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.
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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.


3 comments:

Keith West said...

It's the history and lost civilization aspect of Howard's works that appeal the most to me.

David J. West said...

Agreed, its a fascinating playground to work in.

Charles Gramlich said...

indeed. so much of that lost history to explore.