Every year at Howard Days, someone (or several someones) has a table set up for you to buy books, collectible magazines, fanzines, pulps, etc. This year was no exception. Even so, there were several books at several tables that set this year's wares apart from previous years.
First, Bobby Derie (who also presented on several panels) set up a table and gave away (yes, gave away . . . you know, for free!) three books that he put together (one that Howard boxing scholar, Chris Gruber, helped with). The first of these three is titled, Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others. Even if there were nothing between the covers of this book, the cover alone would be worth having. The cover (front and back) consists of a bunch of pictures of various pulp writers place together to form an over-all image of Robert E. Howard. Very cool! This book is a collection of essays that Derie had published between 2015 to 2017 at Damon Sasser's now defunct blog Two-Gun Raconteur, here at On An Underwood No. 5, Messages from Crom blog, and in print in the Lovecraft Annual. To have all these in one collected volume was a great idea. The second book is titled A Robert E. Howard Sampler. This is a collection of Howard's works edited by Chris Gruber & Bobby Derie. Gruber has an introductory essay and Derie wrote brief essays to introduce each section. The sections consist of sword & sorcery, weird fiction, boxing, western, poetry, detective, historical adventure, fantasy, science fiction, and H.P. Lovecraft's In Memoriam: Robert E. Howard essay. The third book is an index to One Who Walked Alone by Novalyne Price Ellis, and Day of the Stranger by Rusty Burke & Novalyne Price Ellis. This small book is a nice edition to any researcher's library, especially for quick reference to these two works.
Second, Skelos Press had a table and this year they were selling Patrice Louinet's (another presenter on this year's panels) anticipated book titled The Robert E. Howard Guide. It was originally published in France several years ago, and Louinet recently translated it into English and published it through Skelos Press. It is an excellent intro to Robert E. Howard, and a must read for Howard beginners. The book deals with a history of common misconceptions that have arisen and developed over the decades. These misconceptions have sometimes been somewhat damaging to Howard's reputation, sometimes they've distorted his works, and too often they've confused readers and fans about the writer, his works, and his life. Louinet does a first-rate job of clearing up those misconceptions. The misconception section is followed by a brief biographical section about Howard, his up-bringing, life in Texas in the early 20th century, etc. Then there are two chapters of recommended stories to read from Howard. The first of these two chapters cover "must-read" stories, each has a small bit of publishing history and summation of the tale itself. This is followed by another chapter that details twenty more stories you "should" read, with the same format of information, for a total of forty Howard stories.
Other nice features of this book include Howard's correspondence with Lovecraft, current places to read about Robert E. Howard, and things such as collecting Howard ephemera, and such.
As far as a basic book to introduce anyone interested in the works and life of Robert E. Howard, this is now the go-to book. It does have some editorial issues throughout (I'm not sure whether Skelos Press proof-read and/or edited the text, they should have if they did not), and there is one somewhat big blunder in the book that, once again should have been caught by the editors at Skelos Press. The blunder is that Louinet attributes the creation of Weird Tales magazine to William Sprenger (who was actually the business manager of the magazine) and not J. C. Henneberger (and J. M. Lansinger), who actually created and established the magazine. Otherwise, this is an excellent book and well worth investing your money ($14.95 price tag) and your time. Hopefully, Patrice Louinet will publish more works here in the U.S. since he is considered by many to be one of the foremost scholars on Robert E. Howard's life and works.