prey. Sonya had participated in several such forays.

Laureys_a_Castro_-_A_Sea_Fight_with_Barbary_CorsairsAs on the walls of Vienna, she fought beside Gottfried, with Turkish arrows hissing in the air and Turkish matchlocks barking death. The Janizaries hurled their grappling irons, which thudded and bit into timber, and then they sprang to the attack, their scimitars and spears spilling red. Gottfried’s great two-handed sword dealt death, severing arms and splitting heads, while Sonya’s Cossack sabre opened limbs with wounds that emptied her foes of blood in moments, or cut throats to the spine with lethal drawing cuts. Even mail coifs and steel casques failed against her wicked expertise. She blinded men with a stroke across the face, or caved in wind-pipes through mail with the back of her sword. When Turks went down under her feet, she, like Gottfried, ruthlessly stamped out their lives. When she or he met difficulties, the other was always there to give aid.

In the end, wounded, gasping, they saw the Algiers galleys withdraw across a growing gap of reddened water. The Knights and Andrea Doria combined had been too much, for once, even for Barbarossa. The incomparable prize of the jewelled falcon remained with the Knights, and was duly delivered to Charles. It did vanish in the end, and many covetous people searched for it, a prize that had become a legend. Men were still killing for it in the twentieth century, as Dashiell Hammett records.

But in the sixteenth, Andrea Doria had to acknowledge he would never have arrived in time if he had not been pursuing Gottfried and Sonya so hotly. He paid his debt by letting them go. They probably troubled the waters between Spain and North Africa for a while, in the Venetian galley, with a crew of slaves freed from Barbary oar-benches. They may have perished together in another sea-fight, or made their restless way from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, or even crossed the Atlantic to Brazil and Mexico.

Wherever they went, this much is sure. They raised hell, and they lived before they died.

Artwork by Jim Silkie and others.

Read Part One, Part TwoPart Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten

This entry filed under Don Herron, Howard's Fiction.

EPSON MFP image

A third of the 200 copy print run of new issue of The Definitive Howard Journal sold in the five days since its publication this past Friday. Issue number 17, with its stellar line-up of rare Howard fiction, essays, articles, reviews and artwork is quickly being snapped up by hungry Robert E. Howard fans. So don’t procrastinate and be left on the field of battle with an empty scabbard, order your copy today!

REH: Two Gun Raconteur No. 17 Contents:

Front Cover: “…a fierce exultation swept her as she felt the edge cleave solid flesh and mortal bone.” From “Red Nails” by Michael L. Peters

Inside Front and Back Covers: Scenes From “Spears of Clontarf” by Stephen Fabian

Back Cover: Skull-Face by Terry Pavlet

“The Stones of Destiny” by Robert E. Howard, illustrated by Nathan Furman

“The Diabolical Blonde” by Rob Roehm, illustrated by Clayton Hinkle

“What the Thak?: Anthropological Oddities in Howard’s Works” by Jeffrey Shanks, illustrated by Clayton Hinkle

“Non Sequiturs Inside the Academy Gates” by Don Herron

“Robert E. Howard’s Heroes of the Desert: A Portfolio” by Bob Covington

“Robert E. Howard and Past Lives: Reincarnation, Dreams and Race Memories” by Barbara Barrett, illustrated by Richard Pace

“Apocalypse on the Liffey” by David Hardy, illustrated by Robert Sankner

“Ernest Hemingway, Robert E. Howard and Battling Siki: Typewriters and Fists” by Brian Leno, illustrated by Bill Cavalier

Price: $25.00, US postage paid.

Order and Pay Via PayPal:

EPSON MFP imageWhile Robert E. Howard’s anorexic super villain, Skull-Face has mellowed a bit with age, he is still pretty ornery. So you don’t want to get crossways with him. Since his ghastly visage graces the back cover of the new issue (courtesy of artist Terry Plavet) and he is obnoxiously vain, he wants you to buy the issue or else.

In addition to the portrait of ol’ skin and bones, the issue kicks off with a fantastic color cover by Michael L. Peters, followed by a hard-to-find Howard story and essays and articles by Barbara Barrett, Dave Hardy, Don Herron, Brian Leno, Rob Roehm and Jeff Shanks.

Of course there is the usual great line-up of artwork in the new issue of The Definitive Robert E. Howard Journal by the likes of Bill Cavalier, Bob Covington, Stephen Fabian, Nathan Furman, Clayton Hinkle, Richard Pace, Terry Pavlet and Michael L. Peters.

So scrounge through those couch cushions and dig out those stray pazoors so you can buy TGR #17 and not wake up to find Skull-Face hiding behind your curtains.

XXX_025L_Stephen_Fabian_Spears_of_Clontarf_Plate_IIIAfter a one year hiatus, The Definitive Robert E. Howard Journal is returning this summer with a new issue. TGR #17 is shaping up to be one of the best issues ever, with a cover that will knock your sandals off.

In addition to a rare piece of Howard fiction, issue 17 features essays and articles by Barbara Barrett, Dave Hardy, Don Herron, Morgan Holmes, Brian Leno, Rob Roehm, Jeff Shanks and others.

And as always, lots of great artwork will appear in the new issue by the likes of Bob Covington, Stephen Fabian, Nathan Furman, Clayton Hinkle, Terry Pavlet, Michael L. Peters and others.

So set aside some pazoors and keep a lookout on this blog for further updates and ordering information.

This is one issue you won’t want to miss!

Norris Chambers

September 6, 1917 — March 22, 2013

Howardom lost perhaps its last living link (there are a few elderly ladies who may still be living) to Robert E. Howard this past Friday when Norris Chambers left this mortal coil at the age of 95. To say he was a friend to Howard would be an understatement — he was a friend to all Howard’s fans as well. Despite his advanced age, Norris was always happy to hear from Howard Heads and always promptly replied to their inquiries. He was certainly very helpful to me by supplying a wealth of information on Howard I needed for several research projects. He was an oracle of sorts, a fount of knowledge with an amazing memory. He was also a raconteur himself, a musician, a Mason, a teacher and very active in various community organizations. We stayed in contact pretty regularly — I am going to miss corresponding with him.

Here is the Obituary for Norris from The Grizzly Detail newspaper:

Norris Roe Chambers, 95, of White Settlement, Texas passed away March 22, 2013. Visitation will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 26 at Baumgardner Funeral Chapel located at 3705 Highway 377 South, Fort Worth. Masonic graveside service will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27 at Wolf Valley Cemetery in Brown County.

Norris graduated from Cross Cut High School and Fort Worth’s Brantley Draughon Business College. In his teens he put his skills as a typist to work for family friend and writer Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, and later worked for W. Lee O’Daniel as an engineer, recording transcriptions of The Hillbilly Boys radio shows for broadcast over Mexican radio station XEPN. Norris served briefly as a Merchant Marine during World War II. He owned and operated radio and television repair shops, operated a one-man printing shop for nearly 40 years, and retired from General Dynamics as an Electronic Technician after 28 years of service.

Norris served on the White Settlement ISD Board of Trustees for 13 years, and on the City of White Settlement Board of Adjustments and Appeals and Civil Service Commission. He was a member and past Secretary and Treasurer of the White Settlement Area Chamber of Commerce, a member and past president and vice president of the White Settlement Historical Society, and he helped establish the White Settlement Historical Museum and served as a curator and treasurer of the museum. Norris was also a member of the White Settlement Lions Club in the 70’s and 80’s, and worked for the city, school and county elections for 32 years.

With Clyde Morrow, Norris established the monthly White Settlement Musical Show, which ran for about 5 years in the 70s, and served as past president of the Texas Bluegrass Association. In the early 90’s Norris wrote a regular column appearing on Startext, an electronic information service. He maintained a website of his short stories and remembrances under his nom de plume “The Old Timer” at www.norrisc.com and wrote a weekly tale for local paper “The Grizzly Detail.” During the mid 1990’s until 2011 Norris was active in these musical groups at the White Settlement Senior Services; The Dukes of Ukes and the Ukeladies, The Modulators and The Golden Strings. Many video clips are posted on YouTube of The Modulators and The Golden Strings performances. For a few years he taught computer classes at the White Settlement Senior Services Center and filled in as an instructor in one guitar class.

Norris joined the Masonic Lodge (White Settlement Lodge No. 1372) in 1962, received the Golden Trowel award in 1991 and received his 50 year pin in 2012; he was active in the W. Steve Cooke Chapter of the Demolay for several years, was active in the Eastern Star Chapter No. 1053, and was a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge during the 1970s into the 1990s. Norris received the White Settlement Volunteer of the Year Award in 2000, was named an Honorary Brewer Ex in 2001, received the City of White Settlement Mayor’s Community Spirit Award in 2006 in recognition of his Old Timer Stories Series and White Settlement Historic Preservation. In 2012 the White Settlement City Council proclaimed September 6 to be Norris Roe Chambers Day. Norris was named a Director Emeritus by the White Settlement Area Chamber of Commerce in 2013 for his years of service and membership in the organization dating back to 1956.

The family would like to thank Vitas Hospice Care, Team 3 and volunteers for their care and assistance.

Norris was born in Cross Cut, Texas on September 6, 1917, to Martha and Dr. Solomon Roe Chambers. On May 16, 1939 he wed Ella Moselle Sudderth of May, Texas. Norris was preceded in death by his father, Dr. Solomon Roe Chambers, his mother, Martha Williams Chambers, his brother Thomas, sisters Deoma Morgan and Winnie Chambers. Survivors: Wife, Ella Chambers; children Dr. Dianne Blankenship and husband David, Patricia Chambers, Veronica Durnell and husband John, and Roger Chambers; grandchildren Sandie Dickens, Kathy Walters, Lisa Baker, Kelly Sustaire, Karli Sustaire; great grandchildren Zachary Swope, Christopher Baker, Jonathan Baker, Ella Sustaire, Martha Sustaire, Timothy Sustaire and Joseph Sustaire; nephew Rex Chambers and niece Marjorie Leeton.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the White Settlement Masonic Lodge No. 1372 (655 Mirike Drive, White Settlement, TX 76108) or the charity of your choice.

Leave a message and sign the online Guest Book for Norris.

Read an entry from Norris’ collection of Old Timer’s Tales about typing Conan stories for Howard.

Here are links to posts, tributes and articles about Norris:

I Knew Robert E. Howard” by Damon C. Sasser

Norris Chambers, 1917 — 2013” by Al Harron

Norris Chambers Honored by City Leaders” from The Grizzly Detail

Enjoy some YouTube videos of Norris showing off his musical talents.

norris1c

Here is a link to Norris’ final “Old Timer’s Tale,” published posthumously on his website. Norris told us many tales and left us wanting more.

November 17, 1931 — December 31, 2011

This week all posts will pay tribute to and provide remembrances of this giant of a Howard fan and scholar who entered the hallowed Halls of Valhalla too soon. So join us as we celebrate the life and work of Glenn Lord.

Obituary

Glenn Lord passed away on December 31, 2011. He was born on November 17, 1931 to the union of LeRoy and Lurline Lord in Pelican, LA.  Glenn served his country dutifully during the Korean War.  He retired from Champion Paper. He was also famous in own right as literary agent for Robert E. Howard.  He is preceded in death by his parents.  Glenn is survived by his wife of 54 years, Lou Ann and son, James Lord and wife Lynn and daughter, Glenda Felkner and husband Andy.  He is further survived by four grandchildren, Stephen Cupples, Alan Nabors, Danielle Smith and Ryan Smith.  Glenn was a member of Spirit Life Church of God. Reverend LeRoy Butts will officiate services and final interment will be at Rosewood Memorial Park with honors well deserved.

Funeral Arrangements:

Glenn’s funeral will be Thursday, 10:00 am, at the Rosewood Funeral Home, 3939 Pasadena Boulevard, Pasadena, Texas 77503. Phone: (713) 920-2171. Website: http://www.rosewood.cc/. There will also be a viewing on Wednesday evening from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Burial will be at Rosewood Memorial Park Cemetery, 2602 S. Houston Avenue, Humble, Texas 77396.

Sign the Guestbook

Links to Online Tributes

Thoughts About Glenn Lord by Mark Finn

Glenn Lord — 1931 — 2011 by Dennis McHaney

The First Scholar Passes by Al Harron

Glenn Lord, 1931 — 2011 by James Reasoner

Glenn Lord, Nov. 17, 1931 — Dec. 31, 2011 by Barbara Barrett and John O’Neill

RIP Glenn Lord by Keith West

Glenn Lord, The Greatest Howard Fan, 1931 — 2011 by Al Harron

Glenn Lord 1931 — 2011 by Dave Hardy

Obituary: Glenn Lord by Steven Silver

Glenn Lord (1931 — 2011) at Locus Online

Glenn Lord: Another Giant Passes by Mike Chomko

Two-Gun Bob: Into the West by Don Herron

Godspeed, Glenn Lord by Brian Murphy

Glenn Lord, Howardian Herald 1931 — 2011 by Chris Gruber

On the Passing of Glenn Lord by Frank Coffman

Glenn Lord the Man Who was My Footprints by David Houston

Robert E. Howard scholar and publisher, Glenn Lord, dies from BFS Website

Glenn Lord, November 17, 1931 — December 31, 2011 from THEBOOKISHOWL.COM

Glenn Lord: 1931 — 2011 by Patrice Louinet (in French)

He was Our Great and Gracious Friend by Bill Cavalier

Listen to an Interview with Glenn Lord

If you would like to send your condolences to Glenn’s family,  you can mail them to:

The Lord Family
P.O. Box 775
Pasadena, TX 77501

Read Glenn’s Biography

Anniversary: Glenn Lord and The Howard Collector

We have Dennis McHaney to thank for this tribute published on Glenn’s 80th birthday. This handsome volume focuses on Glenn as agent, author and editor, and his ground-breaking Howard journal, The Howard Collector. This anthology contains tributes from Don Herron, Morgan Holmes, Roy Thomas, Dennis McHaney, Patrice Louinet, Fred Blosser, James Reasoner, Frank Coffman, Rusty Burke, Leo Grin, Paul Herman, Bill Cavalier, Damon Sasser, Barbara Barrett, and Rob Roehm, plus a history of The Howard Collector with index by McHaney, and five works of Howard fiction from the pages of that journal This book is available in both hardback and paperback from Lulu.com.

Now more than ever, this is a must-have for any fan of Glenn and Howard.

Thanks go to Bill Lampkin of ThePulp.Net for loading up the audio interview with Glenn linked above.
(This post updated 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, 1/7 & 1/8)
This entry filed under Don Herron, Glenn Lord, Mark Finn.

The Robert E. Howard Foundation has just announced on their website that pre-orders are now being taken for Mark Finn’s new edition of Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. In this new edition, Mark takes a broadsword to many of those tired, outdated myths that have grown up around Howard and his fictional creations. Armed with twenty-five years of research and a wealth of historical documents, Finn paints a very different picture from the one that millions of fans of Conan have been sold throughout the years.

Using quotes from Howard’s own letters, first-hand accounts, interviews, and meticulous research, Mark shows that Howard was, in fact, a product of his time and place in rural Texas, and that his legendary fiction was shaped by Texas history, folklore, and Howard’s incomparable imagination.

The updated and expanded second edition is more complete and up-to-date with new information discovered since the book was initially published in 2006, as well as more detailed examinations of some of Howard’s most famous and important characters and stories.

Mark was kind enough to take time out from his busy schedule to answer some questions on his new edition of Blood & Thunder and give us all some insight into what this updated Howard biography is all about.

TGR: First, why a new edition of Blood & Thunder?

Mark: Oh, well, it’s no secret amongst the movers and shakers of Howard studies and Howard fandom that there are some errors, both technical and factual, in the first edition. All unintentional, of course, but remember, I had to write it while the Centennial loomed nigh. So, I went fast, and Monkeybrain went fast, and we all pulled together and got it out in time for the World Fantasy Convention, which was in October of that year. Any later and we would have missed the deadline. So, unintentionally, some errors crept in from earlier drafts, and some wonky sentences didn’t get fixed.

And then, in 2006, Don Herron rediscovered Doc Howard’s medical books. And then Rob Roehm started uncovering tidbits here and there (and he’s still doing it). And then in 2007 or 2008, I forget which, Patrice Louinet managed to pinpoint when Howard and his family were in New Orleans, and the serendipitous discovery that led to, and oh, hell, there’s new stuff now! So, I was already keeping an error file, for fixing, and I kept my slush pile and my notes for some things I either decided not to include for space or time purposes, and all at once, it occurred to me: a second edition! That would fix everything!

And that’s how it all got started. It took a while for me, because I was shopping the hardcover hither and yon. For a while, I entertained the notion that Del Rey would release it along with their other REH books, but that fell through. In any case, I’m very happy that the Foundation picked up the ball, because it guarantees better control over keeping it available.

TGR: The new edition has a great cover. Tell me about the design. Who came up with the idea of using that classic photo of Howard wielding the gun and knife?

Mark: Oh, that was all Keegan, man! (laughs) He gets carte blanche, these days, you know? I’m sure he was thinking about how it would look with the other REH books on the shelf, but also, I know he wanted to use a photo of REH–but not the same two or three that seem to grace the covers of so many projects in the last 30 years. That picture is one of the posed photographs that he took with Vinson and Smith, and I always figured that they set them up intentionally as either reference for a story or as something to illustrate a project that never materialized. Of course, we’ll never know, but that picture is definitely one of the pics you don’t see very often. Good choice, I thought.

TGR: During the five years between the first and second editions, what new information about Howard’s life has emerged, if any?

Mark: You know, it’s not anything huge and world-shaking…I mean, there’s no bombshells. But what has come to light is a lot of what I’d call secondary and ancillary material. It’s all stuff to hold up to the light and say, “okay, what effect could this possibly have had on X part of REH’s life?” Doc Howard’s incessant, intricate geometric doodles in his medical books, The Axe-Man of New Orleans, conversations with Lovecraft, an interesting wrinkle on the day of Howard’s suicide… lots of little things. But given how little we actually know about the Howard family, even that stuff is pretty cool, I’d say.

TGR: With the passage of time between your two versions of Blood & Thunder have you formed any new opinions about Howard or his writings?

Mark: There are two new theses in B&T 2nd ed. One is about the Breck Elkins stories that I didn’t have time or room to include in the first edition. The second is something I’d been driving toward for a while, and that has to do with the Conan stories. We may have talked about it in Cross Plains this year, but basically, I make the charge that Conan was written for specific commercial considerations in Weird Tales. That’s not to say he phoned them in, but he was pitching specifically to Wright. And that’s why there’s things in the Conan stories that don’t jibe with the rest of Howard’s work–things like his mercurial attitudes about damsels in distress. I contend that the scholars and fans have been looking at it the wrong way: Conan is the anomaly. If you take those stories out of the picture, suddenly Howard becomes a proto-feminist. Put them back in, and he’s just another pulp author indulging in macho sex fantasies. That’s just an example, but I think you get what I’m saying.

TGR: Is there anything you found particularly challenging in updating the original edition?

Mark: Oh, god yes! I had to spend another year and a half with a book I’d already spent a year with earlier. It was, at times, torturous. Especially since I had to rewrite specific passages. I had to literally throw myself back into a mindset six years gone. Very difficult, very challenging. That said, some of the rewriting was a lot of fun. I loved adding in the new bits. That’s a fun creative challenge, to make sure it still flows from point to point and doesn’t get bogged down. I wanted to keep the book accessible and readable.

TGR: This second edition is nearly twice the size of the first. That is a lot of additional wordage. What does it contain?

Mark: Thirty five thousand additional words. It’s got a new index, notes on the chapters, all of the extra stuff mentioned earlier, new material in the Conan and Breck Elkins chapters, cleaned up sentences, new facts and pieces of info about a number of things, and all chapters save the first two have something new and different in them. It’s a true second edition, or as I’ve been calling it, my “director’s cut.”

TGR: There are still a group of folks out there who believe de Camp’s Dark Valley Destiny is the definitive Howard biography. Do you think this new edition of B&T will change their minds?

Mark: Nope. Not a bit. Take John Howe, for example. No, really, take him! He called the first book “pretentious to read” and “inaccurate.” Here’s a guy who came to B&T with a chip on his shoulder. There’s no other way he could have found that book pretentious. And as for “inaccurate,” that just a code-word for “I didn’t agree with his conclusions.” Whatever. You can’t make a horse drink. However, there are a lot of people who want to read about REH and can’t find Dark Valley Destiny anymore. So, good. Here’s Blood & Thunder instead. I think that’s kind of akin to burning the hydra’s head after you’ve cut it off. It’s still there, but it’s not very effective anymore.

TGR: I know is kind of early for this question, but you believe this new edition is the final word on Howard’s life and works or do you foresee yourself revisiting the topic a few years down the road?

Mark: Definitely not. The final word, I mean. I know there are at least two more books being talked about or worked on, and they will each have their own take, based on their experiences. I will say this, though: With this edition, I’ve included every theory, thesis, or idea I’ve ever had about REH, since the age of 15. That itch has finally been thoroughly scratched. I don’t see myself revisiting the biography again, but I’ll never say never. And it won’t keep me from writing more about the boxing and the westerns, or whatever I’m on about these days in Howard studies.

TGR: If there was one thing you would for readers of this new edition to walk away with, what would it be?

Mark: Everything de Camp ever told you about Howard is wrong. That’s what I want. A sense of anger and betrayal at the man who purported to know. I soft-pedaled de Camp in the first edition. Now the gloves are off. The second edition is much meaner to de Camp and E. Hoffmann Price, and I make pains to explain why.

Judging from Mark’s answers, this is going to be a humdinger of a Howard biography — chock-full of good stuff not in the first edition. I’ve already ordered my copy and encourage everyone who is interested to to the same.  With a 150 copy print run, it is sure to sellout fast.

If you have any money left after Howard Days you might want to pay a visit to Columbus, Ohio the weekend of July 29 – 31. That is the weekend of this year’s PulpFest. This convention is the premier pulp collecting event of the year and the venue is the excellent Ramada Plaza Hotel & Conference Center.

This year PulpFest celebrates the 80th anniversary of The Shadow, with the screening of some rare Shadow films.  Of course, the dealer’s room will be brimming over with rare pulps, including Weird Tales.

As the date of the convention draws nearer, activity is picking up on the PulpFest website.  For all you Phillip José Farmer fans, it was just announced that FarmerCon VI will be combined with this year’s PulpFest.  Also, the Munsey Award nominees have just been posted. Among those nominated is our good friend Don Herron, who was also a nominee last year.

REHupan Morgan Holmes regularly attends the event and wrote about his experiences at the 2010 PulpFest on the REHupa website. Here is an excerpt from his report:

The weekend of July 30-August 1st was the time for PulpFest 2010. Rising from the ashes of the old Pulpcon, PulpFest is picking up speed. If you ever thought of getting into reading pulp magazines, this is the place to go. Held in Columbus, Ohio, which makes for easy driving for me, it is an excuse for a three-day weekend, 2/3 of the way into the summer.

There you will finds dealers of pulp magazines, paperbacks, and pulp reprints which includes both books and pulp replicas.

Membership was just a few people shy of 400 this year. Guest William F. Nolan, author of Logan’s Run among others, proved to be a great raconteur. I was able to ask him about the claim that he rewrote some Frederick Faust/Max Brand stories for several collections back in the 80s. He denied he did, stating he wrote a framing sequence for one novella at the request of Faust’s family for copyright purposes. He told me there is a Faust biography by him on the way. Also a new treatment of Logan’s Run.

Saturday, there was a Robert E. Howard Foundation luncheon at the Pig Iron Grill. Those pictured below include myself, Jason Landers, Jim Barron, Ed Chaczyk, Eric Johnson, Scott Hartshorn, Rusty Burke, Don Herron, and John D. Squires. Don Herron told tales of E. Hoffmann Price while John Squires reminisced about Karl Edward Wagner.

It certainly sounds like it is a great way to spend a late summer weekend.

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As promised, here are additional details on the new volume of fiction and poetry inspired by Robert E. Howard provided in this interview with one of the editors, Mark Finn.

TGR: First, how did this book evolve?  Obviously someone came up with the concept and got the ball rolling.

Mark: This was one of those Once and Every Other Projects that gets brought up over and over again anytime three or more REHupans gather in a room. Specifically, it was “Well, you know, somebody oughtta collect a bunch of our stuff and do a “Best of REHupa” kind of thing…” Of course, there are problems with that idea, in that much of what we write about in the REHupa zines isn’t strictly able to stand on its own in a book. Some of it does stand alone–but nowadays, it usually finds a home elsewhere, on your blog, or in TGR or the Dark Man, or wherever. Which is good, I think. But the one thing that has never been collected is the fiction. I know we tend to pooh-pooh it, but as I was looking around at Charles Gramlich, Angeline and Chris, and kinda ruminating on how much poetry Barbara Barrett has written–then I started thinking about other authors who have been in REHupa and I thought, this would be a commercial endeavor.

Well, Rusty and Indy immediately told me I was the right man for that job. Right then, Chris Gruber walked up and I said, “I don’t want to do this alone.” Grub said, “Do what?” And that’s how we ended up doing the editing together.

The original idea was to go back through the whole history of the ‘zines and pull out fiction from folks like Mike Stackpole and Nancy Collins–but after checking out some of the early efforts, I knew that they would (A) kill us if we did that, and (B) say no to the whole idea. So it became a new collection of stories. And there were more than enough authors in the line-up to fill a book.

TGR: What is the origin of the title, Dreams in the Fire?

Mark: The title was the hardest thing we came up with. All of the contributors had a number of suggestions, good ones, at that. But we wanted something that was evocative of, say, “Echoes From an Iron Harp” but not derivative of that. It’s the same problem I had with trying to come up with a name for Blood & Thunder–all of the good word pairings had been taken. What finally got me going was thinking about the poem I wrote years ago, (now lost to the winds of time and a busted computer) wherein I repeated the refrain, “The Lamp expires, but the fire remains.” It was my way of saying that while Howard isn’t around, his creative vision endures and inspires. So, playing with the notion of that creative fire, what might we see if we stare into it long enough? Everyone seemed to like the idea, and so there it was.

TGR: REHupans are a breed apart, notorious for not playing well with others. So how did you and Chris manage to round the contributors up and get them to meet a deadline?

Mark: Ah hah, well, REHupans may be cantankerous, but professional writers aim to please! Just about everyone who contributed got their stories in on time, got their revisions in on time, etc. It was pretty effortless on our part. Chris and I struggled with the poetry, trying to choose the best ones that represented in the book, and also in the case of multiple stories by the same contributor, we talked pretty earnestly about which one made the author look good, and also worked within the book. Those were the hard choices on our end. Everyone else was saintly and patient as they dealt with mine and Gruber’s conflicting schedules. Actually, and I’m not making any apologies for our personal delays, I am really glad the book is coming out during these anniversaries, as it will get more attention and hopefully draw more cash into the coffers of Project Pride, which was the whole point to doing it.

TGR: Can we get a sneak peek at the list of contents? I’ve seen some names bandied about, but not a complete line-up.

Mark: For you, sir, anything. Here goes:

  • Introduction by Rusty Burke
  • “A Gathering of Ravens” by Charles Gramlich
  • “The Rhymester of Ulm” by James Reasoner
  • “The Word” by Rob Roehm
  • “This Too Will Go Its Way” by Barbara Barrett
  • “CSI: Kimmeria” by Robert Weinberg
  • “Bloody Isle of the Kiyah-rahi” by Christopher Fulbright
  • “Son of Song” by Frank Coffman
  • “Avatar” by Jimmy Cheung
  • “Belit’s Refrain” by Barbara Barrett
  • “Now With Serpents He Wars” by Patrick R. Berger
  • “Best to Let it Lie” by Danny Street
  • “Two Dragons Blazing: A Tale of the Barbarian Kabar of El Hazzar” by Angeline Hawkes
  • “The Nights’ Last Battle” by Amy Kerr
  • “Sailor Tom Sharkey and the Phantom of the Gentlemen Farmer’s Commune” by Mark Finn
  • “I Am a Martian Galley Slave!” by David A. Hardy
  • “A Spirit on the Wind” by Frank Coffman
  • “Dead River Revenge” by Chris Gruber
  • “The Moon” by Barbara Barrett
  • “No Other Gods” by Gary Romeo
  • “A Meeting in the Bush” by Morgan Holmes
  • “Blades of Hell” by Don Herron
  • Afterword by Mark Finn

TGR: Do any of the stories feature Howard’s characters?

Mark: Nope. That was on purpose. Nothing against Paradox, as I am sure they would have been extremely helpful in assessing copyright issues and so forth, but we emphatically didn’t want any pastiches, and here’s why: when you read my story, or Chris’ story, or heck, any of these stories–you’re going to know at which end of the Howardian Banquet table we’re sitting on, pretty quick. And while you might be thinking, “Wow, that’s a cool story! Boy, wouldn’t it be cool if Mark wrote a Sailor Steve Costigan story?” The answer to that rhetorical question is no, no it would not.

If I wrote a Sailor Steve story, or if Chris Fulbright wrote a Black Vulmea pirate yarn, every fan would read the story in combat-mode, with a chip on their shoulder, automatically looking for ways in which we screwed up, i.e. “oh, Howard would have never used that word!” and “This is ridiculous–Howard didn’t use these plots in his historical stories!” No, it’s better for everyone, readers and authors, if you read our stories. Our dreams from the fire. What we see when we take inspiration from Howard’s work.

 TGR: Are there any standout stories in this book, something unexpected or particularly exciting?

Mark: I think long-term REHupans will be pleased with some of the stories by folks who don’t normally run fiction in their ‘zines. Also, and this takes nothing away from the professional authors in this collection, but you’ll look at a few of the names and think, “So and So wrote a story?” and then you read it and go, “Woah. That was really cool.”  There were a few stories where Grub and I were like, “This is going to knock their socks off!” It makes me doubly-glad we didn’t use pastiches, honestly. I think the original works were so much more entertaining than “Oh, here’s a Conan story, let’s see how he screwed that up.” I mean, we’ve got in this book cowboys, pirates, knights, barbarians, mercenaries, frontier scouts, boxers, monsters, bandits, cowards, phantoms, and a dog-faced imbecile. If that’s not a Howardian line-up, I don’t know what is!

TGR: I assume the book will premiere at Howard Days next month. For the folks who can’t attend, how can they purchase the book?

Mark: It will be available on Lulu very soon. I’ll have a link to you just as soon as I get the proof copy and it checks out.

TGR: In addition to raising money for Project Pride, what else would you like accomplish with this collection?

Mark: Obviously, a fundraiser for Project Pride was the first goal. But I really wanted to dispel the notion that the REHupans can’t write fiction. There’s such a stigma in our current ranks about it, but I know from firsthand experience that some of these guys are insanely talented. Now everyone else can see it, as well. It would be nice if this could be another proud feather in the REHupa cap, but the reviews will bear that out one way or another.

TGR: Can we expect to see a sequel?

Mark: Only if the reviews are great and everyone is clamoring for more. These kinds of projects are hard! Logistically, spiritually, intellectually, they take you away from other projects and they merit a lot of extra attention. I hope Chris and I were good editors for everyone. We tried to be. Certainly no fights broke out during the process. But yeah, if this goes over and the fans are buying copies and leaving good feedback, we would certainly talk about getting the band back together again.

TGR: What’s next on the horizon for you? I understand the updated edition of Blood and Thunder is in the pipeline.

Mark: Well, yes, Blood & Thunder is down to a bunch of niggling little details and tedious drudgery–like building a frickin’ index. Chapter notes. Soul-sucking things like that. But it is in the pipeline, and it will come out this year. Also, me and Grub are tag teaming on the Boxing volumes from the Foundation Press. Chris’ comes out first, and then mine, and so forth. We are personally so excited that this criminally neglected area of Howard’s most successful and most commercial work are finally, after more than a decade, are getting the attention they have deserved all along. Both of us feel that Howard studies is at a standstill until all of this sees the light of day–not just the boxing, but the funny westerns, too. You guys all know that we are talking about one third of Howard’s total fictional output, and yet it’s still taking a back seat to everything else. I’m sorry if I seem so strident about that, but I’ve been nice about it long enough. I understand that Conan and Kull and Solomon Kane had to come out first; I get it, I understand, I really do. But now that the big stuff is all out, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get down to it.

And I’m not picking on Rusty, or Patrice. They have unenviable jobs, and they have committed to getting all of it out there for us to sift through and read and comment on. They’ve put their own personal and professional projects on hold to do this. That’s why both me and Grub are saying, “We’ll help! Let’s go!” And I may volunteer to help with the funny westerns, too, if they will have me. I seriously believe that Howard’s humor work is a goldmine of study and insight for scholars, and a real avenue to getting new fans who might be repulsed by Conan and Kull.

To assuage my frustration with all of this, I’ve been writing comics again, after a fifteen year hiatus. You all know about the comic book debut of El Borak later this month in Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #2. We’ll see how you guys like me after that. I’m doing some other work for some small press companies, too, but they aren’t necessarily Howard related. And me and John Lucas are shopping a few things around. It would be great if I could get something going with these novels and short stories, but right now, comics are paying, so that’s what I’m doing.

TGR: As usual, you are a fount of information and insight; thanks for taking the time to fill us in on this amazing volume of fiction and poetry.

Mark: My pleasure.

Update: Dreams in the Fire is now available for purchase through Lulu.com.