Archive for the 'Harold Preece' Category


But hear me Satan, no man ever made me admit defeat — I’ve reeled beneath a bloody moon, on buckling legs, with blood pouring from my battered mouth and mingling with the sweat on my chest and a scarlet haze shimmering before my eyes — and I’ve been smashed from gong to gong, but I never admitted defeat even when I could scarcely stand. Anybody and any condition can batter me to pieces, but I’ll never admit I’m defeated.

– Robert E. Howard to Harold Preece, Aug 1928 (CL1.220-221)

Robert E. Howard’s “Satanic” output—those stories and poems which have Satan, the devil, or devil-worship as a major element or theme—are comparatively few. However, if taken as a whole with his letters and other materials, readers can get a sense of the development of Howard’s ideas of Satan and devil-worship in his creative output over the last decade or so of his life.

References to the devil, under varied names and forms, punctuate the letters of Robert E. Howard since at least 1926, when in a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith he wrote “By Baal I am joyed that you wrote.” (CL1.75) Very likely, there were earlier usages in letters now lost to us; Smith’s own contributions to The Tattler from 1923 on contain exclamations like “Diavolo” (SFTP 15) and “Diable” (SFTP 17) and Herbert C. Klatt liked to use “Shades of Hades!” (LSOS 101, 110), so it seems probable on the face of it that such mild infernal oaths formed a not-too-uncommon part of the discourse in Howard’s circle.

In Howard’s letters and poetry, his approach to Satan and Christian religion in general is often ambivalent (“My ancestors were all Catholic and not very far back. And I have reason to hate the church.” CL1.237), and while he never quite transitioned to the purely secular materialism of H. P. Lovecraft, his views were in part informed by the anthropological views of the day, which cast a different light on the development of the Devil in Christian theology and folklore:

I feel a curious kinship, though, with the Middle Ages. I have been more successful in selling tales laid in that period of time, than in any other. Truth; it was an epoch for strange writers. Witches and werewolves, alchemists and necromancers, haunted the brains of those strange savage people, barbaric children that they were, and the only thing which was never believed was the truth. Those sons of the old pagan tribes were wrought upon by priest and monk, and they brought all their demons from their mythology and accepted all the demons of the new creed also, turning their old gods into devils. The slight knowledge which filtered through the monasteries from the ancient sources of decayed Greece and fallen Rome, was so distorted and perverted that by the time it reached the people, it resembled some monstrous legend. And these vague minded savages further garbed it in heathen garments. Oh, a brave time, by Satan! (CL1.238)

The ambivalence regarding the Biblical figure of Satan is evident in Howard’s early poetry, where we first find Satan (or the devil, Lucifer, etc.) named in several of his verses, particularly “Lilith” (1927, CL1.145), “The Chant Demoniac” (1928, CL1.161), “To an Earthbound Soul” (CL4.16-17), and the untitled verse “The iron harp that Adam christened Life” (1929, CL1.357) and “The men that walk with Satan” (CL4.9-10); Barbara Barrett in The Wordbook: An Index Guide to the Poetry of Robert E. Howard lists a couple dozen other poems that use some variation of the name (WB 146-147), though these usages are often incidental. The use of Satan in these poems is typically in the popular Christian context, as lord of Hell and understood to be a veritable personification of evil, although in “The Chant Demoniac” he is portrayed more as John Milton did in Paradise Lost:

I am Satan; I am weary,
For my road is long and hard
And it lies through regions dreary
Since the Golden Gates were barred.

Just as Milton famously included old gods such as Mammon and Moloch as demons in his epic, so too did Howard in his verse, though Howard skews closer to the image of fallen idols cast as devils than fallen angels masquerading as idols. Baal (or Baal-peor), for example, appears in Howard’s poems “Astarte’s Idol Stands Alone,” “Baal,” “Baal-Pteor,” “The Mysteries” (1929, CL1.145-146), “The Riders of Babylon”, “Serpent” (1926, CL1.99-100), “The Worshippers,” “The Gods Remember” (1927, CL1.145-146), and “Swings and Swings.” The idea of Satan as synonymous with these old gods appears most prominent in “Black Dawn” (1929), where Satan is listed among non-Christian figures of worship (“Mohammed, Buddha, Moses, Satan, Thor! I lifted fanes to each of you betimes,” CL1.323)

-conan_boris_vallejo02Satan and related matters in Howard’s fiction is a bit more complicated matter. The bulk of stories that feature “devil-worship” or demons do not involve the Christian concept of Satan as such; rather Howard followed the tendency of many other pulp writers in casting foreign, pagan, or exotic worship as “devil-worship,” such as the synopsis “The House of Om” which features a Mongolian “devil-worshipping” cult perhaps loosely based on Robert W. Chambers’ The Slayer of Souls; or various supernatural entities or objects of worship as “devils”—a good example might be the Conan story “The Devil in Iron” (1934), whose Khosatral Khel was an alien being who set itself up as a living god, with dark rites of worship. Other uses of Satan are only incidental, such as in the Solomon Kane story “Skulls in the Stars” (1929), (as “Ahriman”) “Sons of the Hawk” (1936), and (as “Shaitan”) “Black Wind Blowing” (1936) and “The Brand of Satan.” Once those usages are weeded out, the remainder comprises a handful stories, the bulk of which never saw print until after Howard’s death.

Of these, “Casonetto’s Last Song” (1973) is the only Howard story to focus on the Black Mass, a practice of a Satanic cult which meets either in a cavern or “sombre chapel” and involves human sacrifice and a sung invocation. (HSREH 73) The details are perhaps intentionally vague in this short piece, and the typical details supplied by Joris-Karl Huysmans in Là-Bas (1891) or Montague Summers in The History of Witchcraft and Demonology (1926) on the desecration of the host or the specificity of infant sacrifice are omitted. The Texan was at least aware of Huysmans and his reputation, as he was named in “The Children of the Night” (1931).

“Dig Me No Grave” (1937) is essentially a Faustian tale of a sorcerer “had ignored the white side of the occult and delved into the darker, grimmer phases of it – into devil-worship, and voodoo and Shintoism.” (HSREH 132-133) Part of the interest of the tale lies in how Howard crams so many different references and mythologies into it, as if trying to capture in one story all the names of the Devil—“There is but one Black Master though men calle hym Sathanas & Beelzebub & Apolleon & Ahriman & Malik Tous.” (HSREH 140) “Sathanas” being a medieval Latin construction of “Satan,” “Beelzebub” (Ba’al Zebub) and “Apolleon” (Apollyon, Abbadon) corruptions or translations of Biblical names typically taken for demons or fallen angels, “Ahriman” the dark spirit of Zoroastrianism, and “Malik Tous” (Melek Taus) the principle figure in the Yazidi religion.

The Yazidis and the myths surrounding their “devil-worship” form the basis of the bulk of Robert E. Howard’s remaining “Satanic” material.


Works Cited

CL              Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard (3 vols. + Index & Addenda, REH Foundation, 2007 – 2015)

DB               The Dark Barbarian (Greenwood Press, 1984)

HSREH        The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard (Del Rey, 2008)

SFTP            So Far The Poet & Other Writings (REH Foundation, 2010)

WB            The Wordbook: AN Index Guide to the Poetry of Robert E. Howard (REH Foundation, 2009)

“The Devil in Iron” illustration by Boris

Read Part 1, Part 3


Women  have always been the inspiration of men, and just as there are thousands of unknown great ones among men, there have been countless women whose names have never been blazoned across the stars, but who have inspired men on to glory. And as for their fickleness – as long as men write the literature of the world, they will rant about the unfaithfulness of the fair sex, forgetting their own infidelities. Men are as fickle as women. Women have been kept in servitude so long that if they lack in discernment and intellect it is scarcely their fault.

Letter of REH to Harold Preece, circa December 1928

16th-century-IrishAs Robert E. Howard’s best-known correspondent, H.P. Lovecraft was a great admirer of classical Greco-Roman culture and fairly disparaging towards the barbarians on the Empire’s borders, so Howard felt a strong emotional bond with the barbarian outsiders and quite an antipathy towards the Romans. (Except, as he admitted, when they had been fighting eastern peoples like the Persians.)  He was fascinated by the Gaels of Ireland, the Celts in general, and by the wild colorful Middle Ages. (“Oh, a brave time, by Satan!”)  He had far less interest in the classical world. Still, he greatly admired some individuals who had lived in that milieu. He also knew more about it, and them, than most of us do today. Ask most of us – including this blogger – who Elpinice and Aspasia were, or for that matter Anaxagoras, and we’d be lucky if we could give an approximate answer.

For Sappho of Mytilene, REH had a torrent of impassioned praise.

She is famous as one of the greatest Greek poets – in fact; Plato called her “the tenth muse.” But astonishingly little is known of her life. She was born circa 615 BCE on the island of Lesbos, to an aristocratic family, and spent most of her adult years in the town of Mytilene. It is believed that she had several brothers. There is some evidence – not conclusive – that she married a rich man by the name of Cercylas and had a daughter named Cleis. More definitely, she led an academy for unmarried young women in Mytilene, a school devoted to the cult of Aphrodite and her son Eros (Venus and Cupid), winning fame and a high reputation as a teacher.

Lord Byron mentioned her in a telling phrase in “Don Juan.” “The isles of Greece! The isles of Greece/ Where burning Sappho loved and sung … ”  C.L. Moore referred to Byron’s lines in her story “Daemon,”, told by a simpleton with the strange gift of being able to see “the shapes that walk behind” most people, some dark, some bright, some colored, “pale colors like ashes or rainbows.”  He meets a man named Shaugnessy, educated and cultured but dying of illness, who is kind to him and “told me of burning Sappho, and I knew why the poet used that word for her, and I think the Shaugnessy knew too … I knew how dazzling the thing must have been that followed her through the white streets of Lesbos and leaned upon her shoulder while she sang.”

Chassériau,_Théodore_-_Sappho_Leaping_into_the_Sea_from_the_Leucadian_Promontory_-_c__1840Nearly everything else about Sappho is rumor now – speculation at best. Ovid, centuries after Sappho’s time, averred that she had a love affair with a young sailor, Phaon, which ended badly, and that she threw herself from a cliff while fairly young. Other writers – perhaps more reliable than Ovid, but we can’t be certain – have claimed she died of old age somewhere about 550 BCE.

There is also surprisingly little known of her poetry, because little of it has survived. Daniel Mendelsohn wrote in the New Yorker (March 16th, 2015), “The greatest problem for Sappho studies is that there’s so little Sappho to study. It would be hard to think of another poet whose status is so disproportionate to the size of her surviving body of work.”

The same article (“Girl, Interrupted: Who Was Sappho?”) reminds the readers that the poetess and teacher (“lyric genius whose sometimes playful, sometimes anguished songs about her susceptibility to the graces of younger women bequeathed us the adjectives “Sapphic” and “lesbian”) has been controversial for the better part of three thousand years because of her sexuality, not her poetry or teaching. And precious little is known with certainty about that either. Few people – naturally – were or are short on opinions. Even in the ancient world, critics of literature called her style “sublime” while comic playwrights, probably without a quarter of her genius, derided her (allegedly) loose morals. The early Christian church’s theologians were far more severe, and even (I’ve read) burned her work. One described her as a “sex-crazed whore who sings of her own wantonness.”

Citing Mendelsohn again, “A millennium passed, and Byzantine grammarians were regretting that so little of her poetry had survived. Seven centuries later, Victorian scholars were doing their best to explain away her erotic predilections, while their literary contemporaries, the Decadents and the Aesthetes, seized on her verses for inspiration.”

Howard, in his letter to Preece quoted above, didn’t so much express as unleash his opinions on that aspect of Sappho’s fame.

Sappho: doubtless the greatest woman poet who ever lived; certainly one of the greatest of all time. The direct incentive of the lyric age of Greece, the age that for pure beauty, surpasses all others. How shall a pen like mine sing of the beauties of Sappho, of the golden streams which flowed from her pen, of her voice which was fairer than the song of a dark star, of the fragrance of her hair and shimmering loveliness of her body? Has it been proven that she was a Lesbian in the generally accepted sense of the word? Who ever accused her but the early Christian (sic) – ignorant monks and monastery swine who were set on breaking all the old golden idols; and Daudet, a libertine, a groveling ape who could see no good in anything; Mure, a drunkard and a blatant braggart whose word I hold of less weight than a feather drifting before a south wind. May the saints preserve Comparetti who was man enough to uphold pure womanhood, and scholar enough to prove what he said.

Howard is referring to Domenico Comparetti (1835-1927), a Roman who took his first degree in mathematics at La Sapienza but learned Greek on his own account and became one of Italy’s foremost classical scholars. He was appointed Professor of Greek at Pisa in 1859. Besides classical subjects, he wrote impressively on others, such as the Kalelvala, the national epic of Finland – but his monograph on Sappho was of most concern to Howard. I wish I could find the actual text, but I’ve not been able to.

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This entry filed under Harold Preece, Howard's Favorite Authors.


This is a follow-up post to my previous piece on Harold Preece. I’ve since read more of his books and wanted to add some additional comments on his life and works.

Preece, at least in his early career, mainly wrote for newspapers and magazines. As a southern white man supportive of Negro issues he created a bit of a stir in left wing circles. Sure, a big fish in a small pond, but nevertheless he was gaining a reputation. His most influential work probably appeared in The Chicago Defender, a Negro paper with a big city circulation.

Preece’s newspaper articles attracted the notice of a Texas politician named Martin Dies, who criticized Preece, and referred to him as a “negro writer.” Preece replied back that he was white but not insulted and takes his stand with the Negro.

This stand and growing notice probably got Preece the job to co-write Lighting Up Liberia (1943). This book was co-written with Albert Hayman.  Hayman was an engineer/boss at Firestone’s rubber plantation in Liberia. It is a good indictment of the settler/colonial outpost and mindset.

Hayman writes in his introduction:

I was indeed fortunate to secure Harold Preece as the co-author of this book. Mr. Preece shares with me a conviction that the new world must be built on the foundations of dignity and equality for all peoples.  He is a southern white man by birth and has become widely known as a champion of the race to which we have assigned the lowliest positions – the black men and women whom we can no longer ignore whether they live in Louisiana or Liberia. Mr. Preece has written widely, and is particularly known for his sympathetic studies of the great Negro folk culture.

Hayman gives an overview of Liberian history and bemoans the fact that ex-slaves in turn took on the role of masters. The settler/colonial regime defeated the native Krus and Greboes and consolidated an exploitative rule.

Native tribes today are still required to furnish their quota of unpaid laborers for the roads in the Americo-Liberian districts of the five counties. Otherwise, the psalm-singing, gun-carrying soldiers will impose heavy fines upon the reluctant villages […]. The pawn system, whereby natives are forced to mortgage their own children to pay taxes or fines, still flourishes back in the hinterland.

Hayman interestingly talks about how the Americo-Liberians would often play games of divide and rule, using demagoguery of the whites in the country in an effort to sway native Africans to support their rule.

The book covers Hayman’s interaction with the workers and others at his Firestone Plant. It is always interesting and insightful. Firestone was the first big business to gain a foothold in West Africa. Native populations were uprooted to make way for the large rubber plantation but Hayman praises the Firestone Company for its fair wages and medical services to the workers. Hayman does note the medical services are in the company’s financial interest. Healthy workers are better workers.

But it is significant that [Firestone] has made no attempt to use its influence to better conditions outside of its own properties, although it is, in fact, that country’s master, able, if it chose, to squeeze the little martinet government between the fingers of its corporate hand.

There are a few things Hayman states that might seem wrong-headed or out-dated to the modern liberal. Hayman recognizes that the U.S. also began as a settler/colonial land, but he apologizes for the colonization of the United States by stating what is now considered a more right wing argument. Basically that the Indians were not doing anything productive and that our technological civilization is in the benefit of all. Modern ecological concerns make this notion seem naïve at best. But most of Hayman’s views are still relevant today.

4f804b4982437_12051bNext up for discussion is Harold Preece and Celia Kraft’s Dew on Jordan (1946). The book is co-written with his then wife, Celia Kraft. (They mention a son named Hillel David.)  Preece was a ministerial student at Texas Christian University. Kraft grew up in a Jewish religious tradition and family but apparently was not religious. Parts of this book might appeal to those that honestly like REH’s humorous stories (as opposed to those who just find them interesting since they are written by REH). About half of the book is very humorous. It is basically a collection of anecdotes about true believers: snake handlers, holy rollers, and rapture believing folk. Preece and/or Kraft throw in dialogue that, most likely, no one really ever said about working class inequality and praise of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Preece properly mentions his distaste when the hill folk talk about lynching and dislike of Negroes.

The last third of the book takes a more serious turn. He talks about Seventh Day Adventists and similar offshoots in less of a humorous eye than he did the snake handling types. Preece seems supportive of the vegetarian diet that Adventists follow and treats them as a more serious “back to the roots” church despite “The Great Disappointment” when they predicted the end of the world in the middle 1800s. That most of these small sects are racially integrated, of course, pleases Preece. He also tells of a liberal preacher who tries to join the races in the aftermath of the Detroit riots of 1943.

For whatever reason, most likely, the repression of communists and fellow travelers in the 1950s, Preece seemed to turn to Westerns as an outlet for his writing. He had several articles published in the western magazines and his next three books were all western histories.

Living PioneersLiving Pioneers (1952) is a collection of multiple stories told by different narrators. Preece does not mention how much he edited or rewrote the different contributions. But some are better than others. Probably the best, in which Preece lets his notions of racial equality spring forth again, is “Good White Man.”

It tells the story of a young man who self-identified with Indians and wanted to live among them. He goes to join them and gets a rough awakening. They tell him to move on. He finally meets an older Indian who wants to break some horses. The kid is good with horses and was allowed to stay with this group. He earns the name Chemakacho and things go well until horses start disappearing. The Indians suspect Chemakacho and he has to leave and discovers an outlaw, Sam Bratton, is the culprit. The kid confronts Bratton and is almost killed for the trouble. An Indian had followed him and learns he truth.

The author of the story, La Verne Kershner, narrates:

Pokaro cut me short. “I think different when I see Bratton trying to kill you. I am sorry, Chemakacho.”

That was the only apology he ever made for suspecting me, and trying to finish me off before Bratton tried it. But the fact that he had called me by my Comanche name – the Good White Man – was worth a million other things he might have put into words.

I haven’t read Preece’s book Lone Star Man (1960) on Ira Aten, a Texas Ranger. Aten had a chapter in Living Pioneers and I think I got all I need to know about Mr. Aten from that. (Of course, someone will now pipe up and say that is Preece’s best book, and I should read it!)

gang_The Dalton Gang (1963) is a fairly routine biography of the train-robbing brothers. Mostly interesting, but to my mind kind of badly structured. The Dalton boys were many in number and it gets a little sketchy for me keeping them apart. It could be me as a reader but I was a little bored by what should have been an action packed recount of the daring criminal gang. Preece’s only left-leaning comments in this book are a few mentions of the underpaid lawmen that risked their lives protecting other men’s fortunes.

It is hard to track much of Preece’s writing after those books. He continued publishing in magazines and even had REH related articles published in various fanzines during the REH boom. Also Preece must have maintained friends in the black press. He was writing for Sepia (sort of a black version of Life) well into the 1980s.

A Google Search on Harold Preece will bring up several scholarly publications with names like The Price of Whiteness, Struggles in the Promised Land, and The Southern Disapora, all published by University Presses and written by academics. Preece is duly quoted and footnoted in all of them. He was a foot-soldier in the battle for civil rights. Not a major name, but not a total unknown. Preece will never get rediscovered and become a bestseller like REH but in some very significant ways he was an important writer.

This entry filed under Harold Preece.

Living Pioneers

If a man is known by the company that he keeps then Robert E. Howard was an eclectic fellow. Of two of his correspondents with the initials H. P. one was a very xenophobic conservative (at least in his youth), the other a radical integrationist. We all know about H. P. Lovecraft but interest in Harold Preece, the other H. P., has grown.

There have been some excellent articles on Preece published here on the Two Gun Raconteur blog and there is very little I can add biographically. Perhaps some comment on his writing career will be of interest.

Harold Preece is not known to have self-identified as “black” like Rachel Dolezal but for a 1930s era Texan he came pretty close. In A History of Affirmative Action (University Press of Mississippi, 2001) Harold Preece is mentioned:

In August 1935, an unusually titled article appeared in Opportunity, the monthly journal of the National Urban League. It was written, the journal’s editor noted, by a Southern white man named Harold Preece, and was called “Confessions of an Ex-Nordic: The Depression Not an Unmixed Evil.”

Preece’s article described his change from early prejudice to anti-racism due to the financial hardships of the depression. Preece wrote:

I waited in line with other men – white and black who spent their days frantically wandering to obtain the same tawdry necessities.  Forgetful of Jim Crow we discussed the appalling debacle and shared crumbs of cheap tobacco. […] To me, white and black no longer exist.  There are only oppressors and oppressed.

Besides Opportunity, Preece wrote for The Crisis, New Masses, and some other communist linked publications.  He also wrote for non-communist magazines like The Nation and The American Spectator.  In The American Spectator Preece published two interesting articles where he more or less apologizes for Clyde Barrow and Pretty Boy Floyd. In the August 1934 issue Preece wrote of Clyde Barrow:

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were the poisoned by-products of a vicious and diseased social system.  The example of their callousness was set by men whom we politely designate as “successful”, and who have this in common with the most moronic cut-purse: they live without working.

Preece writes about Floyd in the January 1935 issue:

Pretty Boy Floyd was the last of the classic road agents. He was intrepid, daring; he robbed the rich and gave to the poor […] Mr. Floyd perfected the art of thievery to an unprecedented magnitude; and the peccadilloes of a first-rate artist are always preferable to the rabbit-like decorum of mankind at large.

In a letter to H. P. Lovecraft, REH also expresses a bit of sympathy for Pretty Boy Floyd:

Pretty Boy is still at large, and getting the blame for every crime committed in Oklahoma. The cops say he is a rat. I’d call him a wolf. The cops are all afraid of him, judging from the way they’re not catching him; if he’s a rat, what does that make them?

In another letter REH writes HPL, that a friend of his, (probably Preece): “was quite enthusiastic about Floyd. From what he said public sympathy must be a good deal with the outlaw.”

Expressing less sympathy but commenting on the excessiveness of their deaths, REH writes to HPL on Bonnie and Clyde and notes that:

Bullets from machine rifles, ripping through him, riddled her, plastered the interior of the car with blood, brains, and bits of Barrow’s skull. 167 slugs were poured into the automobile of the outlaws.

One of Preece’s more controversial stands was a review of Zora Neale Hurston’s Of Mules and Men published in Crisis, December 1936:

When an author describes her race in such servile terms as ‘Mules and Men’ critical members of the race must necessarily evaluate the author as a literary climber.

This kind of controversy, whether popular humorous depictions of blacks, benefit or malign, has long been a part of black culture criticism.  Good arguments can be made for both views. It is just a little surprising that Preece, a Southern White Man, takes a radical stance similar to Spike Lee’s in his film Bamboozled.

In the 1940s Preece was very active in the black press, writing for publications like The Negro Worker, the previously mentioned Opportunity, and The Informer. Preece corresponded with Roy Wilkins and W. E. B. Dubois as a fighter for civil rights. He continued his support for civil rights in New Masses as well. The October 16, 1945 issue has an article about the Ku Klux Klan.

New Masses

Preece, although writing for Communist Party publications might very well have never been a member of the party. A more famous writer, Howard Fast, also wrote for communist papers before ever joining.  One did not have to a member to have submitted articles to their publications.

Being RedFast, of course, along with others went to jail for their membership in the Communist Party, and for refusing to name names of others in the party.  (Shades of Conan, in “The Queen of the Black Coast.”)  Fast recounts his decisions in his autobiographical book, Being Red.  It is well worth reading.  Fast spent 3 months in jail and his writing career (despite a previous string of best sellers) had effectively ended until he self published SpartacusSpartacus is an absolutely superb novel and was a success despite the blacklisting.  The success of this book and the later film has been said to have broken the “blacklist.” Of course, not every writer was as successful as Howard Fast, so if Harold Preece denied membership in the party to protect his livelihood I don’t think anyone can blame him.

Most likely, like Fast, Preece, if ever a true communist, broke with communism after Khrushchev denounced Stalin. The American Communist Party dwindled to almost nothing after these revelations.  Fast resigned from the party and left his position on the communist newspaper. Fast writes:

All things come to an end.  Being a part of this brave and decent newspaper had been an important act of my life.  Now, on June 13, 1956, a couple of days after the appearance of the secret speech, I wrote my last column for The Daily Worker.

Zane Grey’s Western Magazine, March 1953In any event, Preece switched gears to western writing and had several articles published in Real West, Zane Grey’s Western Magazine, and other venues. He wrote non-fiction western history books as well.  Three of his books are easily available through on-line sources:  Lone Star Man: The Life of Ira Aten, The Dalton Gang, and Living Pioneers. These books all feature very positive views and sympathy with Native Americans that was a bit out of the ordinary for the time. Preece was still fighting the good fight against prejudice.

He remained a believer in social justice until the end of his life.

Read Gary’s follow-up post here.

Be sure and check out Gary’s D for de Camp group. There is always a lively discussion going on there and lots of interesting de Camp documents reside in the Files section of the group.

TheKid1Few American lives have elicited more tales, rumors, and folklores than that of Henry McCarty. I would go so far as to say that of all the famous Americans who have lived such a short life span—two meager decades—McCarty has the most amount of words written about him. He perhaps has also influenced more authors than any other old west figure. And despite all this, he remains one of the most elusive figures of the old west. So who is Henry McCarty? History knows him as one Billy the Kid. The foremost scholar of Billy the Kid, Frederick Nolan, claims that “Few American lives have more successfully resisted research than that of Billy the Kid.” (Nolan 3). Evidence for this lies in the fact that The Kid did not receive serious scholarly attention until nearly 100 years after his death.

Why is that? What makes Billy the Kid so fascinating that for the better part of the 20th century his life has resisted serious research and remained in the mainstream arena of folklore and myth? No scholar of the Kid seems to have a definitive answer to that question. It might simply be that facts are not as exciting as the mysterious. Regardless, from the late 1950s to the present day reliable research, scholarly articles, books, and historical documents have been written and uncovered. Granted, the myths are still there and they make for wonderful movies and exciting novels but we now live in what should be considered a more enlightened era with regard to our understanding of The Kid.

There was a long period of time where scarcely a word was written or spoken about Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County Wars. This span occurred between the death of the infamous sheriff (Pat Garrett) who killed Billy the Kid in 1908 until 1925 when Harvey Fergusson raised the question in an American Mercury article, “Who remembers Billy the Kid?” Apparently, the Kid’s reputation had faded and Fergusson wondered why (Nolan 295). All this would soon change in 1926 when Walter Noble Burns published The Saga of Billy the Kid, and the Kid would once again be thrust into the limelight of folklore and myth. This was the very book that sparked interest in the mind of a young boy who would later become the premier scholar of Billy the Kid studies, Frederick Nolan. However, Walter Noble Burns, with his flamboyant style and highly exaggerated account of Billy the Kid, would also influence a series of western writers of the early to mid twentieth century. One in particular was a popular pulp fiction writer from Cross Plains, Texas named Robert E. Howard. Although the focus of Howard’s writing had pretty much been the fantasy and action adventure genres, Burn’s book would ultimately set Howard in a new direction.

It is no secret to Robert E. Howard aficionados that Howard had a serious interest in the Old West. This interest became so predominant toward the latter years of his life he shifted his writing career in the direction of publishing western stories and even proclaimed in correspondence to August Derleth:

I’m seriously contemplating devoting all my time and efforts to western writing, abandoning all other forms of work entirely; the older I get the more my thoughts and interests are drawn back over the trails of the past; so much has been written, but there is so much that should be written. (Howard Letters 2:  372)

In studies regarding Robert E. Howard’s western writing career there is no definitive timeframe or specific cause that pushed Howard in the direction of western tales. Howard had written Westerns in his earlier years and sporadically throughout his fantasy and action adventure years, but what made him tell Derleth that he wanted to devote all his time to western writing? Chances are there is no single factor or date but rather a series of events that hinged upon at least one thing—Walter Noble Burn’s book The Saga of Billy the Kid.

americanmythmaker012315-199x300Walter Noble Burns was born October 24th, 1872. As a teenager he became a junior reporter for the Louisville, KY Evening Post. (Nolan 295). This led Burns into a fairly long career as a writer and reporter which eventually led him to Chicago where he would work for both the Chicago Examiner and Chicago Tribune. It was his work with the Tribune that would launch him into his most famous research and work. In 1923 Burns would visit New Mexico to interview  various people who were still alive during the Lincoln County Wars and the days of Billy the Kid. This research would ultimately end up in Burns’ book The Saga of Billy the Kid (from here on known as SBK).

SBK was the definitive book about Billy the Kid’s life until the late 1950s and early 1960s when scholars took pen in hand and began seriously researching the Lincoln County Wars. Today SBK is considered nothing but a novel work on the Lincoln County Wars. It has all but been dismissed as exaggerations, myths, and fun folklore. Regardless, from 1926, the year SBK was published, to the early 1960s, Burns’ work set the tone for movies, western pulp stories, dime novels, and even magazine articles about Billy the Kid.

When SBK was published it quickly became a national best seller, rivaling the sales of other popular books of its day. In just a few short months Nolan explains, “[Burns’] book topped the bestseller list on the newly formed Book of the Month Club, whose judges—among them Dorothy Canfield, Heywood Broun, and William Allen White—proclaimed it to be full of ‘the vivid reality of the moving pictures without the infusion of false sentiment and . . .melodrama. It was, they felt, ‘a chronicle such as the Elizabethans wrote and read.” (Nolan 296).

coef75529299c776fdf87bb3907c5dd55d3Regarding the book’s accuracy nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact, those whom Burns had interviewed (all close friends of Billy the Kid or spouses of those who rode with him) declared the book to be nothing but exaggerated stories and false facts. George Coe who was so disturbed by the contents of Burns’ book wrote a more accurate account of his time spent with The Kid. But, unlike Burn’s book, Coe’s work drifted into obscurity.

Despite the protests of the Lincoln County War witnesses whom Burns interviewed, and despite their own written accounts attempting to counter Burns’ book, SBK continued to sell widely. Then the film rights for Burns’ book were bought by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and would soon be made into a major motion picture, setting those exaggerations, myths, and folklores into motion for several decades to follow. But as important, Burns’ book would soon be absorbed into the western pulps and dime novels from the 1920s to the late 1950s. Writers such as Max Brand, Luke Short, Zane Grey, Edwin Corle, and Robert E. Howard, would all be influenced by Walter Noble Burns’ book.

TheKid2Robert E. Howard certainly owned a copy of The Saga of Billy the Kid. Howard mentions the book in a July 1935 letter to H.P. Lovecraft. In fact, Howard quotes from the book in that letter using details about the Lincoln County Wars that correspond with details from SBK. And, even though Burns’ book is not mentioned by Howard until that July 1935 letter to H.P. Lovecraft, there is enough evidence to demonstrate that Howard owned and used Burns’ book quite a few years prior to it being mentioned in that letter. But when, approximately, did Howard purchase Burns’ book and why is it  important to know that approximate time frame?

I think there were three factors in Howard’s life that caused him to slowly gain a serious interest in frontier and old west history. First, the purchase of Burns’ book was one of, if not the strongest factor to shift Howard’s interest toward the old west. Two, around this same time Tevis Clyde Smith, one of Howard’s close friends, began research on local western frontier history. And three, changes in pulp markets and writing trends were occurring. Because of all these factors Howard began an ongoing effort from this approximate timeframe to the end of his life to break into the western pulp fiction market.

Two-Gun Howard and the Western Tale

Robert E. Howard always had a healthy interest in gunfighters and the Old West. At age 15 Howard created a western gunfighter by the name of Steve Allison (Glenn Lord 72). This character would later be revived in 1933, in the middle of Howard’s shifting interests toward western stories and western history. But the fact that Howard had created such a character at such a young age is quite telling. It at least demonstrates his interest in western motif’s and characters all the way back to his teenage years. The first story Robert E. Howard ever submitted for professional publishing was to a magazine called Western Story. The story was titled “Bill Smalley and the Power of the Human Eye” and as Howard scholar Rusty Burke points out:

Although the story is a tale of the North Woods, it is nevertheless interesting that his first professional submission was to a magazine of western fiction.  (Burke introduction xi)

TheKid3This story was submitted for publication in 1921 and although it was rejected, for a few years afterward Howard spent time not only writing more western style tales but also submitting them to various places for publication. In 1922 “‘Golden Hope’ Christmas” and “West is West” were both submitted to and published by the Brownwood High School newspaper called The Tattler. With these Howard saw moderate success and pay. Then, in 1924 Howard submitted another western story titled “44-40 or Fight” to Western Story magazine. Again, they rejected his story. However, that same year the newly established pulp fiction magazine Weird Tales accepted the work that would essentially launch Howard’s career—“Spear and Fang.” With the promise of publication to his first real national magazine, and Howard’s stories “The Hyena” and “The Lost Race” accepted by that same magazine in December 1924, Howard’s attention fell almost solely on the fantasy and action/adventure market. The market that Howard would use to launch his writing career.

From 1924 to 1928 there is no record in correspondence or otherwise of Howard writing a western story. The closest thing to a western or pioneer/historical work Howard would attempt to write and actually publish during this “quiet” period is his short essay titled “What the Nation Owes the South,” picked up by the Brownwood Bulletin in 1926. And that essay is not actually a western even though it deals with frontier/Civil War type issues.

TXbrowncocshe-lg_previewThen, in 1928 two western stories surfaced: “Spanish Gold on a Devil Horse” submitted to Argosy and Adventure (both rejected the story) and “Drums of Sunset” submitted to The Cross Plains Review (which accepted the story), the local newspaper in Howard’s hometown of Cross Plains, Texas. The former story is interesting because it is actually set in a fictional version of Cross Plains called “Lost Plains,” and deals with actual regional places and issues.  I draw attention to these details because around this time one of Howard’s close friends, Tevis Clyde Smith, began to interview locals, visit Courthouses, and dig up historical documents on local frontier life. By autumn of 1930 Smith began to submit articles to local newspapers (Roehm introduction xxii). On several occasions Howard would join his friend on these outings.

In mid 1929 Howard wrote a story titled “The Extermination of Yellow Donory.” It is the first record we have where Howard mentions Billy the Kid. Howard seems to have used Burns’ description of The Kid to describe his own character, Joey Donory. Even though Billy the Kid is small, Burns’ paints him in such a light that he ends up being larger than life despite his actual stature. In that same vein Howard writes:

Born and bred in an environment where men were large and imposing, his [Joey Donory] lack of size was bad enough, but his handicaps were more than physical.

“An’ it ain’t so much me bein’ thataway. Most of the real bad hombres wasn’t so big. Lookit Billy the Kid; no bigger’n what I be.” (Burke, 38)

In his description of Billy the Kid and other gunfighters Burns’ writes:

He [Billy the Kid] was five feet eight inches tall, slender, and well proportioned. He was unusually strong for his inches, having for a small man quite powerful arms and shoulders.

. . . It may be remarked further, as a matter of incidental interest, that the West’s bad men were never heavy, stolid, lowering brutes. (Burns 59 & 60, emphasis mine)

It’s interesting how Howard compares the size of his main character, Joey Donory, to that of Billy the Kid using similar phrasing as Burns did in his work. Burns goes on to detail how other men, such as Pat Garrett, were tall, large, etc. but Billy due to his size, speed and accuracy with a gun, equaled himself among these larger men. This is just a small example of how Howard used Burns’ book. I will also demonstrate that Howard took details directly out of Burns’ book when he discussed the life of Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County Wars in several of his letters to H.P. Lovecraft.

The Purchase of Burns Book and How Howard Used It

There is no definitive date for when Robert E. Howard purchased SBK. In fact, there is no definite place either. The only two bookstores Howard mentions in his letters are Argosy, located in New York City, and Von Blon’s Bookstore in Waco, Texas. It is well known that Howard ordered many of his books through the mail. I think if he bought SBK from Argosy it would have been between late 1928 and early to mid 1929. Howard was certainly ordering books from Argosy at that time because, in a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith from early April 1930 Howard declares,

The Argosy pipple [sic, intentional due to the joking nature of the letter] enrage me highly by their damned discriminating attitude. I haven’t gotten their latest catalogue no more as nothing, They always send their other customers theirs before they send me one. (Howard Letters 1: 30)

The language in this letter, their latest and always, clearly seem to indicate that Howard had been ordering from Argosy for some time.

TheKid4If Howard bought Burns’ book from Von Blon’s then it is likely that he purchased the book before writing “The Extermination of Yellow “in 1929. As I have demonstrated above, the mention of Billy the Kid and the similar phrasing with SKB would place a date prior to mid-1929.  But it should also be noted that Howard was buying books from Von Blon’s much earlier than 1929. In as letter to Harold Preece dated August 1928, Howard mentions Von Blon’s Bookstore. “Waco’s a Hell of a town, isn’t it? Likely you’ve discovered Von Blon’s bookstore already. The Prussian has some good books sometimes.” Once again the language indicates that Howard had shopped there before.

With the dates of these letters and the clear indication that Howard was shopping from both bookstores for some time, either location is a strong candidate. Even so, the date of “The Extermination of Yellow Donory” and it’s mention of Billy the Kid certainly help provide an approximate time frame of when SKB was purchased, between early 1928 to mid 1929, two to three years after its initial publication. By September 1930 Howard declares to his friend, Tevis Clyde Smith, that he is going to write “a history of the early Texan days sometime, entitled: An Unborn Empire or something like that.” (Howard Letters 2: 68). In that same letter Howard asks Smith if he can use some of his articles for research and reference. This is crucial because just a few months later, January 1931, in a letter to H.P. Lovecraft, Howard writes about the Lincoln County Wars using the same writing style as Burns in SKB, and providing details that he could have only known through Burns’ book. What this indicates is that Smith’s research on the western frontier coupled with SKB are already setting in motion the change that will take place in Howard’s interest and writing direction. And this is all occurring between 1928 and 1931.

In between the two letters mentioned above (one to Smith, the other to HPL) Howard mentions Billy the Kid in another letter to Lovecraft dated October 1930. Howard is discussing James Franklin Norfleet. He details their meeting each other, describes Norfleet’s physical features, and then compares him as a gunman to Billy the Kid, along with other gunmen such as John Wesley Hardin, Sam Bass, and Al Jennings. He then waxes eloquently about gunfighters and their mannerisms and characteristics. And even though the topics during this period of correspondence between Howard and Lovecraft predominantly circle around the Celts, or Romans, or medieval and ancient civilizations, Howard always manages to turn the conversations back to Texas, frontier life, cattlemen, gunfighters, or the old west.

There is no question that from this point, October 1930, Howard is demonstrating a dominant interest in Billy the Kid, the Lincoln County Wars, and the Old West. And by January 1931, Howard is actually using the details from Burns’ book in that particular letter to H.P. Lovecraft. In fact, the names, events, details, and descriptions are used in such a manner that it makes me think that Howard actually had the book in front of him as he wrote the letter. Below is a chart that compares Howard’s letter to Lovecraft and certain details from the burning of McSween’s home during the Lincoln County Wars.

Comparison Chart

Not only does Howard keep the sequence used by Burns, but the details are, for the most part, the same. And, in subsequent letters to Lovecraft when the Lincoln County Wars are brought up, Howard uses Burns’ book to tell the story. In these same letters more frequent discussions about the west, Texas history, and gunfighters ensue. Examples of this can be seen in his letters dated February 1931 in which Howard discusses John Chisum, the Lincoln County Wars, and The Kid; June 1931 Howard discusses the types of guns that won the old west; August of 1931 Howard discusses Texas frontier history at great length; December 9, 1931 Howard discusses Kit Carson and Bigfoot Wallace; May 24, 1932 Howard discusses Bill Hickok and Billy the Kid; August 9, 1932 Howard discusses Pat Garrett, Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, etc. This trend continues in his letters until it culminates in a trip Howard took with his friend Truett Vinson to New Mexico, in the summer of 1935. By then Howard is all but completely focused on writing western stories.

TheKid5Even though Robert E. Howard had sporadically written and published western stories from his first submission in 1921 to the end of his life, several prominent Howard scholars place Howard’s transitional interest of the old west and western stories at the same time as Tevis Clyde Smith’s publication Frontier’s Generation in March of 1931. Based on the evidence above, I propose a revised transitional date: in the late 20s, around late 1928 to early to mid-1929. And while Smith’s research and publication played an important role in Howard’s transition, I think Burns’ book, The Saga of Billy the Kid is the key factor that caused Howard’s transition. In fact, I think the influence Burns’ book had on Howard cannot be overstated. Especially since Howard seems to adopt Burns’ writing style in several of his western stories. Research and proof of which I’ll reserve for another time and another paper.

Based on the above dates, correspondence, and the progressive build up of western stories written and published from 1928 to Howard’s death in 1936, and a few years beyond, there is a clear trend of Howard shifting his interest toward the Old West and western stories. It’s just a matter of time before Howard will take this interest and apply it to his storytelling, breaking full swing into the western markets.

 Historical Corrections and Burns’ Book

While Walter Noble Burns’ account of Billy the Kid certainly had a interesting impact on writers of the mid-20th Century, it left a false historical wake that would not be corrected until over 30 years after its initial publication. With renewed interest from scholars about Billy the Kid in the late 50s and early 60s, various facts, myths, and folklores would soon be corrected. From the 21st century, we certainly have the advantage of looking back over history and seeing where errors were made, watching how they were corrected, and moving forward with better information.

Of course, Robert E. Howard did not have that luxury. He was informed about Billy the Kid from the various circulated myths, exaggerated tales, and erroneous facts that were merely highlighted by Burns’ book. On the one hand, this had a positive effect on his writing. Howard wrote with this exaggerated tone, used exaggerated facts, and painted his western stories in such a way as to make them far more interesting than merely dry facts and events. On the other hand, a lot of what Howard wrote about Billy the Kid was just erroneous. This being the case, anyone who reads Howard’s letters where he discusses Billy the Kid, should take those letters with several grains of salt. While they are quite interesting to read, and read like a good story, they are wrought with erroneous details that Howard borrowed from Burns.

Even so, were it not for Walter Noble Burn’s book The Saga of Billy the Kid, I do not think Howard would have developed the way he did when it came time for him to settle into regularly writing his western stories. Not that Burns was the sole influence on how and why Howard wrote westerns, but the impact Burns’ book had on Howard’s western writing can certainly be seen. I also think that Burns’ book played the key role in Howard’s interest of the old west and western tales. An interest that ultimately led him to declare to his longtime correspondent, H.P. Lovecraft, in a letter dated May 13, 1936, about a month before Howard’s death, “I find it more and more difficult to write anything but western yarns.” (Howard  Letters 3:  446)


Burke, Rusty. Introduction. The End of the Trail: Western Stories. Lincoln: U of Nebraska, 2005. Ix-Xviii. Print.

Burns, Walter Noble. The Saga of Billy the Kid. Garden City, NY: Garden City, 1926. Print.

Coe, George W. Frontier Fighter: The Autobiography of George W. Coe Who Fought and Rode with Billy the Kid. Ed. Doyce B. Nunis. Chicago: Lakeside, 1984. Print.

Derie, Bobby, comp. The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard: Index and Addenda. Plano, TX: Robert E. Howard Foundation, 2015. Print.

Herron, Don, ed. The Dark Barbarian: The Writings of Robert E. Howard: A Critical Anthology. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1984. Print.

Howard, Robert E. The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard. Ed. Rob Roehm. Vol. 1-3. Plano, TX: Robert E. Howard Foundation, 2007. Print.

Howard, Robert E. Sentiment: An Olio of Rarer Works. Ed. Rob Roehm. Plano, TX: Robert E. Howard Foundation, 2009. Print.

Howard, Robert E. Western Tales. Ed. Rob Roehm. Plano, TX: Robert E. Howard Foundation, 2013. Print.

Lord, Glenn, ed. The Last Celt: A Bio-Bibliography of Robert E. Howard. West Kingston, Rhode Island: Donald M. Grant, 1976. Print.

Nolan, Frederick W. The West of Billy the Kid. Norman: U of Oklahoma, 1998. Print.

Smith, Tevis C. So Far the Poet & Other Writings. Ed. Rob Roehm and Rusty Burke. Plano, TX: Robert E. Howard Foundation, 2010. Print.

Smith, Tevis Clyde. Frontier’s Generation: The Pioneer History of Brown County, with Sidelights on the Surrounding Territory. New and Enlarged ed. Brownwood, TX: Moore Printing, 1980. Print.

Wallis, Michael. Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008. Print.

Be sure and visit Todd’s On an Underwood No. 5 blog. He has recently updated the blog’s look and will be adding a lot of first-rate Howard content there in the coming weeks and months.

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Mary Ervin, aka “Maxine,” the youngest of her Ervin clan, was born at Big Spring, Texas, on October 12, 1906, to William Vinson Ervin, Sr. (Hester Howard’s brother) and Ida (Ezzell) Ervin (the sister of Hester Howard’s former heart-throb, Frank Ezzell). In January 1908, the Ervin family played host to William’s sister, Hester, her husband, Dr. I. M. Howard, and their baby boy, Robert E. The Howards stayed a few weeks “due to illness” and then made their way to Seminole, up in Gaines County.

The 1910 US Census for Howard County, Texas, lists W. V. Ervin, age 48, as “Editor” for a “Paper” in Big Spring, with wife, Ida, 38; two sons, Vinson, 15, and Jessie, 13; and two daughters, Lesta, 8, and Maxine, 3. By the time of the 1920 Census, Jessie had flown the coop, W. V. was upgraded to “Publisher,” and everyone was 10 years older.

In 1921, Maxine participated in at least two declamation contests for the Big Spring high school, winning first place at one of them. She was on the Seventh Grade Exercises program with a “Reading” (sister Lesta performed a piano solo).

There is little evidence of the Ervins in the Big Spring High School yearbooks, the El Rodeo: only the senior photo of Lesta from 1919 and the “Irven” in the “Public Speaking Club” from 1922 that heads this post. My guess is that’s Maxine. She bears a striking resemblance to her Aunt Hester, if you ask me.

In the early 1920s, W. V. Ervin appears to have been starting newspapers in several small Texas towns, including Gail, Westbrook, and Putnam, all practically ghost towns today (yes, I’ve been to all of them). This caused him to be away from the family much of the time, but items in the newspapers show that he visited home frequently, and that his daughters often returned the favor—when they had a break from school. While working on the paper at Putnam, in Callahan County, the Ervins visited the Howards in Cross Plains:

The Misses Maxine and Lesta Erving, of Big Springs were visiting their uncle, Dr. Howard and family, last week. They formerly were in the newspaper business, and for a time the two girls published a paper at Putnam, doing all the work themselves. They stated that they thought Cross Plains was a splendid town, and their visit here was a pleasant one (Cross Plains Review – Oct. 5, 1923).

In a letter dated the same day as the paper, Robert E. Howard told Tevis Clyde Smith a little more about the visit: “I’ve had two cousins visiting me, whom I hadn’t seen for fifteen years. They’d read the International Adventure Library and from what they said, Dracula is a hum-dinger. I’m going to order the set right away.”

In 1924, Maxine ran an ad in the Big Spring paper: “I am prepared to take a few pupils in expression. Maxine Ervin.” Also in 1924, sister Lesta moved to the big city and landed a job with the Dallas News; by 1927, Maxine had joined her as both appear in that year’s Dallas City Directory at 2515 Maple Avenue. Early in 1927, Lesta switched from the newspaper game to Etna Insurance. In November, their father William died.

In his essay, “The Last Celt,” Harold Preece reports on Maxine’s activities at the time: “During 1927, while I was enrolled at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, I was introduced by a fellow student to a visiting Dallas girl named Maxine Ervin. Maxine was employed as a clerk by a Dallas newspaper, though she shared my then very incipient literary ambitions. She was a remarkably intelligent woman, and a friendship of some years would follow.”

1927 Texicoma Yearbook p09 - group photo - web

In another of Preece’s essays, “Robert’s Lady Cousin,” he describes Maxine as handsome and conservative, and says that she once described her cousin Robert as “a Tristan” from Celtic legendry. That essay also describes a 1927 Lone Scout convention that gave rise to a group called The Junto. Maxine was responsible for a photo of those Lone Scouts that appeared in the paper (an alternate shot appears above), was mentioned in the 1927 Texicoma Yearbook (click image below), and ended up being a member of The Junto, as well, but not many of her contributions have surfaced.

1927 Texicoma Yearbook p07

In 1928, Maxine is listed as a “journalist” with her sister at 4933 Victor Street in the city directory, but she wasn’t in Dallas for the whole year; on September 21, 1928, the Big Spring Herald reported the following: “Miss Maxine Ervin arrived from Dallas to accept a position with the West Texan, the new weekly publication, which is to make its advent here in the near future.” By 1929, Maxine appears to have moved back to Dallas. Both she and Lesta are at 2505 Maple in the city directory. Maxine again listed as “journalist.”

In March 1928, The Junto began its circulation. The first contribution by Maxine that survives is a comment on a previous issue that appeared in the October 1928 mailing:

Good Lord! What are we, cut throats? Have we lost sight of our treasured philosophy, our staunch independence, etc., etc? Did somebody accidentally drop a bomb that wasn’t a dud? I feel like I’d just been in a volcano or something after all this. The Junto is very good. Who is A.M.Y.? No fair hiding behind an alias. Anyway, what he or she said about Truett isn’t quite fair. As for “Our Beloved Barbarian” he can take care of himself.

Her only contribution to the December 1928 issue is this short comment about the November issue: “Not as good as usual.”

Around this time, Junto editor Booth Mooney was asking for biographies of the members. Robert E. Howard was less than enthusiastic about this, telling Clyde Smith in a letter that “I’ve decided I don’t care to have mine appear in the Junto. There are several reasons, the main one being that as several of my cousins receive it, my mother would be pretty near bound to hear about it and there are a good many things in my life that I don’t want her to know about.”

By July 1929, Maxine was back in Big Spring again; on The Junto’s mailing list for that month, Maxine had crossed out the Maple Avenue address and written “Box 1224, Big Spring, Texas.” She also had this comment about the mailing: “The best issue we have had in a long time, and it still has plenty of room for improvement.”

The August 1929 Junto contains a rather sexist piece on women by Harold Preece. Maxine wrote the following on the mailing list: “This issue is very good. I agree with Schultze that Harold is all off about women. Fact is, all men are.” She followed this short comment up with a longer one in the September mailing:

More about Mr. Preece
by Maxine Ervin

I may be putting my foot into it, but I feel like Harold has rather flung a challenge at some of “us girls” and that it should be taken up.
Don’t misunderstand me—I’m not defending womanhood against any mere male’s implications, accusations, attacks, satires, or what not for the simple reason that it isn’t necessary and it isn’t needed. Woman stands alone. She doesn’t give two “whoops and a holler” (quoting hill slang) what the world thinks of her; not if she is all genuine woman, she doesn’t; she may pretend she does, but deep down in her heart, she knows it isn’t so, and that she is going to go her own sweet way and enjoy herself.

The trouble is that women are just now beginning to find themselves. They have been so hampered and fettered by these generations past of strong men that they haven’t had the time nor the opportunity to find out what they really and truly do want. They are just now beginning to understand what life is all about and the vital part that they can play in it. They are learning that they have rights and the power to assert those same rights.

Pistols and horse whips have played a large part in woman’s emancipation, for she has learned that she, too, can meet brute force with brute force when it becomes necessary. If more women would shoot and horse-whip men who insult them and try this cave-man stuff, there’d be less of it, believe it or not.

The fact of the business is that men don’t like to see their chattels, toys, buffoons, slaves and what-not getting on an equal footing with them, economically, socially, or otherwise. It doesn’t suit his male desire for supremacy, for bullying, and brow-beating. He is denied having a meek, helpless something on which to vent the rage and other emotions that he is not man enough to control.

Oh, be fair. I think that all of this double-standard business is the most asinine, insane, and idiotic rot that ever was. I also think the same thing about this constant war of the sexes. We are human; we have human desires, aspirations, and hopes; we have our peculiarities, but first, last, and all the time we are HUMAN. Why can’t we behave as such and live and let live? Of course, there are some men who are unspeakable and some women who are unspeakable, but there are so many, many times their number who are real that I think it is silly to think of the few misfits and rotters when there are so many wonderful ones to think about.

Perhaps women haven’t yet become artists and musicians to rank with their brothers, but give them time. There never has been anything yet that women haven’t been able to attain once they set themselves to it. Anything within reason and that can be accomplished without a great deal of force as wars, for instance.

This is the way I feel about the subject. But I agree with Schultze that Harold should study his subject more. I am inclined to think that for some reason Harold is prejudiced and has not yet been able to re-assume an open minded attitude on the subject. Yet he swears he’s a genuine socialist!

This was the last of Maxine’s contributions to The Junto, as far as we know. The mailing list for the February 1930 issue has her address as “Maxine Ervin, c/o Beaumont Enterprise, Beaumont.” The US Census for that year has her there with her sister Lesta B., lodgers in the hotel of William Martin; Maxine’s occupation is listed as “newspaper work.”


By 1934 she’d moved to Longview, where she appears in the city directory with her mother and brother, William Vinson, Jr. In 1935 she had a short story, “They Die by Night,” published in Murder Mysteries. She appears to have spent some time writing radio scripts in Texas and California after this. In the fall of 1938, her first novel appeared, Death in the Yew Alley. I found a copy of this and can’t recommend it, nor another of her works, If I Die, It’s Murder (1945). An October 30, 1938 article in the Wichita Daily Times (below) has Maxine living in Wichita Falls, but the 1940 Census has her back in Longview, working as a reporter, with two years of college under her belt. Her mother Ida died in November of that year; the obituary reports Maxine’s address as Houston. On August 14, 1945, Maxine was the “informant” on sister Lesta’s death certificate. Her residence is reported as Fort Worth, profession is “writer.”

1938 10-30 Wichita Daily Times

On July 27, 1948, the Breckenridge American had this: “Mary Ervin has come up from Mineral Wells to help out with society a while, telephone her your news.” Two days later, they ran a follow up:

Miss Mary Ervin has come as a relief worker on society to the Breckenridge American. She is away from California about three years. We asked today to give us her first impression of Breckenridge. She wrote:

“A gradual descent extending over more than three years has taken me from San Francisco’s forty-five degree hills to Mineral Wells’ not-so-steep hills, to the smooth, level prairie that is Breckenridge. My notion was Breckenridge leaned more to hills and woodlands than to prairie, so I had a surprise. It is all one piece of that long West Texas stretch which reaches from Fort Worth to El Paso. Breckenridge is a nice place to be in and part of, even if it hasn’t an up and down side to it.”

This didn’t last long though. The August 10 issue has this: “Miss Mary Ervin, who has been helping out in American office, in hospital in Mineral Wells—Society news will be printed as sent in until successor arrives.”

The early 1950s has Mary working the Society column for the Liberty Vindicator, out of Liberty, Texas. An introductory piece, “Mary Ervin New Editor of Page,” appeared on August 30, 1951. Her pieces appeared until at least mid-1952.

On July 25, 1963, Mary “Maxine” Ervin died of heart failure at the Wichita Falls State Hospital. Her residence at the time was the Jerome Hotel in Mineral Wells. Her profession was recorded as “reporter.” She is buried in Wichita Falls.

This entry filed under Harold Preece, Howard Biography.


In a letter to Harold Preece, written in August of 1928, shortly after Preece had taken up residence in Waco, Howard mentions one of his sources for books:

Waco’s a Hell of a town, isn’t it? Likely you’ve discovered Von Blon’s bookstore already. The Prussian has some good books sometimes.

The photo above was taken by Gary Romeo for his excellent essay “In Search of Cimmeria.” Romeo travelled Texas in Howard’s footsteps some years back and had this to say about Von Blon’s:

Waco was also the home of a popular area bookstore, Von Blon’s. REH is known to have purchased several books there. The store was located at 416 Franklin Street.  Today a music store fills the building. There was a devastating tornado that hit Waco in 1953. Several of the downtown area businesses were destroyed. Franklin Street was relatively unscathed; and of course, the Alico Building survived, although it swayed as much as 6 feet during the tornado.

Back in Howard’s day, the Von Blon Bookstore was an important place in the college town of Waco. Both public school and Baylor College students, along with facility members, depended on von Blon’s as a source for school books and research materials. The bookstore sold new, used and rare books, along with school supplies such as Crayons, paper, pencils, etc. Additionally, von Blon, was quite skilled at tracking down rare books requested by his customers. In those days, Texas did not provide any textbooks to schools, so all students had to provide their own. Of course, more traditional books and periodicals of interest to the general public could be found at Von Blon’s as well.

provdtThe original Von Blon’s operated from 1916 to 1938. His first bookstore was in the basement of the old Provident Building, which was previously known as the Peerless Building. Then he moved to 413 Franklin and operated there for a period of time. Next von Blon moved his business across the street to 416 Franklin, and later moved the bookstore a couple of doors down to 408 Franklin. Von Blon always wanted to open his store on Austin Avenue (the main drag in Waco in those days), but it was just too costly for him to do so.

Avery Festus von Blon, Sr. was born in Upper Sandusky, Ohio on November 8, 1888. Around 1914, von Blon moved from Ohio to San Antonio. He was working as a switchman for a railroad when he met his wife to be, Lena Janek. The two married in 1916 and after a short honeymoon, the pair moved to Waco where von Blon began his career as a bookseller.

Prior to marrying von Blon, Lena lived with and worked for the Moos family, who owned and operated the H. A. Moos bookstore on Commerce Street in San Antonio. The Moos, gave the von Blons some books to get them started and they brought the merchandise with them to Waco.

In the early days of the bookstore, von Blon needed extra income and worked as a switchman for the Katy Railroad and later for the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad. Von Blon and his wife ran the bookstore themselves, occasionally hiring someone to help out during busy seasons.

The couple soon started a family, with Lena giving birth to three sons. Their first son, Avery Festus von Blon, Jr. was born on September 15, 1918, followed by Henry Moss, born on April 25, 1920 and John Herman, born on June 26, 1923. Sadly, Henry, the middle son was born with an autoimmune disease and died on February 15, 1924.


Von Blon’s bookstore was not the only bookstore in Waco. During the early to mid-thirties the city had a larger population than Austin. His competitors included Norman H. Smith who operated a store located on Austin Avenue that stocked mainly stationary and office supplies, but also carried textbooks, Ida Rand ran a bookshop on South Fourth Street, the Hill Printing and Stationery Company operated a rental library and there were other bookstores in town as well.

As was the case with everyone else in the country, The Great Depression took its toll on the von Blon family business. In 1938 he filed for bankruptcy and closed the bookstore, which was then back in the Provident Building, its original 1916 location. Reportedly, von Blon took the loss of his bookstore pretty hard.

Von Blon and his wife returned to the book business in the  early 1940s, moving to San Antonio and operating a used bookshop at several locations, first on La Salle Street and later moving to St. Mary’s Street.

On September 30, 1953 von Blon succumbed to aplastic anemia. He was 64 years old. His wife Lena moved back to Waco around 1957 and lived there until 1996 when she passed away at age 103. The von Blons are buried side by side in Waco’s Rosemound Cemetery.

Von Blon

This entry filed under Harold Preece, Howard's Texas, Howard's Travels.


This essay is a follow up to my article, “Theosophy and the Thurian Age: Robert E. Howard and the Works of William Scott-Elliot,” that was published in the November 2011 issue of The Dark Man journal (Shanks). In that article I argued that the principle source for the theosophical elements identified by Rusty Burke and Patrice Louinet (350) in Howard’s 1926 story “Men of the Shadows” and his 1928 “Atlantis” letter to Harold Preece was the book The Story of Atlantis by William Scott-Elliot. This is important because “Men of the Shadows” is the first story in which we see Howard beginning to creat his fictional prehistoric world that would later evolve into the Thurian Age of Kull and the Hyborian Age of Conan.

I argued further that Scott-Elliot’s influence could be seen in other stories, particularly “The Shadow Kingdom,” “Moon of Skulls,” “Skull-Face,” “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth,” and “The Hyborian Age.” I also identified several specific themes that Howard seems to have taken from The Story of Atlantis, including the idea of a “deep time” antediluvian civilization existing hundreds of thousands of years ago, a later maritime Atlantean empire, a series of multiple geological cataclysms, and a sequence of races of mankind.

9781258170066_p0_v1_s260x420Not long after submitting that article I came across an item, which I had not realized existed, but that I now feel adds more information to our understanding of Howard’s interest in theosophical ideas about prehistory and human evolution. It also helps answer some of the lingering questions that I still had after my previous research. This item is Little Blue Book No. 477, Theosophy in Outline by Frederick Milton Willis, first published in 1923.

Willis was a theosophist and author of several books on reincarnation, Christian mysticism, and the like. His Theosophy in Outline is exactly what the title implies—a concise summary of the Theosophy movement and its principle ideas and beliefs. This includes a section discussing and summarizing Scott-Elliot’s version of antediluvian prehistory from The Story of Atlantis.

The Little Blue Books (or LBBs) were a series of small chapbooks published by editor, author, and social reformer E. Haldeman-Julius beginning in 1919 (Gibbs, “Dating”). They were designed as inexpensive, concise, popular works on a variety of topics such as politics, literature, history, science, philosophy, religion, and self-help. Howard seems to have been a fan of the LBBs and he mentions them and Haldeman-Julius in his letters on several occasions (Burke, “Bookshelf”). In Howard’s semi-autobiographical novel, Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, the narrator Steve (meant to represent Howard) calls the Little Blue Books “a godsend” (76). So it’s not at all unreasonable to suggest that the LBB Theosophy in Outline might have been one of Howard’s sources for the theosophical elements that we find in some of his stories.

The section that concerns us is located near the end of Willis’s booklet under the heading “Root Races and Sub-Races” and is worth quoting at length:

Seven root-types of men evolve on our Earth during this stage of its life. Theosophists call these types Root-Races, and each has its own special “Continent,” or configuration of land. The first two Root-Races have disappeared. Of the third, the Lemurian, which flourished on the continent of Lemuria, now beneath the Pacific Ocean for the most part, hardly a pure specimen remains; the negroes are its descendents from mixed marriages. The fourth, the Atlantean, spread over the Earth from the continent of Atlantis, which united western Europe and Africa with eastern America. It built some of the mightiest civilizations the world has known, and the greater part of the world’s inhabitants still belong to it. The fifth, the Aryan, leads humanity today. The sixth is in the womb of the future, but its continent is beginning its formation and will occupy, roughly, the Lemurian site; the islands now being thrown up in the northern Pacific are indications of the commencement of a work which will demand hundreds of thousands of years for its accomplishment. The seventh lies far, far ahead. (88)

Here we find represented many of the theosophical elements that appear in “Men of the Shadows,” such as the idea that the islands of the Pacific are the peaks of sunken Lemurian mountains. More significant is the discussion of the progression of Root Races. In the oft-quoted 1928 letter to Harold Preece discussing Atlantis, Howard summarizes the theosophical Root Race concept, but describes the first two Root Races as “unknown and unnamed”:

The occultists say that we are the fifth—I believe—great sub-race. Two unknown and unnamed races came, then the Lemurians, then the Atlanteans, then we. They say the Atlanteans were highly developed. I doubt it. (Collected Letters i:237)

In the sequence of the Races of Man in “Men of the Shadows,” he replaces the first two races with his own prehistoric Picts. As I noted previously, however, the first and second Root Races are not “unnamed,” but are referred to in a number of theosophical works as the Polarians and Hyperboreans respectively (Shanks 57–58). The fact that Theosophy in Outline gives no names or details on these two early races, lends credence to the idea that this may been one of Howard’s sources for the Root Race concept.

Willis continues his synopsis of Scott-Elliot’s ideas with a description of the sub-races of the Atlantean Root Race:

Each Root-Race divides into seven sub-races. We have the fourth Root-Race [i.e. the Atlanteans] divided into the Rmoahal, Tlavatli, Toltec, Turanian, Semitic, Akkadian and Mongolian sub-races. (89)

When I came across this passage it occurred to me that it may help resolve one of the nagging problems regarding Howard and his concept of Atlantis. A curious August 24, 1923 letter to Tevis Clyde Smith contains Howard’s earliest known mention of Atlantis. The letter is a little odd in that Howard, in a matter-of-fact way, discusses a past life as a Philistine soldier and goes into great detail about a number of civilizations and events from the Bronze Age Near East and Mediterranean (Collected Letters i:20-21). Almost in passing he mentions that Atlantis existed at that time and was a contemporary of the Mesopotamian civilization of Accad (an alternate spelling of Akkad).

AtlantisThis placing of Atlantis in the historical past is completely incongruous with the “deep time” Atlantis that we see later in his stories. Unlike Scott-Elliot, who places the lost continent far back in prehistoric times, Willis does not give any dates for Atlantis in Theosophy in Outline. If you didn’t know that Scott-Elliot uses the names of historic cultures (Toltec, Semitic, Turanian, Akkadian, etc.) as stand-ins for their supposed prehistoric antecedents, you might easily assume that Willis was making Atlantis contemporaneous with the historic versions of those cultures. If Howard was basing his comments in the Smith letter solely on the content of Theosophy in Outline it would explain this placement of Atlantis in the Bronze Age.

Another interesting point to consider is that earlier in Theosophy in Outline there is a section on reincarnation and how one can sometimes remember their past lives (51-57). Whether or not Howard truly believed the past life information that he was detailing in the letter to Smith or was simply having a bit of fun with his friend is impossible to say, but in either case it seemed reasonable that Howard’s reading of Outline might have inspired this letter.

Upon sharing a copy of this Little Blue Book with Patrice Louinet, he noticed similarities not only with the letter to Smith, but also the untitled Bran Mak Morn story that was discovered in 2001 (Howard, “Untitled”; Louinet). The story, which is essentially a sequence of past lives, contains the line “The Wheel turns and the cycles revolve forever. The Wheel turns and the souls of all things are bound to the spokes through all Eternity” (291). Patrice noted the similarity of that passage and the line from Outline referring to reincarnation: “Looking at this long-turning wheel of births and deaths” (54).

haggardHoward’s story also mentions a drug called Taduka, which when smoked allows the user to experience his past lives (291). Charles Rutledge has noted that Howard’s source for this is likely the “Taduki” plant in H. Rider Haggard’s The Ancient Allan, which has a similar effect (“Ancient Allison“), but it is worth noting that Outline also suggests that various drugs such as hashish, bhang, and opium can allow glimpses of the astral world (16).

Initially then, it seemed as though Willis’s LBB Theosophy in Outline might have been a source of inspiration for not only the theosophical material in “Men of the Shadows,” but also both the reincarnation story and the August 24 letter to Smith. But then, Patrice realized there was a problem—more on that in Part Two.



Burke, Rusty. “The Robert E. Howard Bookshelf. []” Robert E. Howard United Press Association. 1998. Web. November 2011.

Burke, Rusty, and Patrice Louinet. “Robert E. Howard, Bran Mak Morn, and the Picts.” Bran Mak Morn: The Last King. New York: Del Rey, 2005. 343-360. Print.

Gibbs, Jake. “Dating Little Blue Books. []” Haldeman-Julius: Pocket Series and The Little Blue Books. March 2009. Web. November 2011.

Howard, Robert E. The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard. 3 Vols.. Ed. Rob Roehm. Plano, TX: The REH Foundation Press, 2007. Print.

———. “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth.” The Black Stranger and Other American Tales. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. 110-145. Print.

———. “The Hyborian Age.” The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian. Eds. Rusty Burke and Patrice Louinet. New York: Del Rey, 2003. 381-398. Print.

———. “Men of the Shadows.” Bran Mak Morn: The Last King. New York: Del Rey, 2005. 1-30. Print.

———. “The Moon of Skulls.” The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane. New York: Del Rey, 2004. 99-170. Print.

———. Post Oaks and Sand Roughs. Hampton Falls, NH: Donald M. Grant Publishers, 1990. Print.

———. “The Shadow Kingdom.”  Kull: Exile of Atlantis. New York: Del Rey, 2006. 13-51. Print.

———. “Skull-Face.” Tales of Weird Menace. Plano, TX: Robert E. Howard Foundation Press, 2010. 3-94. Print.

———. “Untitled.” Bran Mak Morn: The Last King. New York: Del Rey, 2005. 289-320. Print.

Louinet, Patrice. Personal communication. November 2011. Email.

Rutledge, Charles R. “The Ancient Allison. [http://singular–]” singular– Singular Points. January 2011. Web. November 2012.

Scott-Elliot, William. The Story of Atlantis. London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1896. Print.

Shanks, Jeffrey. “Theosophy and the Thurian Age: Robert E. Howard and the Works of W. Scott-Elliot.” The Dark Man 6:1-2 (2011). Print.

Spence, Lewis. Atlantis in America. London: Ernest Benn. 1925. Print.

———. The Problem of Atlantis. London: William Rider and Son. 1924. Print.

Willis, Frederick Milton. Theosophy in Outline. Little Blue Book No. 477. Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Company, 1923. Print.


It appears that most issues of The Junto started their way down the mailing list at the end of the month prior to the date on the cover; so, the July issue most likely started circulating at the end of June. As we saw last time, the June issue was “lost,” so the July edition is the first of new editor Lenore Preece’s issues that survive. On the cover is a poem by former editor Booth Mooney:

The Moths

A moth came flying.
It approached a lamp
And beat against it
And perished. . . .

And a fool said,
Verily, serenity is greater than force.

But many moths came
And beat against the lamp.
They labored mightily
And called to other moths.
The mass of moths grew larger—
All beating against the lamp. . . .

Many were consumed in the flame,
But at last the lamp was extinguished.
The remaining moths
Held counsel. . . .
They set up a new lamp
That shed a most magnificent light.

This is followed by editorial comments from Lenore Preece. These tell the origin and purpose of the travelogue and are presented at the head of this post. Up next is “The Monotony of Being Good,” an article by John Doughty. This is a meandering rant that points out the difference between what the Christian faith advises people do and their actual behavior. It ends with this: “That some thus far inconceivable fashion of man will arrive who will try being good once in his life, at least; and thereby for the first time in the history of the race, learn whether, after all, there is an actual monotony in being good. As matters now stand, we can only speculate.”

This is followed by a couple of short paragraph items, both untitled, and both probably supplied by Lenore Preece as space fillers. The first is a little rant that claims that the mixing of white and black blood, “according to scientists, seems to bring out the worse qualities of both.” The second deals with France’s war debt, sort of.

Up next is “Hate’s Dawn,” verse by REH, one of the few to reference the World War. After this is “Women,” a tirade by Harold Preece containing this, “Naturally weak, Woman relies upon her only commodity, sexual favors, for her existence”; this, “Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as an intellectual woman”; and this, “The Orientals have the proper idea; they keep their women in deserved subjection,” just to mention a few. One wonders if this article is similar to the “tirade against women” that Preece sent to Howard at Clyde Smith’s instigation back in December.

“Sic Transit,” verse by Booth’s brother, Orus Mooney, tells the story of a man who played three women, “thinking to choose in time,” but at the end his “friends and opportunities passed away” and he is alone. This is followed by “An Open Letter to Texas’ Governor,” by Truett Vinson, the text for this is in here.

Up next is “The King and the Mallet,” verse by REH. Beneath the poem, fellow Juntite Norbert Sydow has written this: “The gentleman must not make his knowledge of Poe’s poems so obvious as to mutilate a line from ‘The Greenest of Our Valleys’ poem.” A criticism that I haven’t looked into.

This is followed by Booth Mooney’s “Spirit of God,” wherein an elderly man offers Mooney a ride after his car breaks down. This surprises Mooney as the man is known as a miser. Once in the man’s buggy, he pesters Mooney about his actions and implores him to go to church: “Quit your nonsense. Don’t kill your soul by goin’ to a show. Live right.” After enduring this, Mooney muses:

How easily is the down rubbed off the wings of our little butterfly illusions—patriotism, religion, democracy—the little illusions that breed maggots.

Following this are several poems. First is a series of four “Sonnets on the Recognition of the Vatican” by Lenore Preece. The second of these is subtitled “Mussolini” and has these lines: “[. . .] is’t for this / That all the centuries of effort spent / Have spawned a brute to ravish and to rent / The total sum of art’s hard-conquered bliss?”

The sonnets are followed by “Fragment” by Booth Mooney, which tries to channel Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” with lines like this: “This is America working and singing and sweating and swearing.” Then there’s “To Franz Schubert” by Harold Preece, a 15-line lyric praising Schubert as a “weaver of melodious webs.” And, finally, another by Mooney: “To an Evangelist,” wherein the speaker accuses the evangelist of robbing the poor.

“On the Death of a Great Juntite,” by Lenore Preece, is a heartfelt, if humorous, obituary for her cat, Thomas Paine. The issue concludes with Robert E. Howard’s “Singing in the Wind” and Orus Mooney’s “Faith,” which asks, “How, believing not in that which I can see, / Can I believe in a Divinity I know not of?”

At the end of the issue is the “Texas Mailing List,” which explains the rules of membership:


This is followed by the names and addresses of everyone who will receive the issue. Each name has an inch or two of space left open for comments on the current issue. Here are some selections:

Harold Preece: “On the whole, exceptional. Orus not up to his usual standard. Bob Howard’s ‘King and the Mallet’ best contribution of this issue.”
Truett Vinson: “An extraordinary issue. The ‘Sonnets on the Recognition of the Vatican’ are superb. They should be passed on to some good poetry magazine. Bob Howard is still fine—as usual. Harold’s article is a fine collection of words! Good luck to The Junto’s new editor!”
Booth Mooney: “Harold’s article good, but I think his argument flawed. Howard’s stuff good, of course. [. . .] For God’s sake, don’t publish ‘Open Letters.’ I agree with T. V., however. [. . .]”
Maxine Ervin: “The best issue we have had in a long time, and it still has plenty of room for improvement.”

And a note from Truett Vinson:

Miss Preece—
Please add the name of Edna Mae Coffin, No. Chelmsford, Mass., to your National Mailing list. She is an artist of some ability and will be interested in The Junto.


[Not counting this, the above is the earliest photo of Mooney that I’ve been able to find; it’s circa the late 1950s.]

[It’s been a while. Part 5 is here]

Early in 1929, Junto editor Booth Mooney was beginning to get bogged down.  He wrote to Clyde Smith:

I, too, find that college is a terrible bore, and I’m not learning a damn thing. I don’t think that I shall go next term. As Bob says, “about the only thing colleges is good for is that they enable one to get a line-up on semi-humanity.” Hell, I don’t see why I ever wanted to attend a Baptist college, anyway.

No more nom de plumes will be used in The Junto. I’m not sure whether the magazine will be continued or not, for it takes up so much time. I’m trying to do a little writing now, and I need all the time I can get.

By February, he was clearing the way:

I’d like to continue “The Junto,” but I’m afraid that I just can’t do it. It surely takes lots of time—more than I have to spare. I may get out another issue or so to clear up the material that I have on hand, but I can’t make a definite promise.

And that spring he was done:

Yes, I have discontinued “The Junto.” I hated to do it. It was necessary, though. My time is limited. However, Lenore Preece is going to revive it, I believe. She asked me to send her all material I had on hand. Some of your stuff was in the bunch I sent her. If you have time, send her something pretty often. I should like to see the Junto continue to come out. I don’t know whether you know her address. Capitol Station, Austin.

How long The Junto was on hiatus is unclear, but by the end of May, Lenore Preece was ready to send out the June issue:


Capitol Station
Austin, Texas
May 24, 1929
Mr. Tevis Clyde Smith
c/o Walker-Smith Co.
Brownwood, Texas

Dear Mr. Smith:

The June issue of “The Junto,” containing your “Fragmentary Portrait” and “God” should reach you within the next two weeks. As Booth may have informed you, I am editing the travelogue. I now have nothing to be published which is written by you.

Since, while “The Junto” was compiled by Booth, you were a frequent contributor, I trust that, under my management of “The Junto,” you will continue to submit manuscripts. Could you send me anything for the July issue? Also, I do not think that an autobiography of yours, with the accompanying picture, has appeared. Any material which you care to mail me will be appreciated.

I hope to edit “The Junto” as much like Booth as possible. Should it seem that I am not conforming to the standard evinced by him, please do not hesitate to point out the deficiency. I will welcome any criticism.

I regret that, last fall, I did not get to see you and the young lady (whose name, with my usual aberration, I have forgotten) before your departure. Thinking that I would have the pleasure of seeing you all that night of your arrival, I did not have an opportunity to invite you back, and tell you how glad I was to meet you.

Lenore Preece

Unfortunately, we’ll never have a chance to peruse Lenore’s first offering as editor, as this note in the July issue explains:


But despite her desire to reprint the issue, her August 15, 1929 letter to Clyde Smith reveals that, “On Booth’s advice, [she] did not re-issue the June number.” That same letter gives us a little more information about what was contained in the lost issue:

If Vinson wishes to send me “Canal Street,” Howard, “Nocturne,” and you, your sketch which described those gentlemen “occasionally saluting Bacchus,” (all of which were published in the lost “Junto”) I shall be glad to re-print them in subsequent “Juntoes.”

In his last surviving letter to Smith (circa Summer 1929), Booth Mooney mentions the Preece-edited Junto:

I haven’t had time to do more than glance over the Junto, but it looks like a good issue. By the way, has Lenore told you about the Juntite convention which she hopes to throw about the last of December—in Dallas, I believe? I hope you’ll be able to come.

We’ll have a look at the first surviving Preece issue next time.