Sunday, June 17, 2018

Howard Days 2018: A Trip Report by Todd B. Vick



This year was my seventh straight year to attend Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas. Every year I meet new people and learn new things, and that alone keeps me wanting to come back the next year. But in addition to meeting new people and learning new things, there is so much else going on, trying to take it all in can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. This year’s theme was celebrating REH Fans and the keynote speaker was, Bill “Indy” Cavalier, long time Howard fan and OE (Official Editor) of The Robert E. Howard United Press Association (REHupa). Moreover, most of the panels this year were geared to the fandom of Robert E. Howard. Every year I can summarize the event itself usually in one word. This year that word is fellowship.

It may have simply been the group I spent the most time with this year, but there were a lot of people who knew one another via the internet but had never met before in person. So "meeting" for the "first time," so to speak was a prominent feeling and activity. That was the case for me with several online friends who also attended the event this year. David J. West, author and guest writer here at On An Underwood No. 5, whom I have known online for many years, attended this year’s event for the first time. We had previously discussed him possibly attending previous Howard Days, and I had explained that I could pick him up from the airport and we could always drive to the event together. This year he took me up on that offer, and I’m glad he did. Getting to meet David J. West and hang out with him this year was a highlight for me. Moreover, when we arrived in Cross Plains, West was looking for others whom he had met online but had not met in person, so we eventually crossed paths with author Keith West (a regular attender to Howard Days), Jason M. Waltz (Rogue Blades Entertainment), and eventually we connected with author Ty Johntson. I was also able to reconnect with other regular Howard Days attendees (e.g. Bobby Derie, Scott Cupp, Scott Valeri, Russell Andrew, and many others). I was also able to finally meet Rob King (and his wife) who has helped me a little in my current research.

I typically get to Cross Plains by Thursday and this year was no exception. The reason is it gives me time to catch up with friends and other attendees and see the house before it gets too crowded on Friday and Saturday. Speaking of the Howard House and Museum, Project Pride always does a wonderful job organizing the event (with help from members of REHupa), along with Arlene Stephenson, who tirelessly spearheads the entire event. Note: Project Pride takes donations throughout the year to help maintain the house and museum. If you are so inclined, any amount is always helpful. Additionally, it is Project Pride who sets up private tours of the house for visitors who come to Cross Plains throughout the year to see where Robert E. Howard lived and worked. Your donations help there as well. Also, on Thursday, The Robert E.Howard Foundation has their table set up and are their selling high quality hardback and paperback books at a discounted rate. In addition to The Robert E. Howard Foundation, Skelos Press had a designated table this year. They were selling Patrice Louinet’s book, newly translated from French to English, The Robert E. Howard Guide (look for an upcoming post that will feature his book). This book is currently available at Amazon and will be available at the Skelos Press website soon. Of course, Patrice’s book was one of the first books I bought this year since an English translation had been announced a few months prior to Howard Days.

(L to R) David J. West, Todd B. Vick,
and Jason M. Waltz at the REH grave site.
On Friday, after a quick trip to Brownwood with my wife (who was able to attend for the first time this year), David J. West and Jason M. Waltz, to see Robert E. Howard’s grave site, there was just enough time to go to the Pavilion, next to the Howard House, and chat with a few friends and meet new people. If you ever attend Howard Days and it’s your first visit, there is a nice tour (with a large school bus) that runs at around 8:30 a.m. on Friday every year and it takes people to all the various sites where Robert E. Howard hung out, and/or to certain towns/locations close by where he used to live before his family moved to Cross Plains (e.g. Cross Cut and Burkett). After a cup of coffee and fellowship at the Pavilion, along with a quick trip inside the Howard House and Museum to buy new t-shirts, the first panel began at 11:00 am.

I will not delve too deeply into the various panels for this year’s Howard Days. Ben Friberg has already posted all of them at YouTube for your viewing pleasure, and Rob King (assistant librarian and cataloger at the Texas Tech University Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, and a previous guest writer here at On An Underwood No. 5) has a marvelously detailed account of the panels (with the exception of the 3rd Annual Glenn Lord Symposium) that you can see here. All the panels this year were as good as any I’ve experienced in previous years at Howard Days. The two panels I personally enjoyed the most were the Third Annual Glenn Lord Symposium (presented on Friday) and the Happy 90th Birthday Solomon Kane (presented on Saturday). I like the Glenn Lord Symposium panels because they are a bit more academically rigorous, which is simply a personal preference. However, this year’s Symposium panel had all new faces, which is nice to see happen periodically. The panel included Karen Kohoutek (one of the winners of the 2017 Cimmerian Award for best online article or series, and a member of REHupa), Nicole Emmelhainz (Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Christopher Newport University), and Bobby Derie (the other winner of the 2017 Cimmerian Award for best online article or series and regular guest writer here at On An Underwood No. 5). Each of their presentations can be seen at YouTube (just follow the links on their names), and each presentation’s topic varied from Black Colossus and the inner journey of its heroine, Yasmela, to gender dynamics in Howard's work, to Howard's Mexico border trips.

After the Symposium, the presentation of the 2017 Robert E. Howard Foundation awards took place. You can see all the winners here. On an Underwood No. 5 was awarded The Stygian for Outstanding Achievement, Website or Periodical. I am deeply honored to have won the award, but it would not have been possible without the contributions to this website by Bobby Derie, Karen Kohoutek, Jason Ray Carney, Ben Friberg, Rob King, and David J. West. They are the true winners of this award.

Jumping ahead a little, another favored panel was Saturday’s, Happy 90th Birthday Solomon Kane. It had some memorable moments (for instance, Bobby Derie pulled out a knife on the panel to emphasize a point he was making—a funny moment for sure) and it had some quality Solomon Kane artwork that is featured in an upcoming Kickstarter game which centers around the Solomon Kane stories and character. It is already seeing huge success. Okay, so let’s jump back to Friday.
Bill Cavalier
 After Friday’s panels, as is always the case every year, the silent auction and banquet took place. The silent auction is always fun, especially walking around and examining all the various things that have been donated that year by different fans and attendees of the event. Sometimes you get into a ‘heated’ price bidding war and hopefully your pockets are deeper than their pockets. Even so, you win some you lose some. This year I won two items: Verses in Ebony, a small booklet of selected Robert E. Howard verse (from the collection of Bob Lumpkin), and a pack of tear-sheets for four of Robert E. Howard’s stories from various pulp magazines – these are the actual pages from the actual pulps that typically (but not always) get mailed to the author from the publisher/editor of the pulp. Three of these tear sheets are stapled inside a card-booklet type of holder, and one was loose; the tear-sheets were for “Vikings of the Gloves” published by Fight Stories, “The Sign of the Snake” published by Action Stories, “Crowd-Horror” published by Argosy, and “Black Vulmea’s Vengeance” published by Golden Fleece. The pack also contained a few loose papers with poem fragments and the like. The banquet is usually always catered by Staghorn Café located in downtown Cross Plains, and their meals are always good. While we ate, guest of honor Bill “Indy” Cavalier gave a talk about how he discovered Robert E. Howard’s work and what Howard and his works have meant to him over the past 40 plus years.

Jumping back to Saturday, after all the panels are completed (and you certainly want to watch the panel called, What’s Up With REH?if you were unable to attend) there is more gathering and fellowship at the pavilion while we all wait on the home cooked Texas BBQ feast that has been slowly and lovingly prepared for us throughout the day by Cat & BarbBQ. Once we get our fill of the evening meal and great discussions, anyone who is interested can migrate to the front of the Howard House and Museum for the annual porch reading of Robert E. Howard’s poetry. This year, more people gathered in front of the house than I have ever seen in the seven years I have attended this event; a sure sign that this event and Howard’s poetry is gaining in popularity (not that his poetry was ever unpopular, but this event, I think, has certainly helped promote it). Hearing people read Howard's poetry from his own front porch is always a nice highlight to Howard Days, and a fun way to end the event. And the group that reads Howard's "The Cimmerian" poem in different languages keeps growing every year - I think this year two new languages were added (Gaelic and Anglo-Saxon).

Other than the heat, which actually got to me on several occasions throughout the event, the panels, the auction, the discussions with old friends, and meeting new friends made this year’s Howard Days an especially enjoyable experience.




[I have deliberately left out a few things from this trip report with the intent to highlight them in individual posts, so be sure and look for those soon. Cheers!]



Thursday, June 14, 2018

Hot (and a little bothered) Off The Press by Gary Romeo

A Critique of Patrice Louinet’s The Robert E. Howard Guide

Robert E. Howard Days 2018 saw the release of Patrice Louinet’s The Robert E. Howard Guide (Skelos Press, 2018).  It is in the tradition of Robert Weinberg’s The Annotated Guide to Robert E. Howard’s Sword & Sorcery (Starmont House, 1976) and Marc Cerasini and Charles E. Hoffman’s Robert E. Howard Starmont Reader’s Guide (Starmont House, 1987).  Patrice’s book is less weighty than either of these books in that it gives only brief commentary on the stories mentioned.

Most entertaining for me were the summaries of fifty great REH stories.  Patrice revisits the twenty best in Chapter 3, followed by thirty more in Chapters Four and Five.  It is always fun to remember why you love REH in the first place and the comments on these stories really do reemphasize why REH is a writer worthy of respect and study.

There is little new here for older REH fans but there may be things for older and newer REH fans to digest and argue about.  Especially Chapter One where Patrice discusses common misconceptions about Howard. 

Chamber of Darkness #4
The first myth brought to task is that Howard was convinced Conan had really existed.  Patrice rightly destroys this notion mostly originating from John Milius.  It has always been my opinion that Milius may have read Chamber of Darkness #4 (Marvel Comics, 1970).  This issue contains a very good story by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith entitled “The Sword and the Sorcerers.”  The story features a sword & sorcery author named Len Carson.  Len is having nightmares about his Starr the Slayer character and decides to kill him off.  Starr materializes from the ether and kills off Len before Len can kill him in his story.  This is a great tale about a sword and sorcery author and is easily morphed into it being about Robert E. Howard if you are so inclined.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Blunders of One Weird Tales Artist: Curtis Charles Senf by Todd B. Vick


Curtis Charles Senf
The September 1931 Weird Tales had, perhaps, one of the most farcical blunders ever committed by a magazine illustrator, and it happened to one of Robert E. Howard’s most popular and prized characters, Solomon Kane. The artist was Curtis Charles Senf (C.C. Senf), who at the time, lived in Chicago and began drawing covers and interior illustrations for Weird Tales. His debut cover was the March 1927 issue. In fact, Senf did 8 of the 12 covers for Weird Tales in 1927, and 11 of the 12 covers for 1928. His numbers tapered off a little after these two years, but over-all, Senf was the artist for 45 covers at Weird Tales. In addition to this, he drew hundreds of interior illustrations for The Unique Magazine. To say he was a seasoned magazine artist and illustrator is a slight understatement. However, and this is a pretty big however, he eventually stopped reading the stories he illustrated, and the results were laughable, and even angered some of the writers for Weird Tales.

Curtis Charles Senf was born on July 30, 1873, in Rosslau, Prussia. In 1881, when he was a boy of eight, the Senf family emigrated to America on the S.S. Wieland. They landed in New York City on June 28 and then ultimately settled in Chicago, Illinois. His father's occupation was listed only as "workman."[1] C.C. Senf attended public school and upon graduating high school, he enrolled in the Chicago Institute of Art. Following his art studies at the Chicago Institute of Art, Senf became a commercial artist and lithographer. Eventually Senf opened an art agency called Senf & Company with Fred S. Gould. This venture failed and eventually was forced to file bankruptcy in 1903. There are no other details about employment for Senf until he becomes a regular artist for Weird Tales. By the time he landed the job of cover and interior artist for Weird Tales, Senf was almost 54 years of age. 

"The Bride of Dewer"
Given the fact that the cover art for Weird Tales prior to 1927 was average to downright terrible, Senf was a welcomed edition to the magazine. Even H. P. Lovecraft, who was often picky about weird art (and weird fiction), expressed hope that this new artist might create better cover art than previous artists had for the magazine. In a January 1927 letter to August Derleth, Lovecraft declared, “I shall welcome the new cover artist, & can feel sure at least that he can’t be any worse than those who have hitherto messed up the magazine.”[2] His hope would be short lived, by June of that same year, Lovecraft told Derleth, “. . .the present ‘artist’ Senf has no sense of the fantastic whatever.”[3] While Lovecraft is not necessarily incorrect in his over-all opinion about Senf’s work, Senf “could do a truly weird cover, one of his best being for ‘The Bride of Dewer,”[4] and there were a few others. In fact, a little later in this article, we will look at another truly weird cover Senf did (and perhaps one of his best works) toward the end of his career at Weird Tales.  Moreover, in 1927 Senf was reading the stories and illustrating them according to their content, so this last sentiment by Lovecraft was merely a stylistic complaint on his part. Senf’s artwork, for the most part, was “better” than the work of previous artists for the magazine, his style was that of late 19th century artists, with nice detail, color, and vivid scope, and he excelled when the story was a period piece. Even so, in many ways, Lovecraft was correct, Senf’s sense of the fantastic and/or weird was not the greatest. 



Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Coincidental Friendship of H. Warner Munn and H. P. Lovecraft by Todd B. Vick




In “The Eyrie” of the March 1924 issue of
Weird Tales, H. P. Lovecraft wrote, “Popular authors do not and apparently cannot appreciate the fact that true art is obtainable only by rejecting normally and conventionality in toto, and approaching a theme purged utterly of any usual or preconceived point of view.”[1] A bold statement, to say the least, especially in a magazine whose byline is The Unique Magazine. But Lovecraft demanded his fiction to be unconventionally ‘other than,’ and as original as possible. For him, crafting a story was an art form. In this same letter, Lovecraft goes on to declare:

Wild and ‘different’ as they may consider their quasi-weird products, it remains a fact that the bizarrerie is on the surface alone; and that basically they reiterate the same old conventional values and motives and perspectives. Good and evil, teleological illusion, sugary sentiment, anthropocentric psychology—the usual superficial stock trade, and all shot through with the eternal and inescapable commonplace.[2]
 
Had Lovecraft accepted the job as editor when J. C. Henneberger offered it to him back in 1924, he would have likely been a harsh editor, and the magazine would have taken a decidedly different path. Much of the fiction Edwin Baird and Farnsworth Wright accepted would have, no doubt, been rejected by Lovecraft. But alas, we were rewarded the benefit of Lovecraft the writer. There is no telling exactly which stories or authors Lovecraft was disparaging in this letter to Weird Tales’ editor at the time, Edwin Baird. They may have not been Weird Tales’ authors, though it is likely most were. Even so, Lovecraft is making a valid point regarding breaking away from conventional story writing, creating an original tale, thinking outside the box. At least his creative mind demanded as much. Something he also expected, or at least wanted other writers to do. Some of the readers of The Unique Magazine demanded the same, at least they demanded their stories weird, if not ‘original.’

H. P. L
So, in an effort to promulgate something weird and original, Lovecraft made this suggestion: “Take a werewolf story, for instance—who ever wrote one from the point of view of the wolf, and sympathizing strongly with the devil to whom he has sold himself?”[3]

Those of us who love the pulps and their writers (we all have our favorites, of course), probably know that H. Warner Munn attempted to answer Lovecraft’s request with, “The Werewolf of Ponkert,” Munn’s first published short story. About Munn’s story, Farnsworth Wright claimed, “It was the popularity of Mr. Quinn’s werewolf story[4] that led us to feature The Werewolf of Ponkert, by H. Warner Munn, in last months’ issue.”[5] (italics is Wright’s) “The Werewolf of Ponkert” was the cover story for the July 1925 issue of Weird Tales, the same issue in which Robert E. Howard made his debut with “Spear and Fang.”

Lovecraft, as far as I’ve been able to determine, never responded to Munn’s story in “The Eyrie” of any of the subsequent Weird Tales issues. It’s possible that when “The Werewolf of Ponkert” was first published, Lovecraft did not put two and two together and notice that his March 1924 letter in “The Eyrie” was Munn’s inspiration. In fact, it may be that Lovecraft never knew that fact until after he met Munn, and Munn confessed as much. However, there is some evidence from Munn himself that Lovecraft may have recognized Munn’s efforts on behalf of Lovecraft’s letter:


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Dear Mr. Jacobi; Cordially, Robert E. Howard by Bobby Derie

Carl R. Jacobi
While a freshman at the University of Minnesota in 1928, one of Carl Richard Jacobi turned in a story he had previously written and published in The Quest, and received an “A+”—and so the anecdote goes:

In a subsequent quarter, one of his fellow students also turned in a previously written composition—not his own work, however, but a pulp story by Robert E. Howard. It too received a top grade. On the last day of class, Jacobi approached the instructor. “I’d like you to know who I’ve been competing against,” he announced. “A professional writer.” “That often happens,” was the professor’s bemused reply. (LRH 9)

Carl Jacobi’s classmate, like Jacobi himself, encountered Howard’s prose in Weird Tales; Howard’s prose hadn’t been published in any other pulp by 1928. After selling “Spear and Fang” (WT Jul 1925), “Wolfshead” (Apr 1926), and “The Lost Race” (Jan 1927), Howard exploded in 1928 with “The Dream Snake” (Feb), “The Hyena” (Mar), “Sea Curse” (May), and the seminal Solomon Kane tale “Red Shadows” (Aug). Perhaps taking the hint, Jacobi’s one first professional sale to the pulps followed in 1928. (LRH 12)

In the fall of 1931, Jacobi’s “The Coach on the Ring” appeared in the Dec 1931/Jan 1932 issue of Ghost Stories, a weak but enduring competitor to Weird Tales. The confessional style of Ghost Stories gave it a poor reputation, but was still a paying market that occasionally attracted good writersRobert E. Howard had placed a story in there two years previously: “Apparition in the Prize Ring” (GS Apr 1929). Jacobi’s freshman effort was sufficient to attract the notice of August Derleth, who in turn brought him to the attention of H. P. Lovecraft. (ES2.440, 442) Jacobi attained real attention when he landed another story: “Mive,” which appeared in the Jan 1932 issue of Weird Tales. Although it wasn’t voted the most popular tale in the issue (Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Monster of the Prophecy”), the story was highly regarded by Lovecraft, who expressed his enthusiasm to Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright. (SL4.24) Robert E. Howard wrote a little later:

If I were to express a preference for any one of the tales, I believe I should name Derleth’s “Those Who Seek”—though the stories by Smith, Long, Hurst and Jacobi could scarcely be excelled. In the latter’s tale especially there are glimpses that show finely handled imagination almost in perfection—just enough revealed, just enough concealed.
— Robert E. Howard, Weird Tales Mar 1932 (CL2.302)

Before long, Lovecraft wrote a letter of encouragement to Jacobi…whether prompted by a letter from Jacobi or Derleth isn’t clear, but Lovecraft volunteered one important piece of information:



Thursday, April 19, 2018

Conan and the Acolyte: Robert E. Howard and F. T. Laney by Bobby Derie

I had previously read the January or February 193[7] WT with a Rimel story in it, and had been utterly unimpressed.— F. T. Laney, Ah, Sweet Idiocy! 2


Weird Tales, Jan. 1937
Duane W. Rimel’s story “The Disinterment” appeared in the January 1937 issue of Weird Tales; if Francis Towner Laney read the magazine through to ‘The Eyrie’, the letters pages of the magazine, he would have run across Clifford Ball’s “In Appreciation of Howard”—an homage to Robert E. Howard, the Texan pulpster who had died the year before. That would likely have been his first introduction to Howard.

F. T. Laney occupies an odd place in Howard scholarship. He missed the period when Howard was actively writing and didn’t come to pulp and fantasy fandom until about 1939. He rose to prominence in the early-to-mid 1940s as a member of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA), and as editor and publisher of The Acolyte fanzine (1942-1946), which was devoted primarily to H. P. Lovecraft. Yet being where he was when he was, and a vocal part of fandom, Laney ended up being at the confluence of a good deal of Howardian interest and ended up playing a silent but important role in Robert E. Howard’s legacy.

In the course of being an editor of a Lovecraft-oriented fanzine and searching out material, Laney came into contact with a number of Lovecraft’s correspondents, including Clark Ashton Smith, Duane W. Rimel, F. Lee Baldwin, Emil Petaja, Fritz Leiber, H. C. Koenig, Nils H. Frome, R. H. Barlow, August Derleth, Donald and Howard Wandrei, F. J. Ackerman, E. Hoffmann Price, and Stuart M. Boland; many of whom were also correspondents with Robert E. Howard, and it was largely through these contacts that Laney became in contact with things Howardian.

Laney got in touch with F. Lee Baldwin through their mutual friend Duane W. Rimel, and beginning in December 1942 Baldwin began working on material for The Acolyte, both in terms of a regular column (“Within the Circle,” a continuation of Baldwin’s column from The Fantasy Fan in the ‘30s), and writing to former pulpsters and their correspondents for material. (Laney 13) As part of this mailing campaign, in early 1943 Baldwin contacted Robert E. Howard’s friend F. Thurston Torbett, looking for information on Howard for a potential article, which can be read in F. Thurston Torbett and F. Lee Baldwin on Robert E. Howard. The correspondence stretched into 1944, and Baldwin’s article on Howard never appeared, nor did he mention the Texan in any of his other articles in The Acolyte.

CAS, Laney, & Bob Hoffman, circa 1940s
In November 1943, Laney moved to Los Angeles, California, where he met pulpsters like Emil Petaja and Fritz Leiber, and fans like Forrest J. Ackerman. Robert H. Barlow, the young literary executor of Lovecraft’s estate, had moved to San Francisco in 1938-1939, where he began attending university and indulging in fan projects, including one small press-effort to publish a collection of Robert E. Howard’s poems. Barlow began contributing to The Acolyte with the Summer 1943 issue, though his only direct contribution regarding Howard would be the Barlow-Lovecraft satire “The Battle That Ended the Century” (The Acolyte Fall 1944); more on Barlow and Howard’s can be read in The Two Bobs: Robert E. Howard and Robert H. Barlow.

E. Hoffmann Price had returned to his native California in 1934, stopping along the way to visit Robert E. Howard in Cross Plains, Texas, and settling near San Francisco. He became a friend and correspondent with Barlow; who even visited Price accompanied by an aged James F. Morton in 1939. (BOD 53, 355-357) It is not clear when exactly Laney got in touch with the native Californian but a letter from Price to Laney, dated 22 July 1944, on the subject of Robert E. Howard, was published in The Acolyte #9 (Winter 1945). This may have been inspired by Price’s essay “Robert E. Howard” in the fanzine Diablerie #4 (May 1944), as Laney was a friend of the publisher Bill Watson (Laney 31), or maybe it came from the same place as F. Lee Baldwin’s questions to F. Thurston Torbett.

Whatever the case, Price began contributing letters to The Acolyte, beginning with The Acolyte #7, then the letter concerning Howard in #9, and letter in #10 (Spring 1945) announcing the death of Dr. Isaac M. Howard:



Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bigfoot vs. Bigfoot: Biggest Bout of the 19th century! Or…The Four Deaths of Chief Bigfoot by Ben Friberg

“Have you heard of Bigfoot Wallace?”

So begins Howard’s rip snorting bio of William Alexander Anderson Wallace, aka “Bigfoot” Wallace, legendary Texas Ranger. Wallace and Jack Hays (discussed in The Texian #12) are probably the two most famous rangers of the pre-Civil War days. Arriving here a year after San Jacinto and finding the war over, they figured out another way to get their blood up – fightin’ the brutal Comanche raiders that swept through Texas stealing horses, killing settlers and stealing children. Both Wallace and Hays would end up fighting the Mexicans anyway during the Invasion of Texas in 1842 and the Mexican American War. “Devil Jack” would eventually ride on to California and settle the town of Oakland, staying there the rest of his days. Bigfoot would stay in Texas. After a few early stabs at courtship, Wallace just gave up more or less on the ladies and became a solitary soul – and the wide wild open spaces of Texas spoke to that need of solitude. He spent his life protecting the frontier as a ranger: scouting, tracking and driving the mail coach between San Antonio and El Paso, a long and very dangerous stretch of country beset by hordes of raiding Comanches and Apache. Yet he managed to survive it all and lived to a ripe old age. He’s buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

He was indeed a big man, standing at 6’ 2” in an age when most men were 5’ 6” – 5’ 8” and weighing in at a svelte 240 lbs in his prime. Big men make for big stories and legends stuck to him like white on rice. He loved to sit back and “stretch the blanket” with his many visitors over the years and thus helped create his own myth through the tall tales he’d weave. About 1870 a fellow ranger friend of his, John C. Duval, published the classic “Adventures of Bigfoot Wallace” which Howard read and seemed to have really enjoyed as it appears to be his only source for Bigfoot’s life. In his mini-bio that he whips up for HPL, Howard mentions several adventures that are only to be found in Duval’s book and are not found in any other biography available at the time. It is a very enjoyable book with a great voice. It really sounds like Bigfoot is sitting right next to you in his old worn out chair, spinning an epic yarn for your fireside entertainment. It reminds me a great deal of the Breckenridge Elkins stories. I think it’s likely that this bio inspired something of Elkins’ character, with Wallace’s size and some of his more hilarious adventures amidst polite society being an inspiration for Elkin’s misadventures through the Southwest. If you can find a copy of it, I highly recommend it.

All that being said - it’s not incredibly accurate. Duval really dialed the adventures up to 11 in order to ensure high sales. But after Duval died, Wallace told friends that he wasn’t overly happy with the book as it wasn’t particularly factual. So A. J. Sowell, another ex-ranger, sat down and helped Wallace write a new biography. This one - “The Life of Bigfoot Wallace”- is still a great read but far less colorful than Duval’s earlier book. It reads like a streamlined journalistic account with few frills. As a result, it’s far more trustworthy as a historical document. I don’t know how readily available it was in Howard’s day. Both are easily available now, so I highly encourage you to read them both if you love old Texas Ranger adventures straight from the horse’s mouth.

In his own Wallace bio, Howard’s muse takes the reigns (as She always did) and soon he is painting quite the epic, action packed picture of the famed fight between Wallace and a giant Indian who also bore the nickname of “Bigfoot”. I thought it would be interesting to compare Howard’s version to the version he was drawing on as a source. I certainly think Howard’s version is better yet Duval’s version ain’t nothing to sneeze at either. But as you will see, the true story of how Chief Bigfoot died is up for debate. Duval’s version is the most popular, with Wallace as the mythological giant killer but Sowell’s version is likely more accurate. In his version, Wallace has almost nothing to do with the death Chief Bigfoot. Another ranger brought him down! There’s not even an epic battle to death. You’ll see how it happens, as I’ve included that version too, and while interesting, it’s nowhere near the colorful battle to death that Howard and Duval have us believe it was. And then, as so often happens with history, even that second tale must be questioned because Chief Bigfoot could have actually been killed by yet another completely different ranger, Shapley Ross, around 1842. Turns out, that though there was a very real Chief Bigfoot, he eventually morphed into a frontier bogeyman of sorts. Every large footprint belonged to him and many a theft was blamed on this elusive phantom raider. But newspaper accounts from 1842 are the first to chronicle his supposed death at the hands of Ranger Ross, so that’s the best historical evidence we have about his actual death. I have included this tale as well, as told in the pages of Frontier Times Magazine – a magazine Howard enjoyed reading.

Hope you enjoy these four deaths of Chief Bigfoot.

Letter from REH to HPL, mid-October 1931: