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

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