Dros Delnoch Has Fallen to the Foe

David Gemmell cheated death, or at least a hope-denying misdiagnosis, back in 1984 when he wrote his first and most beloved sword-and-sorcery novel Legend. At its most powerful the subgenre Gemmell did so much to perpetuate has always had something inside, something to do with death, and now death has once again done something to sword-and-sorcery.

This morning Gemmell died, at the unacceptably young age of 57. What should have been a time of celebration for heroic fantasy, with the Howard Centennial and the immensely gratifying return of Charles R. Saunders and his outcast/champion Imaro of Nyumbani, must now also be a time of mournful and (if there is any justice) never-ending remembrance.

The Centennial Push


The latest sign that Howard’s centennial year marks a critical watershed for the author is the news that a poor reading copy (!?!) of A Gent from Bear Creek (Jenkins, 1937) has just sold on eBay for a “Buy It Now!” price of $8500 (hat tip: Damon Sasser). Cimmerian readers will recall that a mere four years ago I purchased a much better copy of this book for $3700 ($4000 once the currency exchange was figured in), at a time when there were less known copies of the book than there are now.

Granted, $8500 isn’t first edition Dracula numbers yet, but it’s a huge jump in four years, even as more copies of the book have been discovered. And don’t forget, this copy of the book was in terrible condition. What does this say about the Howard Museum copy, which I thought was in pretty bad condition at the time, but which now looks to be under-insured at $10,000? And my God, what does this say about Glenn Lord’s pristine copy, the only one in the world with the dustjacket intact (although other dustjackets exist in English library archives), and one that is signed “August Derleth’s copy,” giving it that extra bit of cachet? Would Glenn’s book fetch Dracula numbers?

Interesting questions all, and their sum total indicates a sign of Howardian permanence the likes of which we have never seen. In the past, Howard’s reputation has risen and fell with the vagaries of the market and the waxing and waning interest in fantasy. Like so many other authors, he was a big fish in a small pond, a niche guy. Perhaps it’s a little too early to claim victory over this long-time state of affairs, but I don’t think so. The last few years have seen huge jumps in collector’s prices, tons of Howard roaring into print, new Howard magazines thriving, and perhaps most importantly more Big Media news coverage than ever before. Both the Cross Plains fire and Howard Days hit CNN and USA Today, and Pulitzer-Prize winning book columnist Michael Dirda gave Howard a birthday tribute in the Washington Post.

And now, with the centennial closing and fans preparing for the 2006 World Fantasy Convention — where Howard is the theme of this year’s festivities — we have a poor copy of a Howard book selling for eight g’s and change. It’s becoming more clear every day that Howard has burst through an invisible ceiling of some sort, and catapulted himself into a stratospheric orbit that isn’t likely to fail anytime soon. He’s becoming more mainstream, more acceptable to mix in polite society. A century on, he’s also benefiting from the strange effect that age has on things, making them seem more important and authoritative simply by virtue of their distance from our time. How lucky that Howard wrote in such a way that his work remains modern and accessible even as the passing of time grants him classic status.

It’s somewhat of a relief to realize that we can begin relaxing a bit and start solidifying other aspects of Howard’s legacy without ceaselessly worrying about keeping a sputtering engine churning over the next hill. He’s flying now, low to the ground perhaps, but flying steadily and serenely nonetheless. And I for one am enjoying the view.

ROB ADDS: Bill Thom, over at Howard Works, tells me that the book is headed for a private collection in Canada and has the following information about the book:

It has a Boots Book Slip at the first page of text, as well as a Boots
Lending slip on the verso of the rear cover.

Once More Unto the Post Office…

Enter the OE, bookmarking his place in “The Black Stranger”:

Rather proclaim it, Doc Pod, online and off,
That he which hath no ideas for this Mailing,
Let him gafiate; his name from the roster stricken,
And dues refunded put into his man-purse;
We would not zine in that fan’s company
That spares not his weekend to zine with us.
This day is call’d the feast of [Tim] Marion,
He that outlives this day, and comes safe to #201,
Will stand a tip-toe when this Mailing is nam’d,
And rouse him at the thought of August of ’06
He that shall zine this day, and live to look like Burl Ives,
Will quarterly one night neglect the remote,
And say ‘Twas not always but a single section.’
Then will he fetch his stacks and show his zines,
And say ‘These printing problems I had in Mailing #200.’
All shall be Mylared; or sold off on eBay,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What pages he filled that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as usual suspects —
Indy the OE, Rippke and Trout-in-the-Dark,
Richter and Gramlich, Romeo and Sea-Burke
Be in their flowing cups beerily remembered.
This story shall the good fan teach his son;
And deadlines shall ne’er force FedEx,
From this Mailing to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered —
We few, we serconn’d few, we apa of brothers;
For he today that sheds his ink with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so minacked,
This day shall excuse his reprint;
And gentlefans at innercircle now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks
That zined with us for Mailing #200.

LEO ADDS: That was wonderful. Although once we receive Indy’s package, you may change your tune to “We didn’t land on Mailing #200, Mailing #200 landed on us!”

Heatwave = Blogmire

How the hell is anyone supposed to blog in this weather?

Don’t know what it’s like in your neck of the woods, but here in LA the heat has been unprecedented — my God, Al Gore was right! One hundred degrees each day, which is bad enough, but the usual soothing ocean breezes that waft through apartments and car windows have failed, too, leaving even strong gusts dry and hot as hell. Unless you have AC — and many people in LA don’t, because you usually never need it — you are screwed. I can only imagine what the good people of Queens and St. Louis are going through.

Meanwhile, the July ish of The Cimmerian is still being put together with less than a week left in the month, and Howard fan Al Lane — who many of you met in Cross Plains at this year’s Howard Days — is in town and staying at Fortress Grin. For the last month Al has been on an ambitious vacation, driving solo from San Antonio westward and staying in campgrounds, each day visiting a plethora of museums, national parks, and events like ComiCon. Over the last few weeks he’s been to Nevada, Oregon, Northern California, and San Diego, and now he’s in the City of Angels, looking to have the kind of fun us pulp fans enjoy. Today was spent traipsing around Hollywood looking for various stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, ones specifically dear to a fan’s heart — Gene Roddenberry, Boris Karloff, Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, etc. We also hit some of the best movie book and memorabilia stores in the world, where after many years of looking Al was able to score some stills from sundry episodes of The Twilight Zone he’s always wanted. Made a pit stop at the Kodak Theater, site of the Academy Awards, where Al was suitably impressed by the gargantuan Babylon decor, stone elephants atop massive pedestals decorated with glyphs. Those of course are from the classic D. W. Griffith film Intolerance (1916), but I like to think of them as “The Towers of the Elephant.” You understand.

After our Hollywood jaunt, we headed over to the home of Rah Hoffman and Donald Sidney-Fryer for hours of pulp talk and book signing. Those two — eighty-five and seventy-two years old respectively — are fountains of knowledge, and have thousands of stories to tell about the old days. Al was thrilled to hear Rah talk of Charles Hornig — editor of The Fantasy Fan and a correspondent of REH’s — coming over to Rah’s house in the ’40s, picking up one of his old copies of Weird Tales, and inhaling deeply of what he thought was the Sweetest Scent in the world — rotting pulps! Rah also told us of his friendship with Robert Barlow, and how he once bought Barlow’s copy of Ebony and Crystal by Clark Ashton Smith for $5. He showed us photographs of his visit to Smith in 1941, the first of several, where he rode from LA to San Francisco in the trunk of a car with none other than Emil Petaja, another corespondent of Howard’s. Emil was the guy who Howard sent his poem “Cimmeria” to, the copy with the now-famous inscription detailing its genesis. He also wrote a wonderful poem dedicated to Howard at his death that was reprinted decades later in Glenn Lord’s The Howard Collector. Rah even showed us the picture CAS took of Rah, perhaps the only known photo composed and shot by Smith himself. Al was most bowled over by Rah’s amazing Hannes Bok painting hanging over his fireplace, an original commissioned by Rah, with Rah giving Hannes the basic gist of the types of characters he wanted represented — a green naked demon lady, a strange bat-like creature — and Hannes taking it from there. All of this neglects the hundreds of other stories and artifacts which Al saw this night, plus he got all of his Smith books signed by DSF.

So even with the heat boiling our blood and frying our brains, the dog days of summer haven’t been a total bust. Tomorrow it’s another day of sightseeing with Al, checking out the La Brea tarpits, the Petersen Automotive Museum, the Natural History Museum, and — as a special treat — I’m taking him to the grave of one of his movie idols, the late great Bela Lugosi. Wednesday Al heads back to Texas, while I knuckle down and get the July issue finished. And hopefully at long last this heat wave will break, once again making it possible to think about blogging.

Stay cool.

The REH-themed World Fantasy Convention

As I rush to finish the July issue of The Cimmerian in time to call it a “July Issue,” I find myself not only remembering the stellar first half of the centennial, but also looking forward to the rest of the year. The cornerstone of the next six months will be the World Fantasy Convention in early November. It’s being held in Austin this year, a scant two and a half hours from Cross Plains, and Howard has been chosen as the theme of the convention. If you missed the January birthday bash and the June Howard Days spectacular, perhaps you can make this last Howardian blowout of the year.

For information on the event, head on over to the website set up by the Fandom Association of Central Texas (F.A.C.T.), the hosts and planners of the festivities. There you will find information on registering for the Con, booking hotels, special guests, the Howard bus tour to Cross Plains, and more. If you haven’t read it yet in the Dark Horse Conan comic book, you can download and peruse [redacted]’s short biographical treatment “Robert E. Howard: Lone-Star Fantasist.”

In addition to panels about REH, the show will feature Glenn Lord and Howard artist Gary Gianni, as well as the debut of [redacted]’s new biography Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. Howard fans scheduled to attend include Finn, Rusty Burke, Steven Tompkins, and Darrell Schweitzer among others. Lots to see and do, lots of friends to meet, lots of Howard to discuss and appreciate. As this is a professional con, you will also get to meet many of the authors and editors you have been admiring for years. And hey, if you’ve never been to Cross Plains or Howard Days, here’s your chance to take the bus tour and kill two birds with one vacation.

If you are planning to go and want to carpool or share a room, your best bet is to post on the major Howard email lists: Dennis McHaney’s REH Inner Circle and Terry Allen’s REH Comics Group. Room rates at the Renaissance Hotel (where the con is being held) are fairly steep, even at the convention rate, so if price is an issue search around for one of the many hotels close by — rates at those places can run up to half as cheap.

The Romantic Primitive Debunked


Conservative columnist Mark Steyn has been reviewing books for the popular Canadian magazine Maclean’s for several months now, and his latest piece focuses on a book that will be of interest to Howard fans.

Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors by Nicholas Wade posits the argument that primitive societies were far more warlike and brutal than modern historians and sociologists give them credit for. By the end, when Steyn mentions Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History by Lee Harris, it feels as if the shade of Robert E. Howard is guiding the keystrokes.

I’m hard pressed to think of an author with a more visceral, hypnotic expression of these themes than Robert E. Howard. Others come close — Jack London hits many of the same nerves in The Star Rover, Before Adam, and The Sea Wolf, not to mention a host of short stories such as “Love for Life” and “An Odyssey of the North.” But Howard had a way of making the unfathomable brutality of the past come to life that I have never seen matched. As he wrote to Harold Preece (a quote that [redacted] recently added to this site’s REH quote generator):

I mean my characters are more like men than these real men are, see. They’re rough and rude, they got hands and they got bellies. They hate and they lust; break the skin of civilization and you find the ape, roaring and red-handed.

Those of us who lament the dearth of novels in Howard’s output would be wise to consider to what degree the short story format helped distill and hone this artistic statement in ways difficult to do at novel length. Too often we wish that Howard wrote longer stories or provided more characterization, without realizing that perhaps these “weak spots” in his writing are a necessary adjunct to the most powerful elements. Add more exposition, and perhaps all of the raw power and unbridled momentum would be lost, leaving Howard as just another middling, lukewarm author.

One of the reasons Howard has remained so relevant as an author and artist is because his most passionate themes are so universal that seventy years haven’t aged them at all. Even when plot elements hinge on now-debunked science, the basic soundness of his worldview remains. He engaged in harrowing tales of war and rapine at a time when unfettered violence was far more shocking and frowned upon than it is now, and frequently risked rejection for his single-minded focus on such things to the exclusion of all else. But his contemporaries’ revulsion is our gain: while other authors frequently recede with the passing of years, trapped in the amber of their time and place, REH’s achievement only glows brighter. It seems that hardly a day goes by without me being struck by the application of Howard’s thoughts on the barbaric nature of mankind to something in the news.

I’m convinced that someday, with the right criticism and films and reprintings, Howard will become well known enough to be mentioned and quoted in such articles as Steyn’s — a prophet of primitivism in this uncertain age of teetering civilizations.

REH at Project Gutenberg Australia

REH fan Kent Matthewson recently alerted me to the fact that, since Australia’s copyright protection equals the author’s death date plus fifty years, many of Howard’s stories are in the public domain there. Browsing over to Project Gutenberg Australia nets you the following list:

Robert Ervin HOWARD (1906-1936)


  • Skulls in the Stars (1929)–TextHTML
  • The Footfalls Within (1931)–TextHTML
  • The Moon of Skulls (1930)–TextHTML
  • The Hills of the Dead (1930)–TextHTML
  • Wings in the Night (1932)–TextHTML


  • The Daughter of Erlik Khan (1934)–TextHTML
  • Hawk of the Hills (1935)–TextHTML
  • Blood of the Gods (1935)–TextHTML
  • Son Of The White Wolf (1936)–TextHTML
  • The Country of The Knife (1937)–TextHTML


  • The Phoenix on the Sword (1932)–TextHTML
  • The Scarlet Citadel (1933)–TextHTML
  • The Tower of the Elephant (1933)–TextHTML
  • Black Colossus (1933)–TextHTML
  • The Slithering Shadow (1933)–TextHTML
  • The Pool of the Black One (1933)–TextHTML
  • Rogues in the House (1934)–TextHTML
  • Shadows in the Moonlight (1934)–TextHTML
  • Queen of the Black Coast (1934)–TextHTML
  • The Devil in Iron (1934)–TextHTML
  • The People of the Black Circle (1934)–TextHTML
  • A Witch Shall be Born(1934)–TextHTML
  • Jewels of Gwahlur (1935)–TextHTML
  • Beyond the Black River (1935)–TextHTML
  • Shadows in Zamboula (1935)–TextHTML
  • The Hour of the Dragon (1936)–TextHTML
  • Red Nails (1936)–TextHTML
  • Gods of the North (1934)–TextHTML

Doubtless more will be added as time goes on. One problem with Project Gutenberg over Wikipedia is that the general reader can’t easily edit the text as they find typos and errors. Still, it is a valuable resource for when you need to search a text for scholarly purposes, or when your trusty book collection isn’t handy.

Mysteries of Time and Spirit, One in Particular

What a relief it is to turn from the troll droppings and toxic testosterone of the Novalyne-Killed-My-Favorite-Writer mouth-breathers online to words written by those who were actually alive and alert in 1936. The first few references to Robert E. Howard in the 2002 Night Shade Books volume Mysteries of Time and Spirit: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei, edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, are merely incidental, then, in a letter dated October 19, 1932, Lovecraft tells Wandrei “Just got a fine set of rattlesnake rattles from Robert E. Howard. His letter accompanying them is a veritable prose-poem with the unconquerable serpent as its theme.” How much would those rattles, known to have been handled by 2 greats, fetch at a weird fiction-themed memorabilia auction today? Ah well, chances are they would have been “borrowed” in the late 70s and never returned to whoever was their rightful owner at that point…

On March 28, 1932 HPL is still coming to grips with “a 22-page (closely typed) argumentative epistle from Two-Gun Bob, the Terror of the Plains.” On December 6, 1935, he dismisses most of the new Weird Tales: “Nothing of any merit in it except Klarkash-ton’s “Chain of Aforgomon”—that is, nothing short. Two-Gun’s serial may be good, but I never read serials until I have all the parts.” (By the time of his June 20, 1936 letter to CAS, Lovecraft had the complete Hour of the Dragon, which he pronounced “really splendid” despite some reservations about chronic carnage and the nomenclature that always affected him like itching powder poured down the back of his collar). In that same letter he reacts with amusement to “how quickly [in “The Challenge from Beyond”] Two-Gun made a rip-roaring sanguinary Conan out of the mild & scholarly George Campbell.” And then, much sooner than would be preferable, Letter #234, from Lovecraft to Wandrei on June 24, 1936, is the next in the sequence. After expressing concern about an accident that befell Wandrei’s sister-in-law, Lovecraft writes “A more tragic and less remediable blow is one which has just hit weird fictiondom in a very vital spot—a disaster which I can scarcely bring myself to believe.” He himself has learned the news “in the form of card (without particulars) from Miss Moore.”

(Continue reading this post)

Some Howardian love in The Cross Plains Review


The June 22 number of the Review has just hit Californian shores, and contains a glowing article on Howard Days by Project Pride correspondent Arlene Stephenson. Cimmerian readers well remember Arlene’s article “The Fire That Spread Around the World” for V3n2 (February 2006), which contained a host of harrowing and uplifting stories from the Cross Plains Fire that didn’t make the front page of the CNN website, or for that matter any of the usual Howardian venues. Here she gives a flavorful small-town spin on the centennial proceedings that accurately captures the mood of the event.

“Censational” Centennial Celebration

by Arlene Stephenson, The Cross Plains Review, June 22, 2006

How does one measure the success of an event? By the number of people in attendance? By the number of volunteers involved in making it happen? By the variety of programs and activities offered? By the geographic scope of states and communities represented? By the comments of those in attendance?

By any of these standards, the recent Robert E. Howard Centennial Days were an outstanding success. Scholars and fans came to Cross Plains to experience a few hours or a few days with other folks having the same interest in one of the greatest pulp fiction writers ever to put words on paper. From the first guest to arrive from Washington D.C. to the last guest from Eastland, a steady stream of visitors filed through the local library and the Howard House Museum. In that body of visitors, one could hear conversations in Swedish and German; exchanges with British and Canadian accents and even the accents from the Carolinas and Maryland were interesting to our Texas ears.

Number wise, some interesting facts came to light. The registration book at the Museum showed that 240 people had registered from 22 states, Washington D.C. and the four countries mentioned above. The Library hosted one panel discussion that drew way beyond a “standing room only” crowd. Librarian Cherry Shults and Board Member James Warlick were extremely impressed with the patience and tolerance of the group as they just kept squeezing closer and closer together to learn what they could about working with Howard manuscripts. And the scholarly crowd was just as impressed with the collection of Howard’s works housed in the library.

Several of the authors in the group donated a variety of new materials to the library. One such donation was about 35 books from the collection of Sprague de Camp. Although most of these are in other languages, they will be invaluable for research as scholars compare Sprague’s work with the more authenticated interpretations of Howard’s writings.

At the Howard House Museum, the gift shop was overflowing with publications of dozens of writers and illustrators featuring Howard’s poetry, boxing stories, Texas humor, artwork, and of course the better-known Conan stories. Project Pride volunteers were kept busy making sales and keeping the shelves stocked. The constant flow of visitors through the Museum kept another group of volunteers welcoming guests and giving guided tours. And yet other volunteers kept the ice water and refreshments flowing at the hospitality center in the pavilion.

Cornelius Kappabani from Germany was heard many times commenting, “This has been such a wonderful weekend in a wonderful little community; thank you so much.”

The Library and Project Pride agree that the Howard Days are definitely the most interesting projects that they sponsor. Each year more and more resources are donated to the library, and thus, more and more out-of-town visitors come to utilize these resources. The reputation of Project Pride and their efforts in maintaining Howard’s home and perpetuating his influence in the world of creative writing just keeps spreading in an ever-widening circle around the world.

Both of the local groups extend a heartfelt message of appreciation to all the volunteers who helped make the weekend so successful and to the community for making all our visitors feel so welcome.

New phone numbers for Project Pride

You can find them over at the REHupa Website. Please update your records.