REH Secondary Works . . .
In any form of research secondary works/sources can be crucial. However, it should be pointed out that where there is a secondary source to support a primary source and the primary source is still available, always use the primary source. This is especially true if you end up writing articles/papers on the topic at hand. I don't say this in an attempt to dissuade the use of secondary sources but to emphasize the fact that primary sources are far superior to secondary sources. At the academic level of research to use a secondary source as if it is a primary source is intellectual dishonesty, and always frowned upon.
However, secondary sources are wonderful resources, especially those from learned scholars and experts. And, if a secondary source is the only source available for specific information then by all means use it. But don't be quick to draw absolute conclusions based solely upon a secondary source. I'm not saying anything here that is not already widely accepted in academic circles, and this kind of research methodology has been in practice for decades (centuries even). With that in mind, here are some of the best secondary sources that I have encountered in my research of Robert E. Howard.
History/Historical Documents . . .
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Current REH studies/scholarship is very fortunate to have Rob Roehm and his father Bob Roehm in the research field digging up REH history and historical documents. I love history. In fact, I love the type of history that most history buffs find boring. The gritty details about people's lives: where they are from, where they went to school, where they used to hang out, where they traveled, why they traveled to these places, how they were raised, who were their relatives, all the documents surrounding these facts, and why that all matters. This is the kind of history that the Roehms have researched, uncovered, and made known to everybody in REH scholarship and fandom. If you are unaware of their works, then you are missing out on one of the most important ingredients in REH studies. Aside from actually tracking down articles that Rob has written (e.g. old REHupa zines, the REH Two-Gun Raconteur website, and other various books/magazines) the Roehms currently have two books available. The first is titled Howard's Haunts: A Photographic Journey Through Robert E. Howard's Texas and Events of the Howard Centennial. I bought this book from the REH House and Museum three or four years ago. It was so interesting I read through the whole book in one sitting and have read it several more times since. It details places like Peaster, Dark Valley, Menard, Howard Payne University, Brownwood, Cisco, Rising Star, Fredricksburg, etc., It also covers events such as REH Days in Cross Plains, the 100th birthday bash for REH in Fort Worth, TX, REH Publications for 2006, and a chapter by Mark Finn about The World Fantasy Convention in Austin, TX in 2006. The book is loaded with historical photographs and current photographs. Their second book is titled The Brownwood Connection: A Guide for Robert E. Howard Fans. This book provides historical details about REH's time in Brownwood during High School, College, and other visits he made to that city. This book is replete with photographs, scans of historical documents, school yearbooks, maps, newspaper articles, legal/court documents, time tables, etc. All accompany a solid written explanation of the facts, documents, events, etc. This book is so detailed at times that even train schedules from back in Howard's day are included. There's even a section about Novalyne Price in the appendices. Any serious researcher should not be without these two volumes. (Note: technically, a lot of this material—especially the actual historical/legal documents—are primary sources. Even so, I've included these works in the secondary sources section due to the current photographs and current travels accounts, esp. in Howard's Haunts, not being essential primary data/sources. However, any historical/legal documents, etc. from this material should be considered primary data and treated as such.)
Another book edited by Rob Roehm I recently purchased is titled School Days in the Post Oaks. As of this article I have yet to read this work so I really cannot review it for you, but I do know (and this is the reason I bought a copy) that it is a collection of newspaper articles about REH and his time/events in the Post Oak area. Click the link I've provided for further details.
Academia . . .
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Current Robert E. Howard fans are quite fortunate that they have a fairly nice size pool of rigorous academic (and academic type) material in which to swim. This certainly has not always been the case. I will not list single articles that are in larger anthologies here (see a few a those below*). There are single volumes devoted to nothing but Howard studies. It is important to note that with academic material the more current a work, the "better" it is. I do not mean "better" in terms of quality, but rather better in the sense that it is freshest, and the most up-to-date research (and usually considers previous research). The first volume that comes to mind in terms of academia, and the most dated, is Don Herron's edited volume titled The Dark Barbarian. This academic collection, published in 1984, was the first of its kind. And quite frankly, several of the articles still hold up today. For REH academic study I would actually recommend beginning with this volume. Now, I should point out several things here. First, some of the chapters mention dating issues of particular manuscripts, and these issues have currently been resolved thanks to the work of later scholars. Second, some of the chapters are not written in formal academic styles. This is only important in so far as that is probably what kept this volume from making serious inroads into academic circles. Third, there are current articles/volumes that are far more rigorous in their assessment, research, and presentation than this volume. But, as I mentioned before this volume set a precedent and therefore ought to have been taken much more seriously than it was. Another feature of REH studies that does not exist in other academic circles of the same kind is that REH studies/scholars have their own peer reviewed journal. I cannot stress how important this is. I also cannot stress how important it is for REH fans to support this effort and keep it alive by purchasing these journals when they are released. The peer reviewed journal is called The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies. The reason this journal is so important is that good solid university libraries always make an effort to obtain all peer reviewed journals in pretty much every field. To have one out there means that Howard's work has a far greater chance of being studied at the university level. Plus, The Dark Man journal must adhere to academic standards (e.g. writing in a particular academic style - MLS). If you can find back issues of these journals you will essentially have found a goldmine of REH articles and research. These journals are a must read in REH research/studies.
Another excellent volume in the academic category is titled Two-Gun Bob: A Centennial Study of Robert E. Howard. Now, while this volume is not published via an academic/university press, many of the articles are written by professors and scholars (e.g. S.T. Joshi, Frank Coffman, Glenn Lord, Charles Gramlich, Lorenzo DiTommaso, etc.). This anthology is still in print and that says a lot about the quality of its contents since it was published in 2006 (8 years ago since the posting of this article). Another academic volume that was recently published is titled Conan Meets the Academy. This volume was edited by Jonas Prida who is an assistant professor of English and Head of the English department at the College of St. Joseph, Rutland, Vermont. Published by McFarland it is the first academic volume to focus solely on one of REH's characters. The articles are geared more toward the cultural impact REH's character Conan the Cimmerian has had on culture. Even so, it is a great volume to own, the articles are well researched, thoughtful, and well documented.
*Other volumes with single articles about Robert E. Howard's work include Undead in the West II: They Just Keep Coming. This volume contains an article written by Jeffrey Shanks and Mark Finn titled Vaqueros and Vampires in the Pulps: Robert E. Howard and the Dawn of the Undead West. Jeff Shanks also has a nice article in an academic volume titled Pulp Fiction of the 1920s and 1930s. This volume is edited by Gary Hoppenstand and Jeff's article is titled History, Horror and Heroic Fantasy: Robert E. Howard and the Creation of the Sword and Sorcery Subgenre.
Journals, Fanzines, and Miscellaneous Books/Works . . .
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The Definitive Robert E. Howard Journal, and it lives up to that declaration. It has its origins in the mid 70s, and was the brainchild of Damon C. Sasser. Sasser told me he thought it up in the midst of the REH boom of the 70s when there were only three active fanzines in operation: Fantasy Crossroads (of which I have several issues), The Howard Review, and REH: Lone Star Fictioneer (of which I have several issues). The journal took a bit of a break around the late 80s early 90s and then started back up in 2003 and has since then been published to date. Damon C. Sasser is still the editor today. This journal is always loaded with excellent articles (some on a scholarly level). Here are some of the past contributors: Damon C. Sasser, Patrice Louinet, David Hardy, Brian Leno, Jeffrey Shanks, Barbara Barrett, Rob Roehm, Don Herron, Bill Cavalier, Steve Tompkins, Frank Coffman, Mark Finn, Jim and Ruth Keegan, Michael L. Peters (illustrations), Timothy Truman (illustrations), Charles R. Saunders, Deuce Richardson, Morgan Holmes, Rusty Burke, etc. (I'm sure I've missed a few names). It also includes stories by Robert E. Howard. Each issue is lavishly illustrated. Back issues of these journals are frequently sought. I've seen them sell for as much as $35.00 on Ebay. Current issues are for sale here.
Robert E. Howard: The Power of the Writing Mind is a small independent work allegedly edited by Ben Szumskyj (but in reality edited by Leo Grin, per a reliable source). Regardless of its editor, it is well worth tracking down. It has articles by Joe Marek, Patrice Louinet, Rusty Burke, Leo Grin, stories by Robert E. Howard (An Untitled Story, The Devil's Woodchopper, three autobiographical letters, Double Cross, The Right Hook - this is a photocopy of the actual manuscript, and a High School Theme) illustrations by Gary Gianni, Mark Schultz, images from the portfolio of Rick McCollum Rick Cortes, and David Burton. There is also a nice interview with Glenn Lord. While this is not a crucial volume to own, it is a solid volume and worth getting.
I hope that this three part series will at least give interested persons a good starting point to really dig their heels in and begin researching the Texas tale-spinner. Keep in mind this list is certainly not exhaustive. It's not intended to be. Anyone reading this who has other suggestions feel free to list them in the comments. I know for a fact more research material is slated to appear in the future, until then happy researching. Cheers!