Friday, April 1, 2016

Robert E. Howard and the Amateur Press (Part 1) by Bobby Derie

I am neither a novice nor an amateur at the writing game; I have been a regular contributor to Weird Tales Magazine, for some five or six years. My stories have also appeared in Ghost Story Magazine, a Macfadden Publication, Fight Stories and Argosy.
— Robert E. Howard to Thrills of the Jungle Magazine, 1929, CL1.361

Weird Tales July 1925
Robert E. Howard made his first professional sale in 1924, when he sold “Spear and Fang” and “In the Forest of Villefere” to Weird Tales, and for much of his adult life Howard was determined to earn his living as a professional writer. Before he began selling his fiction, however, and continuing on through much of his life Howard was also involved in the amateur press, from school newspapers to the small magazines of the burgeoning science fiction and fantasy fan movement. This involvement in the amateur press, while not lucrative, helped establish and foster some of the most important personal relationships of Robert E. Howard’s life, and the fiction and poetry he saw published in these amateur publications are as important to his body of work as anything published in paying magazines.

1: School Papers: The Tattler, The Progress, The Yellow Jacket and The Collegian

Have you been reading Robert Howard’s short stories in The Tattler for several issues back? If you haven’t you are missing a treat. His Christmas story received commendation from the edition of the Brownwood Bulletin and his later stories are just as good.
            We are fortunate in having such a good writer here in our school and hope he will keep up his contributions. The stories are mostly written in the style of O’Henry, Bret Harte, and Mark Twain, and are just as interesting as their stories. His stories have plenty of action and are spicy with near-cuss words and slang. If for nothing else The Tattler is worth a dime and over if it has a story by Robert Howard.
The Tattler, March 15th 1923 (BT 85)

Tevis Clyde Smith
In 1922 at the age of sixteen, Robert E. Howard transferred to Brownwood High School, where he made the acquaintance of Truett Vinson and Tevis Clyde Smith, and the three of them would go on to become lifelong friends and correspondents. Howard became involved with the school paper, The Tattler. Howard graduated high school in May 1923, having published seven short stories and poems in The Tattler; two more would appear in the Jan 1925 issue—Smith, who was two years younger than Howard, had continued on at Brownwood High and contributed stories to and became editor of the school paper, and Howard continued to show an interest in the paper and his friend’s work. (CL1.24, 25, 41)

After graduating, Howard worked at a number of different jobs, while submitting to (and receiving rejections from) paying magazines; during this period he also landed a poem with the Cross Plains High School paper, The Progress in 1924. In June of that year, Howard took a stenographer’s course at the Howard Payne College in Brownwood (BT 106), and began writing material for the school paper, The Yellow Jacket, which was edited by a friend of Howard, C. S. Boyles. (CL1.22) Howard continued to submit material for the paper, with a dozen stories, plays, and poems published in those pages between 1924 and 1927 (“Private Magrath of the A.E.F.” was also reprinted in the November 1934 issue).

In 1925, Tevis Clyde Smith graduated Brownwood High School and enrolled at Daniel Baker College in Brownwood, where he was elected as editor of the school paper, the Daniel Baker Collegian for the 1925-1926 school year. (BT 118, LSL 32n13, cf. CL1.94) In 1926, five of Robert E. Howard’s poems were published in the Collegian, and in 1927, Howard finished his courses at Howard Payne, and returned to Cross Plains, largely ending his association with the school papers.

The Yellow Jacket from 1927
Howard’s scholastic journalism efforts from 1922 to 1927 were limited, the stories decidedly amateurish, with the Yellow Jacket tales more closely resembling the slang-laden, jocular pastiches that peppered his letters to Clyde Smith and others than anything he submitted to a paying magazine. Ridiculous pastiches like “The Fastidious Fooey Mancucu” (CL1.139-142) by Howard are exactly the same sort of effort as Smith’s “Twenty Years of Sticking Plaster” from The Tattler (SFTP 20-23), lampooning the same authors and hackneyed writing tropes. These raw efforts, however, were steps in the path to more refined efforts that would come as Howard pursued professional success.

Brownwood High School
 The Tattler (vol. 3, no. 7) - December 1922 - “West is West”, “Golden Hope Christmas”
 The Tattler (vol. 3, no. 10) - Feb 1923 - “Aha! Or the Mystery of the Queen’s Necklace”
 The Tattler (vol. 3, no. 11) - Mar 1923 - “Unhand Me, Villain!”
 The Tattler (vol. 3, no. 12) - Mar 1923 - “The Sheik”
 The Tattler (vol. 5, no. 7) - Jan 1925 - “The Ideal Girl”, “The Kissing of Sal Snooboo”

Cross Plains High School
  The Progress (vol. 1, no. 2) - Feb 1924 - “The Maiden of Kercheezer”, “Rules of Etiquette”

Howard Payne College
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. X, no. 13) - Mar 1924 - “Letter of a Chinese Student” (1)
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. X, no. 17) - May 1924 - “Letter of a Chinese Student” (2)
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. XI, no. 4) - Sep 1924 - “Halt! Who Goes There?”
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. XIII, no. 7) - Oct 1926 - “After the Game”, “Sleeping Beauty”
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. XIII, no. 8) - Nov 1926 - “Weekly Short Story”
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. XIII, no. 10) - Nov 1926 - “For the Honor of the School”
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. XIII, no. 15) - Jan 1927 - “His War Medals”, “The Rivals”
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. XIII, no. 16) - Jan 1927 - “The Thessalians”, “Private Magrath of the A.E.F”
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. XIII, no. 17) - Jan 1927 - “Ye College Days”
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. XIII, no. 20) - Feb 1927 - “Cupid vs. Pollux”
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. XIII, no. 25) - Mar 1927 - “From Tea to Tee”
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. XIII, no. 29) - Apr 1927 - “The Reformation: A Dream”
  The Yellow Jacket (vol. XXI, no. 8) - Nov 1934 - “Private Magrath of the A.E.F.” (reprint)

Daniel Baker College
  The Daniel Baker Collegian (vol. 21, no. 10) - Mar 1926 - “Illusion”, “Fables for Little Folks”
  The Daniel Baker Collegian (vol. 21, no. 11) - Apr 1926 - “Roundelay of the Roughneck”

  The Daniel Baker Collegian (vol. 21, no. 12) - May 1926 - “Futility”, “Tarantella”

Works Cited

AMTF  A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard (2 vols., Hippocampus Press, 2009)
BT       Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard (REH Foundation, 2013)
CL       Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard (3 vols. + Index & Addenda, REH Foundation, 2007 – 2015)
CLIH    Collected Letters of Dr. Isaac M. Howard (REH Foundation, 2011)
HAJ     The History of Amateur Journalism (The Fossils, 1957)
LC       The Last Celt: A Bio-Bibliography of Robert E. Howard (Berkley Windhover, 1976)
LRBO  Letters to Robert Bloch and Others (Hippocampus Press, 2015)
LRS     Letters to Richard F. Searight (Necronomicon Press, 1992)
LS        “Robert E. Howard and the Lone Scouts” by Rob Roehm, in The Dark Man (vol. 7, no. 1; 2012)
LSL      Lone Scout of Letters (Roehm’s Room Press, 2011)
PWM   Robert E. Howard: The Power of the Writing Mind (Mythos Books, 2003)
SFTP   So Far the Poet & Other Writings (REH Foundation, 2010)
THA     The Hyborian Age Facsimile Editions (Skelos Press, 2015)
TJ        The Junto: Being a Brief Look at the Amateur Press Association Robert E. Howard Partook In as a Youth” by Glenn Lord, in Two-Gun Bob: A Centennial Study of Robert E. Howard (Hippocampus Press, 2006)
UL       Uncollected Letters (Necronomicon Press, 1986)
WGP   Robert E. Howard: World’s Greatest Pulpster (Dennis McHaney, 2005)


Rob Roehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Roehm said...

Nice work, as usual, though this bit about the Yellow Jacket is a bit off: “This personal relationship with the editor might explain why Howard continued to submit material for it long after he’d dropped out of college . . .”

Howard had two stories published in the Yellow Jacket in March and May 1924 before he was a student there—-both with the same title: “Letter of a Chinese Student.” He enrolled in the fall and had “Halt! Who Goes There?” out in September. He then dropped out of school. But he was back at Howard Payne in the fall of 1926 when his next story appeared, and he remained a student there until he graduated from the commercial school in 1927.

And Editor C. S. Boyles, Jr. was long gone by then.

There's more information than anyone would want about Howard and the Yellow Jacket here:

greyirish said...

Ach, thanks for clearing that up Rob. See if maybe I can't have Todd edit that out...

Rob Roehm said...

No worries. We might be the only people who even care about such minor details. And, for those who might become interested, all of the stories and poems mentioned here were collected in the REHF's School Days in the Post Oaks. (Shameless plug #1.)

Todd B. Vick said...

I would highly recommend School Days in the Post Oaks. Here is a link to purchase it: