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)