Thursday, April 14, 2016

Robert E. Howard and the Amateur Press (Part 3) by Bobby Derie

3: The Junto

I feel that it gave Bob a specialized, intimate, if small, sort of audience that he need. Most of its readers were rebellious young intellectuals in that epoch of the depression. Bob’s fire and spirit symbolized all sorts of protests—expressed and inchoate—that we felt, though only in a very limited sense was he any kind of political rebel nor at all any sort of slogan shouter or cliche monger. (BT 177)

After graduating from Howard Payne, Robert E. Howard was drawn into a new amateur press association created by his friends Harold Preece and Booth Mooney, both ex-Lone Scouts, which they had cooked up after a meeting in San Antonio. They called the venture The Junto, after Benjamin Franklin’s paper; contributors would send their material to the editor (initially Mooney), who would prepare a single typewritten copy that would be circulated to each the first member on the mailing list, who would add their comments and send it to the next, and so on. Contributors included Harold Preece and his sisters Lenore, Katherine, and Louise; Booth Mooney and his brother Orus; Robert E. Howard and his cousin Maxine Ervin; Tevis Clyde Smith, Truett Vinson, Herbert Klatt, and others. (BT 129, TJ 22) Given the circulation system, the fact that so few “issues” of the Junto survive should not be surprising.

The Junto Vol. 1 No. 7
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The contents of the Junto included poems, fiction, essays, sketches, and rants—the typical bread-and-butter for any APA—with subjects including women, politics, and religion, all of, which served as fodder for Howard’s growing correspondence with various members of the Junto gang. Howard recruited Smith (“I’m going to give your name to Booth Mooney as a possible subscriber to The Junto; a pretty good paper for that type.” CL1.190; see also “A Pretty Good Paper” - The Junto, Part 1), was glad to see things by his friends in an issue (CL1.219, 231), and was disappointed when they didn’t (CL1.197, 231, 247-248). It also proved an occasional source of argument.

One of the early controversies involved “One of the Hell Bent Speaks” signed by “A Modern Youth” (A.M.Y.), in the October 1928 issue (vol. 1, no. 7). This fostered a great response from the Juntites, with Howard himself stirring the pot (CL1.231, 239-40, 244, 253; Rob Roehm goes into greater detail of the affair in “A Pretty Good Paper” - The Junto, Part 2 and Part 3). In one issue, the Junto gang had decided to have some fun writing each other’s biographies, but Bob wrote to Clyde Smith begging off:

I have forgotten whether you or Truett were to write my biography but at any rate I’ve decided I don’t care to have mine appear in the Junto. There are several reasons, the main one being that as several of my cousins receive it, my mother would be pretty near bound to hear about it and there are a good many things in my life that I don’t want her to know about. Another thing, I don’t care to have my inner self bared before the readers of the Junto because I have decided that some of them are crumbs. Understand, you have my permission to write anything you want about me in a novel, biography or anything that comes under the title of professional art, and that you will get money for, but I don’t wish to drop my mask before the Junto readers as I have dropped it before you and Truett. (CL3.487)

This was probably in reference to Mooney’s call for autobiographies from the Juntites. (see “A Pretty Good Paper” - Part 3 and Part 4). Lesser arguments concerned a “pornographic” turn—apparently James S. Strachan included a study of a “naked negress” (CL1.355, Part 5).  The Junto continued under Mooney’s editorship from April 1928 to spring 1929, when he no longer had time for it, and the position was picked up by Lenore Preece. (TJ 22-23, Part 6)

The first issue under Preece’s editorship was to have been the June 1929 number (vol. 2, no. 1), but a new Juntite lost the issue (and was quickly expelled), so the first proper issue of her run was July 1929. (TJ 23) This issue included Harold Preece’s article “Women: A Diatribe,” about how there was no such thing as intellectual women; it was designed to get a rise out of Bob Howard—Bob and Harold had been arguing about the same subject in his letters (CL1.287-292)—and apparently worked. (BT 176-177, Part 7)

By spring 1930, reports of the Junto were fewer in Howard’s letters (CL2.17, 30), and apparently feedback from the Juntites was poor, so Preece decided to discontinue the paper. (TJ 23-24) For the nature of its composition and the period in which it was published, the Junto had provided a valuable resource for Howard, not so much in refining his prose or poetry, or even as a creative outlet, but simply for the connection with a wider group of writers, even amateurs, which provided him much-needed encouragement, criticism, and companionship.

The final echo of the Junto saga was a proposal by Juntite Alvin P. Bradford to self-publish a small collection of their poetry, under the proposed title Virgin Towers. (TJ 24, CL2.195) Howard sent Bradford copies of his poems, but ultimately nothing came of the endeavor. (CL2.198) In 1932, Lenore Preece, Clyde Smith, and Robert E. Howard approached Christopher House to publish a collection of poems to be titled Out of the Sky, but asked for the return of the manuscript. (SFTP xxvi, CL2.245)

As the business with The Junto wound down, however, Howard began to correspond with someone who would bring him into touch with the burgeoning fan press for science fiction and fantasy: H. P. Lovecraft. In an early letter to Lovecraft, who had responded positively to one of Howard’s poems, Bob modestly replied:

I am glad you liked “Reuben’s Brethren”. It has never been published save in a small privately circulated paper. (CL2.126)

The original publication for “Reuben’s Brethren” was The Junto as “The Skull in the Clouds.”

The Junto (not counting comments by Robert E. Howard):
  The Junto (vol. 1, no. 6) - Sep 1928 - “Age”, “Surrender--Your Money or Your Vice”, “Them”
  The Junto (vol. 1, no. 7) - Oct 1928 - “A Hairy Chested Idealist Sings”, “More Evidence on the Innate Divinity of Man”
  The Junto (vol. 1, no. 8) - Nov 1928 - “To A Man Whose Name I Never Knew”, “Swings and Swings”
  The Junto (vol. 1, no. 9) - Dec 1928 - “A Song For Men That Laugh”, “To the Evangelists”, “The Galveston Affair”
  The Junto (vol. 1, no. 10) - Jan 1929 - “Ambition in the Moonlight”
  The Junto (vol. 2, no. 2) - Jul 1929 - “Hate’s Den”, “The King and the Mallet”, “Singing in the Wind”
  The Junto (vol. 2, no. 3) - Aug 1929 - “Heritage”, “Surrender”
  The Junto (vol. 2, no. 4) - Sep 1929 - “Nectar”, “Etched in Ebony”, “Midnight”, “Sentiment”, “Musings”
  The Junto (vol. 2, no. 8) - Jan 1930 - “The Skull in the Clouds”

  The Junto (vol. 2, no. 9) - Feb 1930 - "Feach Air Muir Lionadhi Gealach Buidhe Mar Or"

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)

Part 1, Part 2

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