Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Kid, Two-Gun, and History by Todd B. Vick*

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

            Why is that? What makes Billy the Kid so fascinating that for the better part of the 20th century his life has resisted serious research and remained in the mainstream arena of folklore and myth? No scholar of the Kid seems to have a definitive answer to that question. It might simply be that facts are not as exciting as the mysterious. Regardless, from the late 1950s to the present day reliable research, scholarly articles and books have been written and new historical documents uncovered. Granted, the mythos remains and makes for wonderful movies and exciting novels but we now live in what should be considered a more enlightened era with regard to our understanding of The Kid.
            There was a long period of time where scarcely a word was written or spoken about Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County Wars. This span occurred between the death of the infamous sheriff (Pat Garrett) who killed Billy the Kid in 1908 until 1925 when Harvey Fergusson raised the question in an American Mercury article, “Who remembers Billy the Kid?” Apparently, the Kid’s reputation had faded and Fergusson wondered why (Nolan 295). All this would soon change in 1926 when Walter Noble Burns published The Saga of Billy the Kid, and the Kid would once again be thrust into the limelight of folklore and myth. This was the very book that sparked interest in the mind of a young boy who would later become the premier scholar of Billy the Kid studies, Frederick Nolan. Moreover, Walter Noble Burns, with his flamboyant style and highly exaggerated account of Billy the Kid, would also influence a series of western writers of the early to mid twentieth century. One in particular was a popular pulp fiction writer from Cross Plains, Texas named Robert E. Howard. Although the focus of Howard’s writing had pretty much been the fantasy and action adventure genres, Burn’s book would ultimately set Howard in a new creative direction.
It is no secret to Robert E. Howard aficionados that Howard had a serious interest in the Old West. This interest became so predominant toward the latter years of his life he shifted his writing career in the direction of publishing western stories and even proclaimed in correspondence to August Derleth:
“I’m seriously contemplating devoting all my time and efforts to western writing, abandoning all other forms of work entirely; the older I get the more my thoughts and interests are drawn back over the trails of the past; so much has been written, but there is so much that should be written.” (Howard Letters 2:  372).

In studies about Robert E. Howard’s western writing career there is no definitive time frame or specific cause that pushed Howard in the direction of western tales. Howard had written westerns in his earlier years and sporadically throughout his fantasy and action adventure years, but what made him tell Derleth that he wanted to devote all his time to western writing? There was likely no single factor or date, rather a series of events that hinged upon at least one thing—Walter Noble Burn’s book The Saga of Billy the Kid.
Walter Noble Burns was born October 24th, 1872. As a teenager he became a junior reporter for the Louisville, KY Evening Post. (Nolan 295). This led Burns into a fairly long career as a writer and reporter which eventually led him to Chicago where he would work for both the Chicago Examiner and Chicago Tribune. It was his work with the Tribune that would launch him into his most famous research and work. In 1923 Burns would visit New Mexico to interview  various people who were still alive during the Lincoln County Wars and the days of Billy the Kid. This research would ultimately end up in Burns’ book The Saga of Billy the Kid (from here on referred to as SBK).
SBK was the definitive book about Billy the Kid’s life until the late 1950s and early 1960s when scholars took pen in hand and began seriously researching the Lincoln County Wars. Today SBK is considered nothing but a novel work on the Lincoln County Wars. It has all but been dismissed as exaggerations, myths, and fun folklore. Regardless, from 1926, the year SBK was published, to the early 1960s, Burns’ work set the tone for movies, western pulp stories, dime novels, and even magazine articles about Billy the Kid.
When SBK was published it quickly became a national best seller, rivaling the sales of other popular books of its day. In just a few short months Nolan explains,

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A 2017 Howard Days Highlight: Gaming

The Monolith Conan Game
On the Howard House
front porch
As mentioned in an earlier post, I've been attending Howard Days since 2012, and what I have noticed each year is there is always one or two things over the weekend that stand out from everything else. One of this year's highlights was the RPG and Board gaming in the Cross Plains public library and on Robert E. Howard's front porch.

This was not the first year Howard Days hosted gaming. A few years ago, the RPG game launched on Kickstarter by Modiphius, was playtested by a group of gamers in Robert E. Howard's dining room. This very RPG game, now a successful Kickstarter campaign was once again played by a group of gamers in the Cross Plains Public Library.

There was an acting Dungeon Master (DM) for the gamers, and from what I've been told, I did not witness the gaming in the library, it was quite eventful. A smaller faction of the Cross Plains Library RPG gaming group relocated to the front porch of the Howard House. This small group set up the new, highly successful Kickstarter board game, called Conan, created by Monolith Board Games LLC. Having participated in this Kickstarter campaign, I spent a good portion of that game watching the inner workings and witnessing it at play.

Howard House front
porch gaming
This game's Overlord (who functions similar to a DM) was Wesley, from Wyoming. Game players included Wesley's wife Elizabeth, Chris, James, and Danny. The group selected a pre-provided scenario, characters, and then simply followed the rules of the game. This was the first time I had seen this game actually being played live. And though it is slightly complicated, once the participants got involved and began understanding the rules, the game slowly picked up and became increasingly more interesting. I am certainly glad I was able to witness this game play, especially since I own the game.

But here's the kicker, while the Monolith Conan game was being played on Robert E. Howard's front porch, the game play was being filmed for YouTube by Robert E. Howard's great nephew, Jim Howard! A nice added feature, to say the least.

I was told by several of the gamers that they wanted to make this an annual affair at Howard Days. I think that is a wonderful idea, and I certainly hope to see more gaming at subsequent Howard Days.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A 2017 Howard Days Highlight: The Robert E. Howard Bar Guide

I've been attending Howard Days since 2012, and what I have noticed each year is there is always one or two things over the weekend that stand out from everything else. One of this year's highlights was Bobby Derie's free book titled The Robert E. Howard Bar Guide.

Bobby Derie, who is a regular guest writer here at On an Underwood No. 5, sent me a message via Facebook, about this idea a few months prior to Howard Days. A month or so later, he sent me the first 20 or so pages to proof and fact check, and after reading those pages, I knew Howard fans were in for a huge treat. Of course, any article or book from Derie is a treat, and well worth reading (and I'm not being bias simply because he's a regular at On An Underwood No. 5 - just ask around, people will confirm this).

If you were unable to attend Howard Days this year and have not obtained a copy of the Bar Guide, then you're in luck. It is still available in PDF format, at this link.

The Bar Guide is a blend of history and brew. The first 20 or so pages detail REH's history with alcohol, prohibition, bootlegging, and is "a biographical look at drink and drinking in the life of Robert E. Howard." (excerpt from page 1). This is followed by various concoctions, recipes, and assorted exotic drinks that Howard discusses or has himself experienced. For this, Derie makes use of Howard's stories and his letters. He also includes newspaper clippings from the Cross Plains Review about the various times Cross Plains legalized beer (in Callahan County), about bootleggers in the area, vintage ads about alcohol, about "moonshine," etc. This certainly adds a nice flavor to the contents.

Various types of drinks, straight and mixed, are included, referenced from Howard's works or letters, and "period recipes culled from contemporary cocktail guides" (Howard Works, The Robert E. Howard Guide) The bar guide is also peppered throughout with illustrations from Weird Tales, Argosy, Spicy-Adventure Stories, and other publications. And, the back cover sports a hand-drawn illustration by Howard himself. The print editions that were distributed at this year's Howard Days were numbered and will surely end up being a nice collector's item in the future.

With much appreciation, let's all raise a glass to Bobby Derie for this wonderful Bar Guide. Cheers!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Stars Rush Like a Blow to the Face: Post Oaks and Sand Roughs and the Freedom of the Unreal by Jason Ray Carney

Introduction (by Todd B. Vick)

I first met Jason Ray Carney in March of 2016. We were both presenting papers in the Pulp Studies group at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA-ACA) conference in Seattle, Washington. "'No plot, no sequence, no moral': Robert E. Howard's Post Oak and Sand Roughs and the Unreality of the Ordinary" was the title of his paper. The title had sparked my interest, especially since everything I had read about Howard’s Post Oaks and Sand Roughs (POASR) was a discussion about the novella being a semi-autobiographical work from Howard. It was to be read as such, but its autobiographical accuracy was to be taken with several grains of salt. That being the case, I was curious about the contents of Carney’s paper. Would it be the same stuff I had read before? No, in fact, it was not. Carney had, more or less, turned that notion on its head and requested his reader examine the story as a work of modern fiction, in light of the development of the novel. Howard’s story was an excellent example of the modern novel. To say this idea surprised me would be a slight understatement. He had my attention. He had me thinking outside the box. I like that.

You are in for a treat with this blog post. Once again, Carney is going to peel back the covers of POASR and ask us, his reader, to see it in a different light. He will delve into the novel’s formlessness, how blog posts are akin to this formlessness (I kid you not), and then apply all this to POASR, along with the idea of genres of freedom, the failure of the novel, and REH and the pulp writer as pugilist. That’s a lot to take in, you might be thinking. It is, to a certain degree, but he does a first-rate job of explaining how this is all possible, and why it is important. In addition to his blog post, he commissioned artist Jessica Robinson to illustrate his work/REH, a first for On An Underwood No. 5. So, without further ado, I’ll leave you with Jason Ray Carney. Enjoy!  —Todd B. Vick

I. The Blog Post and Genre Anxiety

First, I want to thank Todd for inviting me to write a guest blog post. I try to keep a blog and struggle to maintain it, and the primary reason for this is that I can't quite wrap my mind around the "anything-goes" genre of the blog post: its conventions, its goals, its use-value for readers. Here are some of my questions: Are blog posts formal academic writing? Are they a kind of magazine writing for an educated but casual audience? (I wouldn't call the REH fan community 'casual'). More specifically: if I'm discussing literature (one of the few things I feel qualified to substantively blog about), am I writing a digital version of literary criticism or does the blog post context change things fundamentally? Should I use footnotes? Should I use media-specific elements, such as embedded art, like the original drawing I commissioned the talented illustrator, Jessica Robinson, for this post? Should I use direct quotations? Should I use particular academic citation and style guide? If I'm reflecting on whether or not I enjoy a particular literary work, have I stopped doing literary criticism and begun writing a mere review? How personal or objective should I be?

Snaps open a can of beer. This might help.

The formlessness of the blog post as a genre spins my head, leaves me at a loss regarding how to proceed, and, so, to begin, I'm going to take my lead from a young H.P. Lovecraft writing in 1917 to Rheinhart Kleiner. Defending his wide-ranging epistolary style, Lovecraft asks Kleiner the same thing I'll ask you, dear reader: "Regard my communications not as studied letters, but as fragments of discourse, spoken with the negligence of oral intercourse rather than the formal correctness of literary correspondence." Replace "blog post" with "communications" and "studied letters" with "formal essay," and we're getting somewhere.

Robert E. Howard
Illustration by Jessica Robinson
In contemplating writing this blog post, I feel kindred to the artistically frustrated Steve Costigan, the protagonist of Robert E. Howard's unpublished novel, Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, as he contemplates writing not sword and sorcery, adventure, or gothic horror, but the realism:

Steve had wished to write life as he saw it--he had torturously pounded out a few realistic tales and had found the subject the most difficult of all. ‘I don’t know where to take hold,’ he said slowly. ‘Life is full of tag ends which never begin and never end. There’s no plot, no sequence, no moral.’

"I don't know where to take hold." Yep. I could say the same thing about writing blog posts, but I'm going to give it my best here. Every book or article I've read that gives advice about blogging basically boils down to these same bits of advice: choose a topic and imagine a specific audience; then, those decisions made, write about something apropos to your selected topic and in a style that will satisfy the needs of the particular audience you have in mind. Don't forget the blog post's chronological structure and ephemeral nature. Blog posts, unlike journal articles and academic monographs, are date-indexed; unlike journal peer-reviewed scholarship, which has a chance of maintaining its worth despite its aging, blog posts are acutely ephemeral, like acid-rich articles in a daily rag. Though they don't yellow with age and fall apart as papery snowflakes, they do disappear into the digital archive.

Bearing this advice in mind, let me put all my cards on the table, remove my black hat, and hang my holstered, silver-filigreed revolvers on a crooked nail (excuse the trite similes as I establish atmosphere): I'm writing a meandering blog post about Robert E. Howard's unpublished quasi-autobiographical novel, referred to as Post Oaks and Sand Roughs (Important note: Patrice Louinet told me recently that this is not actually the title of the novel; instead, it should be more accurately labeled Grasping at the Edge, a name referenced in an REH letter somewhere, though I am ignorant of the specific letter). My assumed audience is a group of diehard Robert E. Howard fans who read or are open to reading On an Underwood No. 5, who have the patience for a long essay, and who believe Howard was not merely a pulp raconteur who spun yarns that entertain (he is this, of course!) but was also a sincere literary artist who deserves wider visibility in Anglophone literary history, in the concrete form of academic monographs and articles, conference panels, and university courses that treat early 20th-century literature, popular culture, and genre fiction. Finally, I'm going to try my best to affect a minimally academic, hospitable, no BS, yet substantive prose style that hopefully entertains, educates, and starts a conversation.

II. Genre Anxiety in Post Oaks and Sand Roughs

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Conan and the OAK, Part 5 - 1936 - 1946 by Bobby Derie

A week before [Robert E. Howard] killed himself, he wrote to Otis Adelbert Kline (his literary agent except for sales to Weird Tales): “In the event of my death, please send all checks for me to my father, Dr. I M. Howard.” His father found two stories on which he had typewritten: “In the event of my death, send these two stories to Farnsworth Wright, Editor of Weird Tales, 840 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago.” (IMH 84)

Robert E. Howard had made preparations for his death; Kline confirmed in a letter to Carl Jacobi that:

About three weeks ago he wrote me a letter saying that, in case of his death I should get in touch with his father. (IMH 68)

Kline’s letter is praiseworthy, both of Howard's and Kline’s ability to market him, noting that despite caring for his dying mother, Howard “has been doing a lot of brilliant writing, and we have opened a number of new markets for him with character-continuity series.” (IMH 68)

As a client from May 1933 to July 1936 (38 months), Robert E. Howard had cleared at least $2150 through Kline’s sales—and almost assuredly more, when you consider the stories that don’t appear in the ledger or Otto Binder’s commissions list. The Kline agency for its part probably cleared about $250-300 in commissions (at least the standard 10% of Howard’s sales, possibly 15% for sales before 1935). By the numbers, this wouldn’t make Howard the Kline agency’s best client; in 1936 John Scott Douglas “was good for at least thirty to forty dollars a month commissions in New York alone.” (OAK 16.1) However, Kline also stated that:

I send back for keeps approximately 80% of the material I receive [...] Of the other twenty per cent, I accept perhaps a fourth, and sometimes as high as a half, depending on how the stuff runs. The balance is returned to the writers for revision, some if [sic] it again and again, until they have done as well as they can do with it. Only then is it put on offer, and of course not all of it goes to New York. Some goes to Canada, England or other foreign countries. I select the markets to which it seems best suited. (OAK 16.2)

By this standard, at least, Howard seems to have been ahead of the pack: the only story Kline is known to have sent back without trying it on the market was “Wild Water” (IMH 19), and while Kline initially struggled to market Howard’s fiction, and advised him on revising his work and breaking into new markets, as the years went on Kline was selling a greater and greater percentage of the work that Howard sent him; Binder’s commissions list for the New York end of the business in 1935 lists more commissions from sales of the Texan’s work than any other client. (OAK 5.18) If Howard was not Kline’s best client, he was at least a steady one, and an appreciative one, as Kline uses a statement from Howard in the brochure for his United Sales Plan:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Conan and the OAK, Part 4 - 1936 by Bobby Derie

1936 brought a few ruffles to the Kline-Howard relationship, beginning with a letter from Howard to agent August Lenniger, dated 27 December 1935:

I have received your letter of the 17th, and read it with much interest, together with the literature that accompanied it. Mr. Otis Adelbert Kline handles most of my work, and I have no reason to be dissatisfied with him. However, there’s no harm in having more than one string to a bow, as in the case of my friend, Ed Price, who does business with both yourself and Mr. Kline, and seems to be doing very well indeed. I notice that in your ad in the December issue of the [Author & Journalist] you state that, in the case of a professional who has sold $1,000 worth of stuff within the last year, you will waive reading fees and handle his work on straight commission. Well, I sold considerably more than a thousand dollars worth of stories. If you are willing to handle my work on a straight commission basis, I’ll be glad to send you some yarns and let you see what you can do with them. Of your ability as an agent there is of course no question. As to my yarns, I write westerns, adventure, fantasy, sport, and occasionally detective. I have been a contributor to Weird Tales for eleven years, and a 70,000 word novel, The Hour of the Dragon is at present running in that magazine as a serial. Action Stories is running a series of humorous western shorts, one of these stories having appeared in every issues of the magazine for about two years now. In the past few months I have made three new markets, Western Aces, Thrilling Mystery and Spicy Adventures. In addition to the magazines above mentioned my work has appeared in Ghost Stories, Argosy, Fight Stories, Oriental Stories, Sport Stories, Thrilling Adventures, Texaco Star, The Ring, Strange Detective, Super-Detective, Strange Tales, Frontier Times and Jack Dempsey’s Fight Magazine. (CL 3.395-396)

Western Aces
October 1935
Gus Lenniger was, strictly speaking, Kline’s competition, although the two were on friendly terms, and by unusual circumstances shared a client in E. Hoffmann Price, whose situation combined with the non-exclusive nature of Howard’s agreement with Kline probably precipitated the confusion. As Price tells it, he had Lenniger as his agent, but wasn’t getting sales, so:

I wrote Otis, and sent him a novelette with which Lenniger had no luck whatsoever. All I expected, in my ignorance, was some advice which I could utilize. After all, Otis and I had drunk from the same barrel. He suggested a revision, and a second revision, and then, a substantial cut. It was only then that I learned about his agency business. As a friend, he was giving me a hand. He was not looking for another client. He never once suggested that I dump August Lenniger. He took my much revised script, sold it, and also, a short story which had got nowhere. Each salvage operation was in the crime field. And then, August Lenniger got his stride. I had never had any cause for complaint. That it had taken him awhile to express himself in terms meaningful to me was natural. [...] Stories for Kline went to him as “Hamlin Daly” yarns. My “official” agent got E. Hoffmann Price stuff. Oddly, each sold to publishers which the other was not selling. An arrangement of this sort could not, and of course, should not last long. It did not. (BOD 33)

Kline had a slightly different take on events, in a letter to Otto Binder dated 14 May 1936:

I really gave Price his start in the detective story field. When he wanted to branch out he came to me, and at that time I told him I was busy with my own writing and didn’t want to take on anymore clients. I recommended Lenniger. He sent him four or five novelettes and a bunch of shorts, and Lenniger didn’t sell a damn thing for him over a period of six months. He then asked me if I would check up and see what was wrong for him. I agreed to do so, and he wrote Lenniger for a couple of the novelettes. He revised them under my directions, and I sould them right off the bat to Dell for 1 ¼ ¢ a word. He then wrote for some more, and during that six months period I sold, all told, five novelettes which Lenniger had been unable to sell because he didn’t demand revisions, and three or four short stories. With all all of these sales editors began to notice Price’s name, and Lenniger began to sit up and take notice. He sold a short story for Price, and started going around to editorial offices trying to get assignments. Then he sold a novelette, and some other stuff, and kept getting Price more assignments. In spite of that fact, I solde twice as much for Price over the period of a year as did Lenniger. I continued this record for another year. [...] Lenniger,  however, kept boring in, using the assignment method. He kept contacting new editors, asking for assignments for Price. Then he would wire or airmail Price, and naturally he wouldn’t turn down any orders for stories if he could possibly dill them, on the “bird in the hand” theory. This ran down my stock of Price stories, and of course ran down my sales. I got him the Pawang Ali assignment from Tremain, and if I had been in New York regularly could have gotten him a lot of others and beaten Lenniger at his own game. As it is, he is cashing in on a man I trained for the work, and the only way I can beat him is through the New York end. (OAK 16.6-7)

Howard had also dealt with Lenniger briefly in 1933, when Lenniger, Price, and Kirk Mashburn had the idea for an anthology that never materialized. (CL2.240; 3.14, 41) The extent to which Howard intended to use Lenniger as an agent isn’t clear, but the issue was further complicated by a letter from Howard to William Kofoed, dated 8 Jan 1936:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Howard Days 2017: A Trip Report by Scott Valeri

Panned view of the Howard House & Museum
(Picture courtesy of Ben Friberg)

As Howard Days 2017 approached this year I felt a mixture of emotions. This included the usual excitement in anticipation of seeing old friends again, the thrill of visiting Robert E Howard’s hometown of Cross Plains, and the house where he created all of the magical characters of his imagination, but also a little concern that this may not be a “great” year to attend. This is because I had heard that several wonderful Howard/REHupa friends would not be attending for various reasons. People like Barbara Barrett, Damon Sasser, and Al Herron and his grandmother and aunts. Although these folks were greatly missed, my concerns were unfounded and Howard Days 2017 was another great year with old friendships reaffirmed, new friendships made and lots of scholarship and learning packed into three days that had the feel of a family reunion (one where you really like everyone).

Dierk & Chie Guenther
Gary Romeo in background (R)
Travel day for me was Wednesday June 7, even though events don't really start until Thursday evening, because it makes the journey a little less tiring to stretch it out. Many folks do come in on Wednesday and it was great to catch up for an impromptu dinner and get reacquainted Wednesday evening before checking in to my motel in Brownwood. The “glow” of being around people that share a similar passion, that most people don’t understand, started the moment that I entered Cross Plains and lasted through the weekend.

Thursday June 8 started for me with breakfast at Jean’s Feedbarn with Todd Vick (spoiler alert, winner of two REH awards this year!) and David Piske. I had never had breakfast at this august establishment so it was on my must-do list. Excellent meal and company. Many of the REHupan’s were there at another long table and the conversation was lively and erudite. Then it was a pleasant, slow day of checking in to the REH House and Pavillion to meet others arriving for the weekend, greet and catch up. It is always a thrill to see who comes in and to make the initial walk through the house and take in the small room and desk where REH created all of his characters and stories. The Project Pride folks, like Arlene Stephenson and her husband Tom, are warm and hospitable and help create the atmosphere of inclusion and celebration that marks the long weekend.

Derie's REH Bar Guide
(Pic courtesy of Howard Works)
A real treat was having scholar Bobby Derie generously pass out a REH Bar Guide, spiral bound, that had everything REH had ever written, in letters and fiction, about alcoholic drinks along with drink recipes so anyone can recreate some of these libations. This was an 80-page scholarly labor and delighted everyone who got one.

Dinner that night was at the Senior Center on Main Street for a fish fry and more conversation with arriving folks like Jeff Shanks and his wife Claudia.  Rusty Burke and “Indy” Bill Cavalier, who are the initiators of Howard Days from their first formal gathering of fans here in 1986, were also in attendance. After dinner the Howard Days parade went through downtown Cross Plains to kick off the celebration.

Day 1
The REH Foundation
On Friday June 9 Howard Days officially started at 8:30 AM with registration outside the Alla Ray Morris Pavilion. Coffee and donuts were provided by Project Pride. From 9 to 10:30 AM Rusty Burke conducted his annual bus tour of Howard sites in the area. I can never miss this as I feel that I always pick up new information about REH’s life and upbringing. Jack Baum was in the bus with Rusty to fill in local color for the tour. This year we went to Cross Cut and Burkett.

These are very sparse villages now but in their day were much larger settlements. Rusty and Jack helped us fill in the scenery from the 1920s. The Howards lived on the N side of a cemetery in Cross Cut and had the Newton family as friends on the S side. Dr Howard would walk to visit the Newtons and whistle his way through the cemetery. The school REH attended here has been demolished.

As we rode the narrow road to Burkett, Jack Baum explained that a “sand rough” is an accumulation of sand and weeds that develop where there are fence posts and create almost a wall or a thick barrier outside a pasture. We saw them all along the way. The connection with Howard? “Post Oaks and Sand Roughs” is the title of REH’s semi-autobiographical novel. Dr Howard bought property in Burkett but did not build a house there and wound up moving to Cross Plains to the home we know, that he bought from JM Kaufman who built it. Dr Howard did a lot of land speculation in the many towns the Howards lived in prior to settling in Cross Plains. They moved 8 or 9 times prior to 1915 when they moved to Cross Cut. Relocated to Burkett in 1917 and then Cross Plains in 1919 when REH was 13.

In Burkett, we crossed the Burkett Bridge over the Pecan Bayou that was seen in the movie The Whole Wide World. The movie was mostly filmed in Austin as it was too expensive to film more in the country. Other facts from Jack Baum and Rusty were that REH did not hunt because he did not like hurting animals, but he would tag along when his friends David Lee and Lindsey Tyson hunted.

"The Glenn Lord Collection" panel
(L to R: Paul Herman, Rob Roehm, Patrice Louinet)
11 AM was the first panel on “The Glen Lord Collection” with presenters Paul Herman, Rob Roehm, and Patrice Louinet.

All panels were at the Methodist Church fellowship hall on N Main St which was a new location that was spacious, bright and had excellent acoustics. It was very generous for the Methodist Church and pastor Kevin Morton, to go out of their way to provide all the attendees with a great venue to see and hear the presentations. It made the experience richer and more comfortable. I don't know how we can all say thank you enough for this privilege.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Conan and the OAK, Part 3 - 1935 by Bobby Derie

1935 began with a letter from Kline to Howard, dated 28 Jan 1935; Leo Margulies rejected a synopsis for “The Silver Heel,” a Steve Harrison detective story, and Kline suggested they might try it on Roy Horn’s Two-Book Detective Magazine; though if they did, nothing came of it. (IMH 23) Kline gave a few of the Dorgan rewrites to his employee Miller to market, without apparent success. (IMH 369) Then on 13 May 1935 there was a letter from Howard to Kline:

I’m writing this to ask for some information in regard to Weird Tales. As you know, for some time I’ve had a story in almost every issue. One of those yarns you sold Wright, yourself, “The Grisly Horror,” you remember. The others I sold him direct. For over a year, as I remember, I’ve received just half a check each month — just barely enough to keep me alive, but I didn’t kick, because I knew times were hard, and I believed Wright was doing his best to pay me. But this month there was no check forthcoming — and this check would have been much bigger than any check I’ve gotten for a long time from Weird Tales. I wrote Wright, telling him the trouble I’d been in, and explaining my desperate need for money, and up to now he’s coolly ignored my letter. No check — and not the slightest word of explanation. The case is simple enough: Weird Tales owes me over $800, some of it for stories published six months ago. I’m pinching pennies and wearing rags, while my stories are being published, used and exploited. I believe Wright could pay me every cent he owes me, if he wanted to. But now, when I need money worse than I ever needed it in my life before, he refuses to pay me anything, and ignores a letter in which I beg him to pay me even a fraction of the full amount. What’s his game, anyway? Is Weird Tales still a legitimate publication, or has it become a racket? Of course, anything you tell me will be treated as confidential, just as I expect this letter to be treated. I don’t want to cause anybody any trouble or inconvenience. But Weird Tales owes me something like $860 and naturally I want to learn, if I can, if there’s any chance of ever getting paid. (CL 3.308-309)

Howard wasn’t alone; the Great Depression hit Weird Tales and the other pulps hard, and there was likely nothing Kline could do, except tell Howard he wasn’t alone—Kline himself was still selling stories to WT, including the serial “Lord of the Lamia” (Mar-Apr-May 1935). Whatever Kline’s response, Howard appeared to find it acceptable, as he wrote to Emil Petaja:

I have found him very satisfactory in every way, and do not hesitate to recommend him. (CL 3.369)

One of the selling points of Kline’s agency was foreign sales, and in 1935 it appears, after a good-faith effort to move stories in the United States, he tried to place them in Canada or the United Kingdom; Howard already having had a few stories published in the UK Not at Night anthologies before Kline became his agent. The stories included the Dorgan yarns, “Swords of the Hills,” “A Gent From Bear Creek,”  “The Voice of Death,” “The Names in the Black Book,” “The Grisly Horror,” as well as “Hawks of Outremer,” “Jewels of Gwahlur,” “Beyond the Black River,” “A Witch Shall Be Born,” and “Red Blades of Black Cathay,” (a collaboration with Tevis Clyde Smith). (IMH 358, 360, 362-363, 364-365, 366, 367, 369-370, 371) None of these stories sold in foreign markets, but Howard had also prepared a stitch-up novel of his Breckinridge Elkins stories, and Kline wrote in a letter dated 8 Oct 1935:

I recently had an inquiry from an English publisher on four Western novels submitted to him some time ago. It has occurred to me that it might be well to offer than a carbon copy of your novel A Gent from Bear Creek. The American publisher who is considering the original has not yet reported. (IMH 31)

Kline also encouraged Howard, like E. Hoffmann Price, to “splash the spicies.” Edited by Frank Armer (of Strange Detective and Super-Detective Stories), this was a fresh market for Howard. Kline wrote of the spicies:

Your story “The Girl on the Hell Ship” seems to be pretty close to what Frank Armer wants for Spicy Adventures, although it may not be quite hot enough for that book. However, I am trying it on Armer and will let you know his reaction. Price has done quite well writing for this magazine, as well as Spicy Detective. Perhaps he could give you some good tips on this sort of thing if you are interested in following up. Armer paid Price 1¢ a word for these yarns on acceptance. [...] No, I don’t think anyone has any prejudice against your name; however, I do think it wise for you to use a pen name on sexy adventure stories since you are identified with the straight adventure and Western field under your own name. (IMH 31-32, OAK 1.4-5)

Howard successfully broke into with “She-Devil” under the title “The Girl on the Hell Ship,” as by “Sam Walser,” which appeared in Spicy Adventure Stories Jan 1936. (IMH 371) With good news often came bad: Wright reported that Magic Carpet Magazine was definitely defunct, and would returned the unpublished Sailor Dorgan yarns, and Margulies rejected “The Trail of the Bloodstained God” for Thrilling Adventures, with Kline reporting:

Margulies recently wrote me that he would not use chronicles of violent action, unless adequate attention was given to plot conflict, motivation and character reaction. The theme of jewels, or treasure secreted in an idol, jewel decorations for idols and idols with jewel eyes has been done over and over so much editors are beginning to tire of it. I have received a number of stories of this sort—some of them quite good—and have been unable to place them because of editorial objections to this theme. The story also is an odd length for many magazines, as it is neither a short story nor a novelette. However, I’ll show it around—perhaps we can place it to your advantage somewhere. (IMH 32, OAK 1.4-5)

Magic Carpet
July 1933
On the surface, 1935 was not the best year for Howard; by the ledger (and Kline’s letter of 8 Oct 1935), Kline had managed to sell only “Black Canaan” ($108.00), “The Last Ride” (a collaboration with Robert Enders Allen, $78.75), “War on Bear Creek” ($54.00), “Weary Pilgrims on the Road” ($54.00), and “The Girl on the Hell Ship” ($48.60) for a total of $343.35 after commissions. (IMH 367-371) However, the ledger does not include all of Howard’s stories that were published that year outside WT, including “The Haunted Mountain,” “Hawk of the Hills,” “The Feud Buster,” “Blood of the Gods,” “The Cupid from Bear Creek,” “The Riot at Cougar Paw,” “Boot Hill Payoff,” or “The Apache Mountain War” so the total was undoubtedly higher—Howard probably cleared closer to $600 through Kline’s agency in 1935.

Part 1, Part 2
Works Cited

BOD    Book of the Dead: Friends of Yesteryear: Fictioneers & Others
CL       Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard (3 vols. + Index & Addenda)
CS       The Conan Swordbook
FI         Fists of Iron (4 vols.)
IMH     The Collected Letters of Dr. Isaac M. Howard
MF       A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E.                                Howard (2 vols)
OAK    OAK Leaves: The Official Journal of Otis Adelbert Kline (16 issues)
WT50  WT50: A Tribute to Weird Tales

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Conan and the OAK, Part 2 - 1934 by Bobby Derie

Super-Detective Stories
May 1934
In 1934, Kline’s agency would still be busy trying to move Howard’s fiction, and Howard for his part wasn’t slowing down his production. In December 1933 Howard sent Kline “A Gent from Bear Creek” and “The Daughter of Erlik Khan,” both of which sold in 1934; so too did “A Stranger in Grizzly Claw” and “The Names in the Black Book” (a Steve Harrison tale and the sequel to “Lord of the Dead,” accepted for Super-Detective Stories, the successor to Strange Detective Series). (IMH 364-365) The novelette “Swords of Shahrazar” was initially rejected, but Kline returned it to Howard with advice to rewrite it in a letter dated 21 Feb 1934:
Start the story by introducing your chief character and his major problem, and of course setting the scene. Make the action pop right from the start, and keep it popping. Forget that a story went before, and make this story a unit that stands by itself. I’m not telling you all this because it coincides with my own taste, but because it seems to be what [Leo] Margulies wants. And he’s the boy who O.K’s the checks. (IMH 20-21, OAK 10.11)
Howard did rewrite the story, and it did sell, though Margulies still felt it too long, and Kline clued Howard in to the hard limits on word counts among different markets in a letter dated 30 Apr 1934. (IMH 21-22, OAK 10.11-12)

There are no more letters from Kline to Howard or vice versa in 1934, but something of their business can be reconstructed from from the account-book. The Breckinridge Elkins stories (“The Road to Bear Creek,” “War on Bear Creek,” “A Man-Eating Jeopard”) were selling well to Action Stories; the exception, “A Elkins Never Surrenders” was reworked as “A Elston to the Rescue” and eventually sold. The weird detective and terror tales yarns fared worse: “Sons of Hate,” “The Moon of Zambebwei,” “The Black Hound of Death,” “Black Canaan,” and “Pigeons from Hell” were all rejected, though Kline managed to sell “The Moon of Zambebwei” to Weird Tales, where it appeared as “The Grisly Horror” in the Feb 1935 issue—though the agreement between Howard and Kline allowed Howard to submit stories to WT on his own (and thus not pay Kline a commission), the strategy at least got a sale; Kline would repeat the practice with decent results for some of Howard’s other rejected weird terror stories, including “Black Hound of Death” and “Black Canaan.” (IMH 365-369)

Weird Tales
January 1934
Sometime in spring 1934 (“Alleys of Darkness” was published in the Jan 1934 WT and was paid for in June), Kline must have made the suggestion that Howard change several of the Steve Costigan stories to Dennis Dorgan stories, as he had done with “Alleys of Darkness.” The boxing yarns simply weren’t selling, but with a fresh name and title Kline could try them again on the same markets. So “Sailor Costigan and the Destiny Gorilla” became “Sailor Dorgan and the Destiny Gorilla,” and the same with “The Yellow Cobra”, “The Turkish Menace”, “The Jade Monkey”, and “Cultured Cauliflowers,” “A New Game for Costigan,” and “A Two-Fisted Santa Claus.” Even then, the stories failed to sell. (IMH 358, 360, 362; FI 3.318-319) However, a new market opened up in the form of Jack Dempsey’s Fight Magazine, edited by Jack Kofoed, the former editor of Fight Stories and Action Stories; Kofoed asked Howard for stories, and Howard was willing to supply them. Though Howard and Kline’s agreement was non-exclusive, he asked if Kline would handle it at his normal 10% commission; however, Kline declined. (FI 3.319, CL 3.404)

Overall for the year, counting rewrites, Howard was supplying one or two stories a month, of which Kline sold seven, although he would continue to market the rest, and would eventually sell a few others. For 1934, he received payment for “Alleys of Darkness” ($45.90), “The People of the Serpent” ($85.00), “A Gent From Bear Creek” ($46.75), “The Daughter of Erlik Khan” ($195.50), “Swords of Shahrazar” ($124.95), “The Names in the Black Book” ($85.00), “A Stranger in Grizzly Claw” ($51.00), “The Road to Bear Creek” ($32.50); “The Grisly Horror” was sold but not paid for until 1936, and so received $666.60—a sizable increase over the previous year. (IMH 358-366)

Works Cited

BOD    Book of the Dead: Friends of Yesteryear: Fictioneers & Others
CL       Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard (3 vols. + Index & Addenda)
CS       The Conan Swordbook
FI         Fists of Iron (4 vols.)
IMH     The Collected Letters of Dr. Isaac M. Howard
MF       A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E.                            Howard (2 vols)
OAK    OAK Leaves: The Official Journal of Otis Adelbert Kline (16 issues)

WT50  WT50: A Tribute to Weird Tales

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Conan and the OAK, Part 1 - 1933 by Bobby Derie

"Until recently—a few weeks ago in fact—I employed no agent."
—Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, Jul 1933 (CL 3.82, MF 2.605)

For the first years of his pulp career, Robert E. Howard acted as his own agent, dividing his working time between writing and revising stories and poems, and drafting letters to submit those stories to markets both new and established. The Texan’s access to market news was largely limited to what he could read on the pulps in the stands, industry scuttlebutt from his letters to Lovecraft, E. Hoffmann Price, and August Derleth, and the occasional guidance from editors. In early 1932, Howard supplemented this by joining the American Fiction Guild, a professional organization aimed at freelance writers, whose organ Author & Journalist contained advertisements for upcoming pulps and other market news. (CL 2.337) Around the same time, an unknown agency offered to represent Howard:
Hundreds of part-time authors have been dumped on the market, and that makes competition tougher. The part time writer is often more efficient than the professional; he’s had more time to study style and literature. An agency wrote me wanting to handle my stuff for a year or so. They bragged on what they’d done for Whitehead; I wrote Whitehead and he replied cryptically that he considered himself heap damn fortunate to have gotten out of their talons as soon as he did. (CL 2.368)
Otis Adelbert Kline
Howard turned them down, but the idea had merit: an agent devotes their energies to selling your material, freeing the writer to writing, allowing them to produce more; a good agent had representatives and connections in more markets than a lone pulpster might be aware of, and could handle the complicated issues of anthology reprints, overseas sales—or even radio serials and movie adaptations. Perhaps this is why in the spring of 1933, Robert E. Howard signed on with an agent: Otis Adelbert Kline.

Kline had been a writer in the pulps in his own right, today most remembered for his Edgar Rice Burroughs-esque serial novels like The Planet of Peril (1929), Jan of the Juggle (1931), The Swordsman of Mars (1933) for Argosy, but he was also an early contributor to Weird Tales, and anonymously edited the May-Jun-Jul 1924 issue. (WT50 84, IMH 175) Robert E. Howard was aware of Kline as a writer, and considered him a good one (CL 2.123, 302); Lovecraft was more critical, considering Kline’s fiction among “the pallid hack work of systematically mercenary writers[.]” (MF 2.560) Whatever his merits as a writer, Kline fell into being an agent; in his own words:
In 1923, I helped another writer, an old timer who had quit for eight years and with whom I had previously collaborated on songs and movie scenarios, and one musical comedy, to come back. He quickly told others of the help I had given him, and they told others, so presently, I had an agency, international in its scope. Soon I was selling the work of other writers as well as my own in foreign countries as well as the US. Presently, also, I was representing foreign publishers, literary agents and authors in this country, and similarly representing US publishers, authors and syndicates in foreign countries. (OAK 15.4)
The foreign angle was Kline’s United Sales Plan, as detailed by his friend and occasional client E. Hoffmann Price:
In addition to domestic marketing, Otis developed his Unified Sales Plan: every story which he accepted for handling in the States went to his foreign representatives. Although Otis did not by any means originate the foreign rights angle, he was a pioneer among his competitors in that he regarded every story as having foreign sales potential. He is not only increased his clients’ income—his approach won him new clients. (BOD 36, cf. OAK 5.9-12)
While much of the correspondence between Howard and Kline is no longer extant, the few letters that remain give an outline of their business relationship. Kline waived reading fees (a fee for reading a manuscript and trying to sell it), and worked on a straight commission: 10% of whatever the story sold for went to Kline. Kline, who was centered in Chicago, also had associates in other cities: if he couldn’t sell a story, himself, Kline would send it out to an agent. If they sold a story, they got a 5% commission, on top of Kline’s 10%. The checks generally went directly from the publisher to Kline, who subtracted his (and his associates’) commission, then cut a check to Robert E. Howard. So, for example, “Guns of the Mountain” (5,000 words) was sold to Action Stories by Kline’s associate V. I. Cooper for 1¢ per word, for a total of $50—of which Kline got $5, Cooper got $2.50, and Robert E. Howard received $42.50. (IMH 363) This practice was not always strictly followed, as magazines sometimes paid Howard directly, and he would cut a check for the commission to Kline. (IMH 372)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Heroic’s Aside (The Writers Journey) by David J. West

“If I was wealthy I'd never do anything but poke around in ruined cities all over the world - and probably get snake-bit.” — Robert E. Howard letter to H.P. Lovecraft

I relate to that statement quite a lot. I’ve always been fascinated with history and it informs everything I do. It is likely enough that most of this post is just me projecting, so I’d appreciate if you just bear with me.
     There is just about no one I’d rather be able to sit down with for a spell and pick their brain than Robert E. Howard. His appreciation for art, poetry, history, adventure and sheer story-telling genius bowls me over.
     As big a fan as I am for Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn and the rest, I’ve got a very soft spot for the Horror Stories of REH. I reread the newer Del Rey collection often and even have the audio book on my phone for listening to favorite shorts on quick car trips. With that in mind, I’m also fascinated with the mysterious occult that is alluded to within stories like “The Black Stone,” “Dig Me No Grave,” and “The Dwellers Under the Tomb.”
     Enter John Kirowan, John Conrad, and John O’Donnell. Having three Johns must be a nod to reality being stranger than fiction because for three friends to have the same given name is just the right kind of Charles Fortianesque coincidence perfect for their stories.
     Used interchangeably to relate supernatural mysteries on everything from vampires to the lost race, we get to follow along with these members of the Wanderer’s Club and share in their wonder and grim discoveries.
     Now, I’ve heard/read people talk about Conan and Kull being a mirror image of Howard for this or that reason, Breckenridge Elkins too, and I can see merit in all those comparisons for various reasons. However, none of them were quite in the exact self-same era as Howard himself. However, Kirowan, Conrad, and O’Donnell are and I can’t help but wonder how much of their mystic travels and research are things Howard would have liked himself—to have been able to do himself—if the means and change in familial circumstances enabled him.
     We know he loved to read and visit historic places. Because of this, in different circumstances, he might have been a member of the Wanderer’s Club. Life being what it is, we all have family duties and financial woes, so where is a dreamer to turn? To the written page in order to escape, travel, and create that wondrous ‘What if.’ And some dreams being made up of nightmare, we, of course, get terror with some of those travels. (I borrowed that from KEW)
     What book reader wouldn’t appreciate, nay want, the very same collection of strange tomes and curious relics described in Conrad’s library? I’ve done what I can to recreate that myself, though I have had no luck in procuring any copy of Von Juntz’s works. Perhaps if I could get a hold of Tussmann’s?
     Rereading the fragment of Kirowan and Conrad, “The House,” and relaying the history of Justin Geoffrey, I could not help but wonder how much what Howard thought played with his own otherworldly nuances, making him so much different than others in Cross Plains. Every line by Howard about the poet as touched or mad is a reflection, to me anyway, of Howard’s own view of himself; an in-joke perhaps more for himself than any reader. It is here that I may simply be projecting, because as a writer myself that is what I see when I read those lines.
     If I could converse with the master himself, these are the questions I’d ask him. I’d also let him know that I owe him a great debt, and say, “Thank You,” for allowing me to accompany you on these journeys into heroic mystery and wonder. I’m eternally grateful.
About the Author:

David J. West is the author of Scavengers: A Porter Rockwell Adventure (Dark Trails Saga Vol. 1)Heroes of the Fallen, Weird Tales of Horror, and The Mad Song. He has an affinity for history, action-adventure, fantasy, westerns and pulp fiction horror blended with a sharp knife and served in a dirty glass.

Before becoming an award-winning poet, novelist, and songwriter he was vagabonding all over North America sampling native fauna for brunch. When he isn’t writing he enjoys traveling and visiting ancient ruins with intent on finding their lost secrets or at the very least getting snake bit. He collects swords, fine art and has a library of some seven thousand books. He currently lives in Utah with his wife and children.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Friend of a Friend: Robert E. Howard and Frank Belknap Long, Part Two by Bobby Derie

Belknap & Lovecraft 1931
Frank Belknap Long was also dragged into one of Howard and Lovecraft’s long-ranging arguments on mental vs. physical, civilization vs. barbarism. Lovecraft, though arguing for the superiority of mental exertion over physical, was not unsympathetic to Howard’s view on the general agree ability of physical ability; the Rhode Islander wrote to the Texan:
In recognizing this condition, I am quite on your side—as against utter despisers of physical stamina and combat like Frank B. Long and others of the younger generation. (MF1.421)
In a subsequent letter, Lovecraft clarified:
So I stand half-way betwixt Long and yourself—insisting on the one hand that the glorification of the physical ought to be subordinated to the glorification of the mental, but on the other and insisting that the loss of a certain standard of physical prowess and combative interest means effeminacy and decadence. [...] Some years ago Long and I attempted to explore the Fulton Fish Market section of New York—which is full of quaint scenes and buildings. Ordinarily I have about 50 times the vigour and endurance of young Belknap—but for once he had grandpa at a disadvantage. (MF2.524-525)
Howard responded:
You mention my position as being at the other extreme from—I believe it was Long you mentioned. [...] Putting Long at one end of the rope, and me at the other, of course, you know Long, but in justice to myself, I must assure you that you are wrong about my position at the other extremity. (CL3.19, 27, MF2.535, 541)
This dispute, like others, was broken up at intervals by other, friendlier subjects such as Lovecraft relaying his Christmas 1932 visit with the Longs and his old New York literary circle (MF2.256), which Howard evinced polite interest in (CL3.30, MF2.544). Yet they did return to it once again, Lovecraft clarifying:
In contrasting you and Long I meant only to convey that your respective positions represent extremes within the very narrow circle of my active correspondents. Of course, I realize very keenly that extremes exist in both directions, which far transcend our position on the one hand and Long's on the other. [...] and nobody I know of (except Long, who thought it just a bit juvenile for a man of his high development in superior lines) ever criticised him for that satisfaction. (MF2.553, 555)
One wonders if Lovecraft showed Long these particular letters, or considered the impression that the Rhode Islander was building of his New Yorker friend when he wrote things like:
And our fellow-weirdest Frank Belknap Long Jr. is forced to leave the table in haste when blood or slaughter is too vividly brought into the conversation. [...] As to the varying degrees of sensitiveness at the sight or mention of blood—of course, actual fainting represents a pathological extreme .... as does also, perhaps, Long's acute nausea. (MF2.726, 790)
 In a letter dated 24 July 1933, Lovecraft wrote to Howard:
Speaking of literary insincerity and repulsive hack work—Long has just sold a wretched "confession" tale to the equally wretched Macfadden outfit for $100.00. He isn't signing his own name, though the company insist on his giving them his full name and address for filing. It gives him a nauseated feeling to reflect that his name is even secretly connected with such a piece of abysmal tripe—but he wants the cash badly! (MF2.630)
Otis Adelbert Kline

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Friend of a Friend: Robert E. Howard and Frank Belknap Long, Part One by Bobby Derie

Frank Belknap Long
Robert E. Howard and Frank Belknap Long, Jr. never met, nor did they correspond directly. Yet they shared an interest in poetry; a profession, in pulp writing; markets in common, especially Weird Tales; a common agent, in Otis Adelbert Kline; a collaboration, in the form of the round-robin “The Challenge From Beyond”; and of course they shared a friend: H. P. Lovecraft.

It was mostly through Lovecraft’s chain of correspondence that the two men came to know something of each other, though Howard had relatively little chance to remark on it during his lifetime, and Long had several productive decades to cast back his memories to the image of the Texan transmitted through Lovecraft’s letters, and Howard’s own fiction. Reflecting on the period, Long wrote:
I’ve never ceased to regret that I missed an opportunity to correspond at length with Howard in the far-off days of my still stubbornly recurrent youth. HPL urged me to do so, many times, and sent me virtually all of “Two-gun Bob’s” early letters to read at my leisure and eventually, of course, return to him. And most remarkable letters they were, some running to forty or fifty single-spaced typewritten pages. [...] But I consoled myself with the thought that Howard had revealed so much about himself in his letters to HPL that I felt as if I had met and talked with him at great length and had become—yes, the most esteemed of friends. (RSF 5)
Robert E. Howard
There is evidence to support the idea that Lovecraft “lent out” several of Howard’s letters to him. Annotations to some of Howard’s letters are attributed to Lovecraft and bear out his lending, e.g. “Return this to Grandpa or incur the direst consequences!” (CL2.489, MF1.511) and “Fra Bernardus to Francis, Lord Belknap. Comrade Belnapovitch to Grandpa—or incur the direst consequences!!” (CL3.18, MF2.535) Long went on to say:
This feeling of close friendship was reinforced by my knowledge that HPL had relayed to him my praise of his stories and that he had read a great many of my stories and poems and had been most generous in his praise of them. [...] He was an extraordinary writer, and even if he had never created Conan, or Solomon Kane, and a half dozen other imperishable mighty men of legendary renown, his letters to HPL alone would have established him as extraordinary. (RSF 5-6)
Lovecraft’s first mention of Long to Howard was in an early letter, dated 20 July 1930, and includes Long’s praise:
Young Frank B. Long (a friend of mine whose Weird Tales work you have probably noticed) & I argue interminably on this point, he being a Smith-adherent. [...] In closing, let me add that my friends Long & Clark Ashton Smith (whose work you must know) have repeatedly praised your tales, Long being especially enthusiastic about "Skull Face". He also likes your verses exceedingly. (MF1.30-31)
Robert E. Howard’s “Skull-Face” was serialized in Weird Tales Oct-Nov-Dec 1929; the Texan had also published several poems in the Unique Magazine, including “Dead Man’s Hate” (Jan 1930), “A Song Out of Midian” (Apr 1930), and “Shadows On the Road” (May 1930). Howard felt obliged to comment on this warm reception to his friend Tevis Clyde Smith:
He says his young friend Frank Belknap Long, and Clark Ashton Smith have often praised my junk. Well, I’m very glad of it, naturally. (CL2.58)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A New Discovery: Herbert Klatt's Personal Photo Album by Todd B. Vick

A few months ago, I received a message from a reader of this blog regarding Robert E. Howard and a friend of his named Herbert Klatt. Of course, I’ve written about Herbert Klatt here at On An Underwood No. 5 since he was not only a friend of Robert E. Howard’s but also of Tevis Clyde Smith's, Truett Vinson's, and Harold Preece's. It turns out the person who contacted me, Christopher Oldham, is a relative of Herbert Klatt’s. Christopher contacted me because he had recently come into possession through his great aunt Oleta Klatt (a sister of Herbert’s), Herbert Klatt’s personal photo album.

When Christopher mentioned the photo album, the only thought in my mind was that there might be a potential picture of Robert E. Howard no one had seen. Through correspondence, Christopher began to tell me some of the names of the photos that were labeled in the book. I recognized several of these names, especially Truett Vinson. I asked Christopher if any of the pictures were labeled Tevis Clyde Smith or Harold Preece. “No,” he said, “but there are a few photos that are not labeled.” So, there was hope. Out of sheer kindness and a tremendous amount of trust, Christopher offered to mail the photo album to me so I could scan the pictures. This, of course, made me a little nervous. What if the pictures were lost in the mail? A question that was in the forefront of my mind. We arranged a plan: send the pictures first class priority with delivery confirmation, then I’ll scan them and return them the same way. That way we could track the package as it was in transit between the two of us, both ways. The plan worked without a hitch. I received the package, scan the pictures, and sent them back. No issues.

What was the result? Several new pictures that have never surfaced have been discovered. Unfortunately, none of the pictures were of Robert E. Howard. Even so, two new pictures of Truett Vinson were present, and a possible picture of Tevis Clyde Smith. These will be revealed in my upcoming biography about Robert E. Howard. Moreover, several pictures of Lone Scouts who were also participants in The Junto—an "amateur press association created by his [Howard's] friends Harold Preece and Booth Mooney, both ex-Lone Scouts, which they had cooked up after a meeting in San Antonio."—surfaced. For the picture that is potentially Tevis Clyde Smith, I got Howard historian and scholar, Rob Roehm involved. After comparing the photos Roehm had on file of Smith, he agreed that the picture was likely Smith. Unfortunately, the picture of Smith is not labeled, but it was placed on the same page with one of Truett Vinson’s photos (the only two on that page), and the fact that it is in Herbert Klatt’s personal photo album gives it strong provenance.

Now that everything is said and done, I asked Christopher if he’d be willing to participate in a small interview about his family and the photo album. He graciously agreed and what follows is our discussion about Herbert Klatt and the photo album. (U5 - On an Underwood No. 5 & CO - Christopher Oldham)

U5: How are you related to Herbert Klatt?
CO: He was my Grandfather’s brother which makes him my Great Uncle.
U5: How did you end up with the photo album?
CO: It belonged to my Great Aunt, Herbert’s sister, Oleta Klatt.
U5: When did you realize that your great uncle, Herbert Klatt, was a friend of Robert E. Howard's?
CO: When I read Lone Scout of Letters – Herbert C Klatt by Rob Roehm
U5: How did you discover Robert E. Howard?
CO: I discovered Howard when I read Rob Roehm’s book, which piqued my curiosity and caused me to read works by and about Robert E. Howard.
U5: Oh, so you did not know about Robert E. Howard before reading Rob’s book?
CO: No, I was not familiar with him like I am now. Rob Roehm contacted my family but the other branch. He contacted my mother’s cousins and they gave him some information. My mother mentioned it to me but her information may not have been consistent and I thought she might be mistaken. So, at first I was a little skeptical. But, that’s how I found out about Lone Scout of Letters – Herbert C Klatt.
U5: What made you want to get in touch with me regarding the photo album?
CO: I found the album in my aunt’s things last year and thought someone might be interested in the pictures and of his fellow Lone Scouts and friends he corresponded with.  I reached out to you via your website. I believe we have a responsibility when we discover these things to do what we can to share them with those that are interested.
U5: Can you recall and share any family stories about Herbert Klatt?
CO: Unfortunately, I cannot remember any. My great aunt spoke of him, but my memory fails me. She wished she had his creative writing ability. I believe his illness and untimely death inspired her to follow a career path which lead her into Cancer Research at MD Anderson in Houston Texas.  I would say that was highly unusual for a woman born in 1914. My great aunt and grandfather seemed to be profoundly affected by the loss of their older brother. They were 7 to 8 years younger, so I imagine that would have fostered a different relationship than if they were closer in age, less completion and perhaps more mentoring?  I knew Herbert planned to be a lawyer, and my grandfather wanted to study law as well.  Sadly, my grandfather was not able to finish high school, because Herbert passed, and his father became too ill to farm and tend livestock, so my grandfather had to work on the farm to support the family.
U5: Do you have anything else you would like to add?
CO: My aunt passed in 2006. It’s hard to believe it’s been was 11 years since then. Time passes faster and faster. She would have delighted in speaking to you about her brother.

I’m so thankful Christopher contacted me regarding the photo album. His eagerness to share helps us add new information to our studies of Robert E. Howard. Thank you Christopher.

Below are photographs (not scans) of a few of the pictures from Herbert Klatt's photo album. More of these pictures will be revealed in my upcoming biography about Robert E. Howard. Several of the pictures are people Howard knew either personally or through The Junto.

J. Leland Gault, two poses
Roy W. McDonald (a Lone Scout &
a member of The Junto)

Various Lone Scouts
(each marked except the upper right picture)