So, I’m going through Post Oaks and Sand Roughs for about the hundredth time and I run across this: “About this time there was printed in the Eagle Nest of Bizarre Stories a letter boosting Steve’s ‘Talon and Bow.’ This letter had been written by a cousin in California, at Steve’s special request.” As we all know, in Post Oaks Howard thinly disguised the names of actual people, places, and things from his real life by slightly altering their names: Weird Tales became Bizarre Stories; its letters column, The Eyrie, became The Eagle’s Nest; “Spear and Fang,” Howard’s first published story, became “Talon and Bow,” and so on. The “cousin in California” reminded me of my recent post regarding Earl Lee Comer, but had Howard neglected to change his location?

As reported in that post, Comer had traveled from Los Angeles, California to Dallas, Texas in September 1926. Might he be the cousin in California writing letters for Howard in 1925, when “Spear and Fang” was published? I don’t have the issues of Weird Tales that might provide an answer, so I shot off a couple of emails. Thanks to Patrice Louinet and Morgan Holmes, I found my answer.

The Eyrie for September 1925, pages 416-17, contains the following:

“The vigorous stories found in Weird Tales” writes Earl C.* Comer, of Los Angeles, “are certainly of tonic value, and especially is this fact realized more when one tries to wade through the sea of flaccid and utterly inane ‘literature’ of the present day. The stories in the July issue run the whole gamut of weirdness and of unusual situations in far corners of the earth, from the werewolf tale to the utter depravity of dope-users and back again. A good plot in psychic phenomena is Farthingale’s Poppy by Eli Colter. Such stories have a peculiar appeal to me. A gripping story of the horrible sufferings of dope-users is found in The Death Cure by Paul S. Powers. That one almost causes a nausea of the mind in places, but I would not have missed it because of its graphic description of the two poor devils. In casting about for a kind of mild sedative I ran across Spear and Fang by Robert E. Howard—a good story of our remote ancestors before the dawn of civilization and intelligence, when man’s reasoning powers were in the formative state. Your July issue affords thrilling entertainment for those who enjoy the unusual. And if you continue to publish such appealing stories, then the well-deserved popularity of Weird Tales is certain to grow.”

*This is no doubt a transcription error and should be an L; handwritten capital Ls can easily be confused for capital Cs.

If there was a doubt about whether or not Howard and Comer corresponded, I’d say there isn’t now. I’d also say that this helps clear up how Howard felt about this particular cousin; you don’t ask people you don’t like to do you favors. At least, I don’t.

And here’s Another Earl Addendum.

This entry filed under Howard Biography, Weird Tales.

Matthew Clark, Howard fan and Friend of TGR, has a new audio production making its premiere tomorrow evening (Monday, 07/16) on KBOO radio of REH’s “Vulture’s Sanctuary.” The show will air live at 11:00 pm PDST and will be streamed on the internet.. If you can’t listen to it live, Matthew will have it permanently posted on the Gremlin Time section of the Oregon based radio station’s webpage in about a week.

As readers of this blog know, Matthew has previously produced three other Howard stories: “Pigeons From Hell,” “Wild Water” and “The Valley of the Lost,” all of them posted on KBOO’s website. In addition to Robert E. Howard, Matthew presents stories a by a host of other classic authors: Jack London, Damon Runyon, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Warton, Rafael Sabtini, Zora Neal Hurston, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sosiki Natsumi, and many others. So if yuo want to hear a good want to hear a good story, tune in for a full hour on the 3rd Monday of every month.

Here is Mathew’s description of this classic pulp western adventure by Robert E. Howard:

Tonight, Fortunato presents “Vultures’ Sanctuary”, an old school western by Robert E. Howard, first printed in 1936. At first, Big Mac just wanted to take a real vacation in California. But, he’d stopped off in the lawless town of Capitan, and there was this girl, Judith Ellis, who at first, thought the big man was just another brawling roughneck. Now, he was riding deep into the wild mountains of the Guadalupes and into the middle of an impregnable outlaw stronghold to rescue her from the clutches of the mysterious bandit chief, El Bravo.

“Vultures Sanctuary” and the other Howard radio plays are great adaptations and well worth a listen.

This entry filed under Howard in Media, Howard's Fiction, News.

At the end of my last post I went off on a tangent regarding Robert E. Howard’s cousin, Earl Lee Comer; he was the subject of my mania last summer and I “published” my findings in a REHupa ’zine. Since then, a few more nuggets of information have emerged, including a couple of interesting items from Glenn Lord’s collection of Howard’s typescripts. Anyway, let’s see what most people already know about Earl Lee before we get into that.

Most of us were introduced to Mr. Comer in the pages of L. Sprague de Camp’s biography of Howard, Dark Valley Destiny:

Robert Howard was thirteen years old when his family bought their home in Cross Plains. Although Robert had not outgrown the Burkett school system, which lacked high-school facilities, we surmise that Mrs. Howard’s nephew, Earl Lee Comer, who had come to live with them, had already reached high-school age. Very little is known about this nephew, except that he shared the Howards’ house for several years. Robert, in his later letters to Lovecraft, never once mentions the slightly older lad whose presence must have affected him in one way or another. Since the two boys shared the sleeping porch, ate at the same table, and even attended the same high school, it is indeed curious that no mention of him appears in the correspondence of either Robert or his father.

Queries to former teachers at the Cross Plains school and to others who lived in the neighborhood have revealed nothing. All we know is that after completing his high school courses, Lee Comer left Cross Plains to work for one of the oil companies in Dallas. Perhaps no one will ever know what Robert thought of this interloper in his home or what this orphaned youth thought of his thirteen-year-old cousin.

In later pages, discussing the family’s house in Cross Plains, de Camp adds the following: “Several years later, when Lee Comer moved out, the family’s sleeping arrangements were entirely rearranged.” And that’s all for DVD. De Camp’s use of “interloper” seems to be designed to put a negative spin on the whole arrangement, even though he had no information to that effect. The only mention of Comer that I’ve found in de Camp’s papers is from an October 10, 1977 letter from Lindsey Tyson:

There was one relative of the Howards that no one seems to remember much about. His name was Earl Lee Comer. Earl Lee was a nephew of Mrs. Howard’s, he came to live with the Howards while they were still in Burkett. He was an orphan.

Earl Lee left here in the early twenties, went to Dallas, and Bob told me went to work for the Mobile Oil Co. Earl Lee was I think four or five years older than Bob. He came back here to the funeral service and I talked to him for a few minutes before the services, but I did not get to ask some things I was interested in. I was one of the pall bearers, thought I would talk to him some more later, but he left as soon as the service was over and I have never seen him again.

Rusty Burke’s “Short Biography” does not mention Comer, but the most-recent biography, Mark Finn’s Blood and Thunder, adds some more details:

Robert had to endure the first of many boarders. His cousin, Earl Lee Comer, was staying at the Howard house, most likely to work in the nearby oil fields. Robert was forced to share the sleeping porch with this older man, who came to them through Hester’s side of the family. Comer stayed for at least a year, presumably until the work ran out, and then moved on like the rest of the oil field folks. Robert never discussed his cousin to anyone.

Now why does everyone assume that Comer’s coming was a bad thing? Howard had to “endure” his cousin’s presence and was “forced” to share sleeping quarters? Finn takes it a step further in his discussion of bullying when he speculates: “Was his older cousin, Earl Lee Comer, a tormentor in addition to being an oil field roughneck? Nobody knows.” We’ll have more on Howard’s reaction to his cousin later, but first, let’s see what we can find out with some internet archeology.

The friends of Miss Alice Ervin, formerly a resident of Muskogee, and a sister of Mrs. J. O. Cobb, will be interested in learning that Miss Ervin was married on Wednesday of last week to Rev. J. Frank Comer, of St. Louis, Mo., at the home of the bride’s parents at Commerce, Mo. The many friends of Miss Ervin in Muskogee join the friends at her home in wishing the wedded couple all the peace, joy and contentment that life affords. — Muskogee Phoenix – March 12, 1896

Following their marriage, Rev. J. Frank Comer and Hester’s sister Alice vanish from the internet record. There is a “J. F. Comer” listed as a land owner in Richmond, Missouri, Ray County, in 1897. Looking at the map (below), there is a cemetery right next door. If Mr. Comer was a reverend, that could make sense, but this is the only mention I’ve found. They are not listed on the 1900 Census, so it’s a mystery what the couple did from 1896 to 1910, except that on July 13, 1898, Earl Lee was born in Saint Louis. We pick up the trail on April 23, 1910, where the now widowed “Alice G.” and her son were enumerated on the Census at Big Spring.  She is listed as a dress-maker. The pair probably moved to Big Spring following the death of Frank to be near Alice’s older brother, William Vinson Ervin.

In 1911, Earl Lee participated in Texas’s Troop No. 1, the so-called “oldest Boy Scout troop in Texas,” which began in Big Spring that year (“Scout Troop Completes 25 Years,” from the December 27, 1936 edition of the Big Spring Herald). The good times didn’t last long, though, as his mother died a few years later, July 14, 1915. With both of his parents now gone, and Uncle William already having several of his own children, Earl Lee ended up with his Aunt Hester in Cross Cut. He appears in “Cross Cut Items,” from the December 10, 1915 edition of the Cross Plains Review (thanks Rusty), where it is reported that he is part of the Cross Cut school’s basketball team. Earl was 17 years old; his cousin Robert was 9.

If Tyson’s statement above is accurate, Comer went with the Howards when they moved to Burkett—but he was gone before they moved to Cross Plains. On May 25, 1918, he signed up for the U.S. Navy. After the war, the 1920 Census has an “Earl E. Comer” listed as a “Lodger” in Milwaukee, Ward 4, Wisconsin, of all places. Perhaps he was sent there as part of his enlistment. This appears to be our Earl as the Big Spring Herald reported the following on January 7, 1921:

Earl Lee Comer who recently returned from Milwaukee, Wis., where he had been to take a course in mechanical drawing, after spending the holidays with friends and relatives in this city left for Cross Plains where he will make his home.

What he did in Cross Plains is a mystery. One would suppose that he was put to work using the training he’d received in Wisconsin. Whatever he did, Earl’s second stay with the Howards didn’t last long. By Christmas 1923 he was living in Dallas, as reported in the Big Spring paper for December 28th: “Earl Comer was here from Dallas to spend Christmas with Dr. W. C. Barnett and family,” and again on May 9, 1924: “Earl Comer of Dallas was here this week for a visit with the family of Dr. W. C. Barnett.”

It is unclear what Earl was doing for a living at this time, but he seems to have landed a permanent position by the time the following item appeared in the Big Spring paper, September 10, 1926: “Earl Comer, en route from Los Angeles to Dallas, where he has accepted a position, visited friends in this city this week, leaving Thursday morning for Dallas.” What he was doing in LA is a mystery. [UPDATE: Looks like we know at least one thing he was doing, writing a letter to Weird Tales. Look here.]

The next Earl sighting is in Cross Plains. It appears that Earl enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday with the Howards in 1928: “E. L. Comer of Dallas, nephew of Dr. and Mrs. Howard, spent past weekend here” (Cross Plains Review, Nov. 30, 1928).

Also around 1928, apparently, we get a glimpse at how Robert Howard felt about his cousin. In March of that year, the first mailing of The Junto was circulated. Its editor, Booth Mooney, appears on a list of Howard’s friends and the cities they lived in: Truett Vinson, Clyde Smith, Booth Mooney—and “Earl Lee Comer, Dallas, Texas.” Another stray page has a list of three: “Truett Vinson / Clyde Smith / Earl Lee Comer.” Earl’s inclusion on these lists seems to indicate that Howard considered him as a friend; they may have even corresponded.

The 1930 Census has “Earl L. Comer” as a draftsman lodger in Dallas, Texas, and from there we lose sight of Earl until his appearance at the Howards’ funeral. Sometime before December 1938, Earl got married. He and his wife visited Big Spring a few times in 1938 and 1939. We know from his military record that he was divorced at the time of his death, and Earl’s trips to Big Spring in 1941 were taken alone, so perhaps the marriage was a brief one.

There is an Earl Comer being brought up on charges of child desertion in Rusk, Texas, in 1963; whether or not this Earl is our Earl, we’ll probably never know. The earliest mention of a Mrs. Earl Lee is December 1938. It seems odd that the couple would have a child young enough to be “deserted” in 1963. I’m guessing this was someone else.

The last definitive sighting of Earl is from the Galveston Daily News for Sept. 16, 1970:

Earl Lee Comer, 72, a retired Galveston draftsman, was found dead in his room at Moody House Tuesday. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Brookside Memorial Park in Houston, the Rev. William C. Webb Jr. officiating. Cremation will follow under the director of J. Levy and Bro. Funeral Home of Galveston. Born in St. Louis, Mo., Comer worked as a draftsman for the U.S. Bureau of Mines prior to his retirement. No survivors were reported.

ADDENDUM: In response to some emails I’ve received, I thought I’d add the following comment to the post. This is in response to de Camp’s claim that “Robert, in his later letters to Lovecraft, never once mentions the slightly older lad whose presence must have affected him in one way or another.”

I think we can now explain why Howard doesn’t mention Earl in his correspondence: Earl was probably gone before Howard started writing letters, at least any that have survived. The first letter we have is dated June 8, 1923 and we know that Earl was living in Dallas before Christmas of that year. So we’ve got Earl living with the Howards in Cross Cut and maybe Burkett, a period that Howard doesn’t mention much in his correspondence, and then again from 1921 to some point before December 1923, when Howard was in high school—another period he doesn’t talk about much. But there *are* a few unnamed cousins in the correspondence. This one, in particular:

Another thing that discourages me, is the absolute unreliability of human senses. If a hunting hound’s nose fooled him as often as a human’s faculties betray him, the hound wouldn’t be worth a damn. The first time this fact was brought to my mind was when I was quite small, and hearing a cousin relate the details of a camping trip, on which one Boy Scout shot another through the heart with a .22 calibre target rifle. I was never a Boy Scout, but I understand that they are trained to be keen observers. Well, there were about twenty looking on, and no two of them told the same story in court. And each insisted that his version was the correct one, and stuck to it. And I understand that this is common among all witnesses.

Of course, this could be Howard hyperbole, but given the “quite small” comment, and the fact that Earl was a Boy Scout, could be . . . And here’s another:

One of the damndest falls I ever got in my life was on a frozen pool — or tank, as we call them in these parts. I was just a kid, and wrestling with my cousin who was much older and larger. Eventually our feet went from under us, and we both came down on my head.

Now that we know the real age difference, that sounds like it could be Earl, too. So maybe it’s not that Howard never talked about Earl, maybe it’s just that we didn’t know enough about Earl to find him in the letters. But again, we’ll never really know; these could just be coincidences.

More on Earl Lee here: An Earl Addendum

Still more: Another Earl Addendum

[Photo credits: Downtown Big Spring , Photograph, n.d.; digital image, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth50477/ : accessed July 08, 2012), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Hardin-Simmons University Library , Abilene, Texas. Thanks to Damon Sasser for making the trip to the Houston National Cemetery and taking the picture of Earl’s headstone.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And de Camp added the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the second post for 2012 of the online version of Nemedian Dispatches. This feature previously appeared in the print journal and is now on the blog. On a quarterly basis, Nemedian Dispatches will highlight new and upcoming appearances of Howard’s fiction in print, as well as Howard in other types of media.

In Print:

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

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

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

Kindle:

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

Clothing:

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

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

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

Coming Soon:

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

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

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

Conan Meets the Academy

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This entry filed under Howard's Fiction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tempter

by Robert E. Howard

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

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

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

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

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry.