Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Robert E. Howard the Poet

Ever since my college education began back in 1984, I've loved poetry. Unfortunately, having been educated in Texas, poetry was not elevated to the same status as football. In fact, poetry was not elevated at all. I loved it nonetheless. I was fortunate to have a high school English teacher who encouraged my love for poetry. I even tried my hand at a few verses and was published in the 1985 American Anthology of Poetry (my sophomore year in college). Even so, I never gained a strong knack for writing poetry, but I spent my undergrad years collecting it, reading it, and researching and writing about various poets and their works.


Back then, I knew that Robert E. Howard had written some poetry. A few poems were included in various volumes of Conan stories I owned, or other collections of Howard's works. However, I never knew that Howard had written so many poems until a few years ago when I stumbled on the volume pictured below.


I attempted to purchase this volume from The Robert E. Howard Foundation blog site, but low and behold, it was sold out! Ugh! I was so upset I nearly cried. Not really, but I did vigorously pace my office trying to figure out how I could obtain a copy. To this day, I've yet to get my hands on one. Here's a HUGE "hint, hint" to the REH Foundation to run more pressings of this work! I did, however, manage to get my hands on this volume:


And, I'm glad I did. While the above volume is not as exhaustive as the Collected Poetry volume, it still contains some great poems. It is a shame that the general public is more familiar with Howard's character Conan than they are with the fact that he penned hundreds upon hundreds of poems. I've read Howard's prose many times and I think it is intense, vivid, and has a high level of charged imagination. Yet, at times his poems have a greater amount of intensity than his prose. Howard, often times, is much more emotive in his poetry than his prose. He can cut to the heart of deep seeded issues in a matter of words rather than lines.


Recently, Howard's poems have grabbed the attention of several Texas Poet Laureates: Larry D. Thomas and Alan Birkelbach. Both men have attended REH Days in Cross Plains, Texas in the past. Alan Birkelbach is serving as the editor of a forthcoming volume titled Dark Inspiration: Selected Poetry of Robert E. Howard. I've have heard rumors that it is slated to be published, hopefully, by TCU Press. 


For many, poetry is an acquired taste. For me it's like a fine wine that lingers on my tongue and makes me giddy in large amounts. I have not run into too many people who have a passion for it, which is a shame because poetry speaks volumes in brief words/sentences, and in a way that is, well, poetic. Having spent the last 28 years reading poets and their works, I think I can safely say that Robert E. Howard is one of the most underrated poets in literary history. This is due to the fact that he is unknown as a poet. That needs to change.


I, for one, am glad to see that scholars are now taking notice of Howard's poetry. I'll be the first in line to purchase Dark Inspiration. Moreover, Howard's poetry needs to be heartily cast into the literary arena for all to see it's true value and worth. There is so much brilliance in it. If you ever have a free afternoon, spend it reading some of Howard's poetry. You'll be glad you did.


Below is a video posted at YouTube by Ben Friberg (warriorphotog36) from the 2009 REH Days of Texas Poet Laureate, Larry D. Thomas, discussing and reading Robert E. Howard's poetry. This is an excellent video, enjoy.





Monday, July 30, 2012

Older Than The World: The Staff of Solomon Kane

The single most interesting item in all of the Solomon Kane stories is his staff. Given to Kane by an ancient African Shaman named N'Longa. The African Shaman acquired the staff in ancient Judea. "This staff is older than the world! It holds mighty magic! I have read of it in the old iron-bound books and Mohammad—on whom peace!—himself hath spoken of it by allegory and parable!" Thus detailed old Yussef the Hadji about Solomon Kane's staff from the story The Footfalls Within by Robert E. Howard. 

In The Footfalls Within the staff is described with a cat-head which is the head of "a goddess of ancient Egypt." It was also used by Musa (Moses) to perform wonders in front of a Pharaoh. For several centuries the staff was also "the scepter of Israel and Judah and with it Sulieman ben Daoud drove forth the conjurers and magicians and prisoned the efreets and the evil genii."



The staff is made of a wood that exists nowhere on the earth. In fact, the material is said to have "grown in some world apart." In other words, it is "other worldly." The staff is pre-pyramidal yet contains engravings that are hieroglyphics (added later). The cat-head has a subduing nature to it, described by Howard—in The Footfalls Within—that sometimes when Kane looked at it he had a "peculiar feeling of alteration." So it has power. N'Longa can use the staff to communicate with Solomon Kane over long distances. It's been used to slay the undead (vampires) and harpies (mythical creatures). 


Unfortunately, in Michael J. Bassett's film adaptation of Solomon Kane the staff is not mentioned or used. That alone would have given the film a more genuine feel to it. Regardless, in Howard's stories, Kane's staff has always been a tool to fight evil, regardless of who used it. 


Lastly, the staff has a nice mysterious history and quality about it, making it one of the more fascinating "weapons" created by Howard in any story. Moreover, the fact that it lands into the hands of Solomon Kane is certainly no accident. For Solomon has devoted his life to the very thing the staff seems to be created for; namely, to fight evil. It's as if the two were made for one another and through circumstance and fate, the two end up together fulfilling that purpose.


(The picture provided above is from the cover art of the Del Rey edition titled The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane. The artwork is by Gary Gianni (c) 1998.)


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pictures from REH Days 2012: Cross Plains, Texas


The above picture is, of course, the Howard's home in Cross Plains. 


The above is a picture from inside REH's bedroom where he wrote his stories. The typewriter in the picture is not his actual typewriter. However, it is the same brand and model—an Underwood No. 5—like the one Howard used.


One the bus tour of the surrounding areas around Cross Plains. That is Rusty Burke looking back as he tells us the history of where we are. The tour took us to Cross Cut, Burkett, and then back to Cross Plains. Each stop was a location where REH had once stayed.


The Hemphill house where Novalyne Price Ellis boarded while she taught in Cross Plains. REH would come here to pick her up for their dates and country drives.


Friday, June 8th. The first panel discussion: Glenn Lord Tribute. Pictured from left to right are, Paul Herman, Barbara Barrett, and Rusty Burke.


Friday, June 8th. The second Panel discussion: Conan the Existentialist. Pictured from left to right are, Rusty Burke and Charles Hoffman. Charles explained his original work, it's background, and the fact that it was the first of its kind—a critical academic work.


Friday, June 8th. The third panel discussion: Conan's Birthday. Pictured here from left to right are: Al Harron, Paul Sammon, and Mark Finn.


Saturday, June 9th. First panel discussion: REH at the Gates of Academia. Pictured here from left to right are: Jeff Shanks, Charles Hoffman, and Mark Finn.


Saturday, June 9th. The second panel discussion: The Illustrated Conan. Pictured here is Paul Sammon.


Some free time at the pavillion located next to the REH home (on the old Butler property).


Some original Weird Tales magazines from the Cross Plains Public Library.


REH's gravesite in the Greenleaf Cemetery in Brownwood, Texas.


The historical marker next to REH's tombstone in the Greenleaf Cemetery.


An REH collection inside the Cross Plains Public Library.


Sunset at Caddo Peak (the Caddo Peak Ranch). REH used to watch sunsets from the top of Caddo Peak.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Whole Wide World - Deleted Scenes

I saw this recently on YouTube. I have a copy of the U.S. version of this film. It does not contain these scenes in the film or in the extras, so when I saw this video it was the first time I had seen these deleted scenes.


The YouTube user called TheFinalHighlander posted the video and gave this description: The Whole Wide World is a 1996 film directed by Dan Ireland, based on the memoir of Novalyne Price titled, The One Who Walked Alone. It documents the final years of Robert E. Howard's life. He is best known for creating the character of Conan. There was around five minutes of footage cut from the U.S. and Canadian release of the film on VHS and DVD so I thought I'd rip mine and upload these missing scenes for everyone to see, because no-one else has. I've left snippets of the surrounding scenes in so that people in the U.S. and Canada can tell where they fit in. There are certain aspects of the film that make little sense without them.If you haven't seen The Whole Wide World before, then I strongly recommend that you do.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

L. Sprague de Camp: Looking Beyond the Hyperbole and Amateur Psychoanalysis to Find the Real Robert E. Howard , Part 3

Despite the fact that L. Sprague de Camp may have made a mess of Howard's reputation as a writer and person, over the past few decades the tides have turned in Howardom research. New fans to Howard's work are certainly blessed to have this new research to begin their journey with REH. In time (and I think it has already made serious strides) the new material will heavily overshadow the de Camp debauchery. I'll list a few of these works a little later in this post. And believe me, they are important works to read.


It must be noted, though, that even though de Camp's works on Howard are no longer in print, they can still be readily found in second-hand bookstores and on the internet. I see them in Half-Price bookstores all the time. This being the case, to dismiss the de Camp legacy merely because one thinks it's "outdated" or "already dealt with" is perhaps to fall prey to the past by forgetting it. I think it's still important that we nourish and present a proper view of Robert E. Howard and if that means continuing to respond to de Camp, then so be it. This is especially true since new works crop up here and there that still maintain de Camp's stain. 


Will the real Robert E. Howard please stand up? As for the new material available, here are some works of paramount importance that provide a fair and honest look into Howard's life:


Blood & Thunder: The Life & Art of Robert E. Howard by Mark Finn 
Mark Finn has written a far better biography of REH than de Camp could ever hope to. I highly recommend it. A new edition of this work (updated, corrected, and contains an additional 32k or so words) is now available at the REH Foundation website.
The Last Celt: A Bio-Bibliography of Robert E. Howard by Glenn Lord 
While this work is currently out of print, it can still be found on the internet. The best place to search for it is Here.
One Who Walked Alone: Robert E. Howard, The Final Years by Novalyne Price Ellis.
This is a good first-hand account of Howard in the latter few years of his life. The film The Whole Wide World is based on this work.
The Man From Cross Plains: A Celebration of Two-Gun Bob Howard edited by Dennis McHaney
This work is a compilation of various REH scholars (including chapters from Patrice Louinet, Glenn Lord, Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier, Rob Roem, Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, Damon C. Sasser, et al). It can be purchased through Project Pride and the Howard Museum.
Above is simply a few recommendations. There are others out there. If you are reading this post and can recommend works I have not listed, please do so in the comments section of this blog. All of these works, and others, are important in carrying a genuine and honest Howard legacy into the future for upcoming generations.

Monday, July 23, 2012

L. Sprague de Camp: Looking Beyond the Hyperbole and Amateur Psychoanalysis to Find the Real Robert E. Howard , Part 2

There's a danger in wanting our real hero's to be flawless. What I mean is, when we admire someone so much, it sometimes angers us to hear anything negative spoken about them. This can, especially in research and scholarly work, get in our way of honest research. However, the opposite is true as well. Intellectual dishonestly usually stems from over-reaching boundaries, creating false assumptions (assuming too much), or exaggerating details. Another aspect of intellectual dishonesty is where one approaches a work or idea with the intent of disproving it without ever considering that it might actually be correct. I know, because I've spent over a decade in higher studies (5 years in post graduate studies). I've seen intellectual dishonesty of the worst kind occur in higher education. And, I've attempted to avoid it at all costs. 


In approaching my research on L. Sprague de Camp's work about Robert E. Howard, I've had to stop a few times, take a deep breath, and step back to see the big picture. I'll admit, there are times de Camp has angered me. Regardless, asking crucial questions (i.e. could that have really been the case? How is that possible? What is the motive behind that? And, the all important epistemic—why?) was of utmost importance. Digging deeper and finding information to counter false claims is necessary.


I never had an opportunity to talk with L. Sprague de Camp. I've never even met the man. So, I've never been able to ask him why he wrote some of the things he wrote, or ask him on what grounds he based certain claims about REH. That certainly would have made it easier to clear up a few things. What I do know, however, is that there are times—too frequently I might add—where I think de Camp is so far off base about Howard he's not even on the same planet. Why did he come to these conclusions?


I am currently reading Dark Valley Destiny: The Life of Robert E. Howard (from here simply DVD). I'm amazed at the claims de Camp makes about Howard; speculative claims presented as facts. This is true for at least the first 7 chapters of the work. de Camp paints Robert as a type of bi-polar toddler because of his parents. First, Robert's father is detailed as a foreboding figure whom toddler Robert develops a distrust, anger, and uncertainty toward simply due to the fact that he is 1) tall and large, 2) the provider of the family. Huh? How did we get distrust, anger, and uncertainty out of that? On page 50 of DVD de Camp writes: 
"The sheer masculinity of the father, absorbing, as it does, the full attention of the being who provides his food and care, prompts in every young child anger, distrust, and uncertainty.
Really? It does? Second, de Camp explains that Robert's mother's inability to meet his needs as a baby indicates that Robert becomes a victim of "malevolent forces beyond his control." The end result is this:
Thus, for Robert, in the first year of his life, two Dark Valleys came into being: the "good" valley of happiness and satisfaction, and the "bad" valley peopled with the demons of fear and disillusionment. Since he was never able to exorcise his fear, rage, and destructive wishes, Robert Howard was doomed to remain engulfed in unimaginable chaos and to be haunted by demons as long as he lived. The spirit within him suffered the dark chill of desolation.
What is de Camp doing here? First, he is using the name of a geographic location—Dark Valley—as a literary device, coupled with the alleged actions of parents to psychoanalyze the infant Howard. Second, there is no footnote here indicating an interview with someone who knew the family (which I might add is not always reliable) or, any source for that matter that would give substantial support for his conclusions. This is pure conjecture. How could de Camp ever know how Robert felt as a baby? What grounds does he he have for making such claims? The hard and fast answer: none. Sadly, de Camp is just getting started with these types of conclusions. They are pervasive throughout DVD. Here are just a few of the more blatant conclusions that de Camp comes to in the same vein as above:


Regarding Howard's Death . . .
By his death, moreover, Howard found the acceptance that he had sorely missed among the townspeople of Cross Plains. Death rejects no one, good or bad, superior or ordinary, young or old, rich or poor. Until he gave himself to Death, no one, except perhaps his mother and his dog, had ever thought he amounted to much or had seemed to care whether he did or not.
By his death, Howard became his own protector. No longer restrained by his regard for his mother or supported by her awareness of his needs, he faced the violence in his own nature. Just as his mother had protected him from the violence of schoolyard bullies, so now he must protect himself from the bullying of his own terrors and impulses. He must confront his fury in the dark valley in which he walked, for she would not be there to protect him as she had during his infancy in that real Dark Valley of Palo Pinto County. If he found the task too much to encompass, he had better do the gentlemanly thing and die. According to his lights, he died like a gentleman; for he turned on himsel;f and on no other the fury and the violence that are so clearly reflected in his behavior, his poetry, and his stories. (DVD, p. 8)
 Regarding Howard's "Lack of Experience" . . .
Isolation was an important part of Robert Howard's problem. Through an accident of geography, together with the isolation inherent in his exceptional intelligence and talent, the overprotection of his parents, and his subsequent withdrawal, Robert had few experiences with the real world. All of his responses were reasonable, logical, and often brilliantly conceived within his view of reality. It was his major premises, his underlying assumptions, that were faulty.
 With regard to the first quote above, there is no way anyone at the time of Robert's death, or especially today, could understand why Robert shot himself. Every assertion made about that event is speculative and should be addressed as such. But, to do what de Camp did above is unconscionable. Regarding the second quote, de Camp claims that Robert acted in life and on the page based purely on his lack of experience about life. Really? It seems that de Camp overlooked the events of Cross Plains during the oil booms of the 20s. Robert would have seen just about every type of person come in and out of Cross Plains. That being the case, just the opposite would be true. Robert's work would have derived from these experiences of events and people, not a lack thereof.


 In terms of conjecture, rumors and psychoanalysis, chapter IV titled Boy Nomad is by far the most ardent of de Camp's chapters from DVD. Where de Camp peppers here and there a practice of amateur psychologist up to this point, in Boy Nomad, he moves into the role of full-blown psychologist. He psychoanalyzes Robert's childhood from start to finish. I'll leave readers to see this for themselves. But I should declare that Boy Nomad, in my estimation, is the worst chapter in DVD if for no other reason than de Camp is at the height of taking speculative claims and attempting to make them actual fact.


DVD is a recent read for me. As I said in the first part of these posts, I did not actually read it back in the early 80s when it was first published. However, de Camp did write the introductions to the Ace paperback Conan series. He maintains the same vein in those as he did in DVD. In the introductions to the Ace paperbacks de Camps calls Robert a puny bullied boy who takes up boxing to end his incessant bullying. This, of course, is false, and has been demonstrated as false. In fact, it's not even chronologically correct.


In these same introductions, de Camp claims that Robert was "maladjusted to the point of psychosis" (emphasis mine). This is odd since research over the last 30 or so years has concluded that most people with psychosis are not functional. Especially if it goes untreated for long periods of time. Symptoms of psychosis include: 

  • Disorganized thought and speech
  • False beliefs that are not based in reality (delusions) especially unfounded fear or suspicion
  • Hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there (hallucinations)
  • Thoughts that "jump" between unrelated topics (disordered thinking)
(Source for above is found here. )

  Without a proper diagnosis, to claim that someone has psychosis is nothing but conjecture. And it's at this that de Camp excels. Given the fact that it takes a serious amount of discipline and concentration to write, I do not see how de Camp came to this conclusion. But, to write as well as Robert did, takes a brilliant mind with an exact and cogent intellect. That hardly describes someone who might suffer from psychosis. Granted, I'm not a professional psychologist, but neither is de Camp.


Despite de Camp's ill treatment of REH, and I have merely scratched the surface here, who is the real Robert E. Howard? Just how much do we know about Howard's personality, background, and personal traits? I will attempt to tackle these questions in part three.

Friday, July 20, 2012

L. Sprague de Camp: Looking Beyond the Hyperbole and Amateur Psychoanalysis to Find the Real Robert E. Howard , Part 1

In the break-room on a tired afternoon at work a co-worker and I were talking about Robert E. Howard. The co-worker had explained to me that he had been reading Howard's work for some time. In fact, he described REH as, "the best short story writer I have ever read." Then after a few minutes he declared, "It's too bad what L.Sprague de Camp did, huh?" A huge grin came over my face. I immediately knew what side of the fence he stood on. Besides the fans and scholars I encountered at this year's REH Days in Cross Plains, Texas, and the friend I grew up with who actually introduced me to Howard, this co-worker is the only person I have encountered who understood some of the negative ramifications de Camp had on REH's reputation and writings.


Drop the name L. Sprague de Camp around core REH fans and you're likely to hear swearing and gnashing of teeth. Yet, not all REH fans feel this way, but the ones who know what they're talking about when it comes to Howard and his work do. de Camp has been a whipping post for core REH fans and scholars for some time now, and rightly so. Over the last three or more decades de Camp has been the bane of genuine and honest scholarly research into the life and works of Howard. It's no secret that de Camp's non-fiction work about Howard is filled with hyperbole, psychoanalysis, conjecture, and dishonest rumors. These non-fiction works include Dark Valley Destiny: The Life of Robert E. Howard, de Camp's introduction to the Lancer and Ace paperback collections of Howard's Conan stories, his various reviews about REH's work, his writings in past fanzines, and various other works.


I was introduced to REH in the middle of the de Camp era of information about Howard. So, to a degree I was indoctrinated into thinking certain things about Howard. Granted, I could discern the ridiculous from the credible. Regardless, getting rid of some of that information occurred over time, as new information became available. And, I was fortunate that I did not read Dark Valley of Destiny back in the early 80s. Back then all of my info about Howard came from two sources. First, the introductions to the Conan series that L. Sprague de Camp wrote with Lin Carter, published by Ace paperbacks, and second, Glenn Lord's work titled The Last Celt. I bought a copy of Lord's book back in 1983 from a nice second hand bookstore in my hometown called Kingston Books.


So what exactly is so bad about de Camp's influence on REH studies? Why do certain core fan's get bent out of shape when de Camp's name is mentioned? I hope to answer these questions and demonstrate why this is the case in part 2 of this post.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Robert E. Howard's Almuric

I went to one of the local Half-Price bookstores this week and found a 1964 Ace Books paperback edition of REH's Almuric. Jeff Jones cover art. It's in good shape for its age.


I also own the 1977 Berkley Medallion paperback of Almuric, the edition Glenn Lord published & Ken Kelly did the cover art. It still has the full-color fold-out poster inside.


From my understanding and research, Almuric was Howard's response to British publisher Denis Archer's request for a full-blown novel. Thus, Almuric was Howard's first attempt at writing a novel, but it was never completed. That honor goes to Hour of the Dragon, which is better defined as a novella. Regardless, Almuric is certainly a unique and fascinating story. I was excited to find the 1964 Ace Books edition. It will be a nice addition to my REH collection.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Readers & REH

I currently work in the last remaining large national chain of bookstores in the U.S.. I chat with readers on a daily basis about books. Occasionally I will spot a customer with an H.P. Lovecraft book, or some kind of sci-fi/fantasy book. I invariably ask them if they have ever heard of Robert E. Howard. It's safe to say that about 95% of customers I ask answer in the negative.


This being the case, I usually re-direct my question, "Well, you know who Conan the Barbarian is, right?" They always say, "Yes!" My response is to tell them that Howard is the creator of Conan. If they are holding a Lovecraft book I also mention that the two writers were contemporaries and carried on volumes of correspondence toward the latter part of Howard's life. This is always followed by me declaring, "You know, Howard wrote horror stories as well." Unsurprisingly, this always surprises them. "Really?" They ask. I nod and say, "He also wrote westerns, pirate tales, boxing stories, and poetry." "Poetry?" They ask. "Yes, he was quite the poet," I tell them.


By the time I get to REH's poetry in the conversation they usually ask, "Do ya'll carry any of his works?" I then walk them over to the selection of Del Rey copies we keep in stock and pull a few and hand them to the customer. Their response is usually something like this, "I've read his Conan stories, but I had no idea he wrote anything else." Inside I'm smiling because I know if they like Lovecraft, they will really enjoy Howard. Thus, a new fan is gained.

I do the same thing whenever I see a customer with an Edgar Rice Burroughs work. However, the majority of ERB fans already know about Howard. Also, chances are high that the ERB fans are familiar with other Howard characters and stories besides Conan. It's with these customers I usually discuss pulp writers and historical facts about other writers of the same ilk.


I've seen several of these customers return to our store after purchasing a Howard book I've recommended. I ask them if they've had a chance to read Howard. Several have said, "yes," and they have told me they really enjoyed his work. Others have even thanked me for letting them know about Howard. All in a days work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

SOLOMON KANE: U.S. RELEASE DATE, SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

News has spread that the European film Solomon Kane, adapted from one of REH's beloved characters of the same name, now has a release date for U.S. theaters: September 28th, 2012. I have seen the film. In fact, I own a copy on DVD.


While the film itself (written by Michael J. Bassett) does not follow any of Howard's Solomon Kane story lines (no surprise there), this film is my favorite REH adaptation. Honestly, this is not admitting too much since I am one REH fan who is disgruntled about the fact that the film makers have, once again, completely disregarded the contents of the REH stories. It's as if they think that Howard's stories are not well suited for film. Perhaps they're right? Oh hell, who am I kidding, of course Howard's stories are well suited for film. His narratives and plots are well written enough to transfer to film. Apparently filmmakers think his characters are interesting enough to come alive on the silver screen. So why don't they keep Howard's story lines in tact as well? Who knows?


Regardless, there is one thing I appreciate about this upcoming film, and that's the fact that many viewers who had no idea Howard wrote any other stories besides Conan the Barbarian (correctly, the Cimmerian), will now be introduced to another one of his characters. This is a bitter sweetness since the film only manages to mildly demonstrate the "spirit" of the character and not the actual character I love so much from Howard's stories. Once again, my 'willing suspension of disbelief' will be stretched and tested (in relation to REH's actual Solomon Kane stories) when I go see the film, but I'm sure I'll manage to keep the original character in tact. I at least hope it is successful enough to warrant subsequent directors, who may have a stronger vested interest in making new REH characters come to life on the big screen, create new films that will eventually live up to the original works of Howard.


Below is the trailer for the U.S. release of Solomon Kane. I'm curious to see what the response will be to the film here in the U.S..





Monday, July 16, 2012

Introductions


At sixteen years of age I walk down the street to my best friend's house. His mother lets me in and I make my way to his room. When I enter, he banters with me a bit, then stands, walks over to one of his bookshelves and hands me a worn paperback. "You've gotta read this," he exclaims. I look down at the book. The cover instantly captures my imagination. A muscular long haired warrior jumps down a flight of stairs onto a red-caped gorilla. It is clear who will win this brawl. The title shouts boldly across the top of the paperback in red block letters: CONAN. Above that it reads: At Long Last Back In Print! When did it ever go out of print, I wonder? My friend smiles because he knows I will thoroughly enjoy this book. He knows me well. That was 1981.

That was my official introduction to the works of Robert E. Howard (REH). I have been reading his works ever since. A few years later, around 1983 or '84, on a whim, that same friend and I made a trek to Cross Plains, Texas to see if we could discover anything about one of our favorite writers. We drove south from Abilene, Texas (our home town) and when we reached Cross Plains, there was a sign on the side of the road that read: Cross Plains, Texas, "The Home of REH," or something like that. We passed Howard's home not knowing where it was located. Someone was actually living in it at the time and I guess we assumed it would be abandoned. My friend had done a little research and knew the house was off the main highway through town. So, we doubled back and attempted to figure out which house it was. We were unable so we drove downtown, went into one of the local businesses and asked. They explained where the house was and what it looked like.

I remember staring at the house for what seemed like hours. To actually make a connection between someone I had been reading and a small part of their past was a kind of magical moment. It was then I became interesting in Robert E. Howard the person. After that day I began a long nearly three decade search for all the material I could find about REH.


Since then I have collected a whirlwind of material, visited the Howard House (and now museum) in Cross Plains at least a half-dozen times or more, and attended my first REH Days in Cross Plains this year (2012). I have met and discussed Howard and his work with fans from all over the world. Now, I'm building this blog devoted to Robert E. Howard, the Texas tale-spinner and all his works of fiction: Sword & Sorcery, Fantasy tales, Westerns, Boxing stories, Pirate tales, Desert Adventures, Horror stories, poetry, sonnets, and his letters.