This Tuesday (January 19) , my book, Renegades and Rogues: The Life and Legacy of Robert E. Howard hits the shelves in bookshops around the world. It is the first comprehensive biography of Robert E. Howard published by a major academic press (The University of Texas Press). It is a cumulation of three years of research and writing devoted solely to the book, 18 years of scholarly research and writing (articles and blog posts), and 40 years of being a reader and fan of Howard's work.
There are several reasons I wanted to write this biography:
This book is something I had been planning on doing since 2002, but back then I was ill-prepared to take on the task. There was so much more research I needed to do, so much more reading, uncovering of Howard's family and life. So, I dug my heels in and pushed forward and devoted my time to the task of researching and writing a biography.
To date there has not been a biography about Robert E. Howard from an academic press. Moreover, there is a need for a biography that benefits both fans and scholars. And when I say scholars, I mean the use of available reliable sources, with notes that students and writers can use in their own research. I thought it was also important to take advantage of the advancements of the publication of Howard's collected letters, the letters of other pulp writers about Howard, and other materials. All this was paramount to me writing Renegades and Rogues. I also felt that an objective examination of Howard's life, from birth to death, with an emphasis on the external factors that not only affected his life but his work was needed. I knew from the start I was writing about real people, with real flaws, real struggles, and issues that everyone could relate to. My research and sources had to be present to give the work the academic foundation it needed.
Renegades and Rogues establishes a solid foundation for current and future fans and scholars providing them with an objective, unexaggerated, unromanticized examination of Robert E. Howard's life and work. It includes the vast amount of new data that has been uncovered over the last ten years presented on blogs with limited readership. I also spent months poring over interviews of the people from Cross Plains and other local areas who knew the Howards. What were they saying? How consistent were their claims and memories? I then incorporated this information in the book. These are intriguing firsthand interviews that help illustrate the larger picture about the Howard family and in particular Robert E. Howard's life.
Some of the questions I asked myself while I was researching this biography include, what events did Howard experience that caused him to write what he wrote? How did his formative years play a role in his stories? What influences did his parents have on him? What made Howard tick? What got him out of bed in the mornings? How did the publishing markets move him to write? What directions? Why did he write what he wrote? And, if he had lived, what direction was Robert E. Howard headed with his writing? All these questions and others I attempted to answer.
The first three chapters of the monograph focus on the Howards' familial history, their travels from Robert's birth up to their move to Cross Plains. I apply this information to not only Howard's personality, but to his work as well. I then discuss Howard's education, his friends and their influences on him, and how his correspondence with friends and other writers moved him and his works in various directions. I examine Howard's 12-year publishing career (with an emphasis on his historical period), the market in which Howard published and how that market directed his stories. I take a look into his relationships, especially with Novalyne Price (Ellis), but I did this from her perspective and how she explained her encounters with Robert and his parents. I examine a select amount of Howard's stories and provide cursory exposition and commentary about those stories. I also examine Howard's most famous character, Conan the Cimmerian, and the publishing career of that character in great detail. I do all this and much more.
Because the book is published through an academic press, my initial manuscript draft was read by peer readers who basically took the manuscript, examined it, broke it down, and then sent it back to me for revision and improvement. This process vastly improved the direction and content of the book. Once the initial review was corrected, it went back out to several other peers who did the same. The first two peers who examined the manuscript were S.T. Joshi and Karen Kohoutek. Both provided me with wonderful feedback. The second group remained anonymous, and we discussed what was necessary to change during this final phase of editing. Due to this process the book's research, sources, and content were scrutinized and improved upon. I'll not lie here, this process was somewhat painful and arduous, but in the end it vastly improved the monograph.
All the above should give you a good idea as to the whys and wherefores of Renegades and Rogues. I hope that those who know only a little about Howard (but perhaps know more about his characters, especially Conan) will find this book helpful in understanding the man behind all these wonderful stories. I also hope that the seasoned Howard fan or scholar will benefit from these pages as well. That was my goal in writing this book. I sincerely hope you enjoy it and that you learn more about Robert E. Howard and his work.
Here is a book trailer for the biography:
Early reviews of the book:
“Todd B. Vick surveys the entire panoply of Robert E. Howard's times and life. Early twentieth-century Texas, so important to a young writer who almost never crossed its borders except in the mighty treads of his imagination, becomes a player in the action fully as much as Conan or Solomon Kane—and Renegades and Rogues is a truly outstanding biography because of it. The book is a terrific read that will grab you like the brawny iron arms of Khosatral Khel and not let you go.”
—Roy Thomas, former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics and author of the Conan the Barbarian comic
“Renegades and Rogues is a compelling read. Vick does an outstanding job in portraying Howard’s family life, in describing the major incidents of his literary career, and especially in providing insightful details into the remarkable resurgence of Howard’s work in various media after his death.”
—S. T. Joshi, author of I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft
The book can be ordered at your local independent bookstore or online at: