REH and JRRT Books on the Horizon

legend_of_sigurd_gudrunWe live in halcyon days, my friends. Sure, there’s a global “economic downturn” grinding all and sundry ‘neath its leaden wheels and there is a possible influenza pandemic looming (or “lowering,” as REH might say), but we aficionados of the works of Robert E. Howard and John Ronald Reuel Tolkien have much to celebrate in the many coming months, gloom n’ doom notwithstanding.

Firstly, there is The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by JRRT, which is being released on May 5th. The dearly departed Steve Tompkins gave us (or, at least, myself) a much-appreciated heads-up on this project. At 384 pages, this volume outstrips the recent The Children of Hurin in pagination, though only time will tell whether it does the same in its quality of story-telling. Considering Tolkien’s deep investment in the mythic ‘Nordic’ North (far deeper than Howard’s, I would argue), I have high and lofty hopes for this publication. The dark and bloody Volsungasaga, forged in the depths of the Germanic Dark Ages, was always a well-spring of inspiration for Tollers.

Coming in October from the Library of America is the Peter Straub-edited, American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps. Nestled like a blasphemous, obsidian jewel amongst tales from Robert W. Chambers and Clark Ashton Smith (and, of course, Poe) is Robert E. Howard’s seminal Lovecraftian yarn, “The Black Stone.” Inclusion of a Howard story in a Library of America publication is always a provocation for (at least minor) rejoicing. I have Bill Thom (of Howard Works and Coming Attractions fame) to thank for this welcome news.

REHupan Frank Coffman has his much-anticipated Robert E. Howard: Selected Poems volume (in cooperation with the Robert E. Howard Foundation) slated for a release to coincide with the 2009 Howard Days. Considering the “poetry” theme for this year’s commemoration, Coffman’s is a most fitting book, one which complements the recently published A Word From the Outer Dark (Project Pride), along with The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard. A banner year for REH poetry fanatics. (Continue reading this post)

More REHupas now on eBay


The latest batch includes one mailing from every group of ten stretching from the #90s to the #190s. See the whole list here. Each is filled to the brim with rare Howardiana. Some folks got some incredible deals in the last batch, scoring large and notable mailings for a relative pittance. #118 and #176 especially were great steals at those prices. The auction for #100 got a bit ridiculous price-wise, but it is indeed a rare-as-hell mailing and the biggest in the a.p.a.s history (plus it contains Don Herron’s infamous “I piss on you all from a considerable height” smackdown, a legendarily hilarious moment in the a.p.a.s history), so perhaps over the long-term such a buy will pay dividends. The winner now has a mailing that even several hardcore REHupa collectors still are dying to find, so they have that to weigh against the price-tag.

My personal view these days is that anything under $50 for an old REHupa, and anything under $30 for a new one, is a good deal given their long-term rarity and the amount of collectability they have. For information on why REHupa mailings are rare, collectible, and an essential cornerstone of any good Howard collection, see here.

Vintage Saunders Short Story To Be Posted Online

Charles R. Saunders' Website

Just received the following announcement:

I’m going to try something new at My next four blogs are going to be a serialized story entitled “Luendi.”

“Luendi” is one of my vintage short stories, written at the same time I was working on the first Imaro stories. That would be the early 1970s. It was one of the few stories I’d written that was not set in Nyumbani, or some other, unnamed fantasy version of Africa. But it wasn’t exactly modern mainstream, either. Its setting is the Southern Africa of the late 1800s, around the time the Zimbabwe ruins were first discovered by Europeans. I did have something of an agenda when I wrote this, as I was a strong opponent of apartheid. So, I thought I would get one back — symbolically speaking — against the colonists and settlers of that time.

The story was published in the September 1977 issue of The Diversifier, a popular small-press magazine of the time. Times have changed a lot since then, bit I hope “Luendi” still has some resonance after all these years.

It will debut on Friday, May 1 and the next three installments will appear on May 8, May 15, & May 22.

Sounds like fun, I’ll be reading with interest. And remember that Charles’ revised edition of Imaro III: The Trail of Bohu is now available here.

New Lord of the Rings fan film set to debut


It’s called The Hunt for Gollum, and there’s some trailers up for it right now at their website. The entire forty-minute film is set to debut on May 3.

This is the kind of thing I’m intrigued by on many levels, as a guy who has often harbored dreams of doing something similar. Think about it: they used a couple of HD prosumer video cameras in the $3000-$5000 range, some extra equipment to achieve a cinematic look (SGPro depth of field adapter, SteadiCams, computer color correction and visual effects), and a lot of donated acting, prop, and makeup help. Putting aside for a moment my loathing of the Lord of the Rings films and watching the trailer, it seems they did a good job of pressing up against true feature quality, with the usual exceptions common to fan films: somewhat subpar acting, like kids playing dress-up, along with poor choices of lenses and angles in the action scenes (too many wide lenses and not enough telephoto, odd bird’s-eye and worm’s-eye views, and camera skews with no motivation or coherence) which seem to give away that it was shot on a video camera. But the long shots and general quality of the images are quite stunning, the British locations magnificent, and even the Orcs seem to mirror those in the Hollywood version, at least in the little clips I saw of them in the trailers.

The main thing I am always struck by when seeing these sorts of films (there are a lot of good Star Wars ones out there, too), is that people would spend so much time and effort aping a copyrighted world, when with a few small adjustments and a good script they could make a similarly inspired and magnificent film based in a world of their own making, which would allow them to make money off of their effort, use it as a demo reel to get a job making a more expensive feature set in the same fictional universe, or any number of other options. But I suppose that a lot of people helped solely because it wasn’t just any fantasy story but one that aped Jackson’s LotR vision. I personally can’t stand that vision — that grey and drab world of misty forests peopled by unshowered Rangers and hippie elves accompanied by a soundtrack of ghostly Enya-esque wails. I think it’s beyond silly for the orchestra to boom and the camera to swoop around every time there’s a nice view or a mountain. But these guys have clearly made a great effort, achieving enough to prove yet again that independent films of this nature can and will become as cool as Hollywood fare someday soon. Amazing new cameras and computers are coming down the pike, stuff that is going to make a good homemade video every bit as stunning as most Hollywood films, even effects-laden ones. When that happens, I wonder how many Howard stories are going to get filmed? That little Solomon Kane one that made the rounds a few years back might only be the humble beginning of a big low-budget push to get Howard’s work on screen.

Breck redux


From the first review by Glenn Lord to many of today’s write-ups, A Gent From Bear Creek is often considered a collection of the Breckinridge Elkins stories. This, I’ve long thought, is a disservice to Howard, who went to some lengths to make this into another serialized novel, like Hour of the Dragon, although one based more tightly on previous stories. And it is especially interesting to note that the new material for the book, some three more chapters worth, was based on two deeply personal relationships; the old boy meets girl, dark stranger comes between, and love triumphs story of Breck Elkins and Glory McGraw, and the deeply personal ties between Breck and his only somewhat tamed horse, Captain Kidd. The capture and partial breaking of the horse is really far and away the most Texas “tall tale” part of the book. I can imagine “Meet Capt’n Kidd” was written while Howard was in a creative frenzy rivaling that of the wild horse in the story.

Sure, A Gent From Bear Creek started out as a series of stories. But if you read the stories as they appeared in Action Stories (easy to do since the publication of Paul Herman’s The Complete Action Stories) and read Gent shortly after, you’ll find there is quite a bit more material — more story — than is commonly recognized.


For more details on the Elkins publishing history, see this post.

From Venarium to Ymir’s Mountains

“Why or how, I am not certain, but he spent some months among a tribe of the Æsir…”

Robert E. Howard in a letter to P. Schuyler Miller.


“The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is well-beloved by Conan fans, with good reason. While containing moments of true poetry, it still packs wain-loads of bloody action into a few short pages. Some have theorized that this yarn is the very first adventure in the Cimmerian’s career, chronologically. Such would seem to be indicated by Robert E. Howard’s 1936 letter to P. Schuyler Miller.

While I have a few niggling doubts as to that placement (such doubts to be addressed at a later time), that doesn’t stop me extrapolating therefrom. If “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is a chronicle from that period of “some months” when Conan first ventured out of Cimmeria into Nordheim (as Howard wrote to Miller), then clues within that tale possibly cast light on the Cimmerian murkiness of Conan’s years immediately prior to his bidding farewell to his homeland.

(Continue reading this post)

***UPDATE: REHupa firesale continues


Seven more mailings of REHupa are on eBay, filled to the brim with rare Howardiana. Only one day to go, no reserve, and some have no bids. Steal them if you can!

For information on why REHupa mailings are rare, collectible, and an essential cornerstone of any good Howard collection, see here.

UPDATE: A few people got some great deals in that last batch, especially for #162, which contained the full massive research piece I wrote on Howard’s favorite boxer, Joe Grim.

The next batch is now up, and includes some of the most memorable and collectible mailings ever to come out of REHupa. #118 — The 20th Anniversary Mailing. #176 — one of best Cross Plains/REH Days trip report mailings, with some great color covers. And #100, the biggest, baddest REHupa mailing of them all, jam-packed with multiple sections and extra booklets.

Steve Tompkins and the book that never was….


Here’s something I commissioned for the print edition of The Cimmerian but never used.

A few years ago, Charles Hoffman and Marc Cerasini undertook a revision of their old Starmont Reader’s Guide: Robert E. Howard, which was first published in the late 1980s. Wildside Press was supposed to bring out the updated version circa 2006, but — like so much else at that press — the book fell through the cracks and never appeared. At the time, I charged Steve Tompkins with interviewing Cerasini and Hoffman, and planned to have the result run in TC concurrent with the release of the book. With their revised tome MIA, however, I tucked the (lengthy and interesting, as it turned out) interview into my files, against the day when Wildside would finally get its act together.

Well, since then whole years passed, the print Cimmerian ended its run, and now Steve himself is gone. So I figure it is as good a time as any to finally unleash this interview into the world. It’s actually a very enlightening discussion — Steve asked many deep, intelligent questions, and really brought out the best in the authors. For those of you who never bought the print Cimmerian, this post is also a peek at what my TC print subscribers were regularly exposed to: Howard articles of a depth and breadth not to be found anywhere else.

So here we go: the late, lamented Steve Tompkins interviewing Howardists Charles Hoffman and Marc Cerasini about their critical volume on Robert E. Howard, plus much else. Take it away, old friend:

STEVE TOMPKINS: For each of you, what was your first exposure to Howard? If as seems likely you made the acquaintance of Conan by way of the Gnome Press or Lancer collections, please tell us what you made of the presence of posthumous collaborations and pastiches.

MARC CERASINI: I can recall my first exposure vividly. I was maybe thirteen or fourteen years old and had purchased issue # 11 of Castle of Frankenstein magazine for thirty-five cents. Inside Lin Carter had a column touting the new publishing releases and he covered the Conan books extensively. Now, the first Lancers had just come out and I was eyeing them anyway because of the beautiful Frank Frazetta covers (I knew Frank’s work from Creepy and Eerie — Vampirella had not come out yet.) On Lin’s recommendation — and the fact that my parents were going to Expo ’67 and felt guilty about leaving me behind and so footed the bill for a shopping spree — I went to my local mall and purchased the first four Conan books, and an Aurora model of Blackbeard the Pirate.

On a sunny afternoon in June I read “The People of the Black Circle” and I was hooked — changed forever. Prior to my exposure to REH, I was reading a limited amount of science fiction and horror (The ABC’s of course — Asimov, Bradbury and Clark; as well as some John Wyndham; HG Wells and Jules Verne; and the classics Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore). I also read too many comics: Marvel superheroes (which I discovered with Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man), DC war comics like Sgt. Rock, Enemy Ace, Johnny Cloud, the Navajo Ace, Star Spangled War Stories where U.S. Marines battled dinosaurs and the Japanese on remote South Pacific Islands during World War II, and even movie and television tie-in books. One irony of my writing life is that I grew up reading Michael Avallone’s Man From U.N.C.L.E. novels and now I’m writing 24 novels for HarperCollins.

(Continue reading this post)

Steve Tompkins, R.I.P.

This will be inadequate. I’m sorry, but even the best I could do would be inadequate. And I don’t expect this will be the best I can do, but it is the best I can do and still be reasonably timely.

I was signing in at the 2000 PulpCon when a Californian REHupan, whose name I won’t disclose, informed me that “that guy whose zines no one can read” was also attending.

“Larry’s here?” I said. Larry Richter had been there the previous year, and I didn’t expect him to return so soon, due to his age and physical difficulties. Also, Larry’s writing style, though evidence of a brilliant and broadly experienced mind, was rather eclectic, and often forced me to mentally reparse his prose to get his meaning.

“No, no,” was the response. “I mean Steve Tompkins.”

Well, this also was good news. Steve had joined the Howard apa in August of 1995, but I had never met him in person. And I certainly found his writing readable — in fact, his was one of the zines I turned to first, when a mailing arrived. It was not the first time this prophet was without honor in his own land — another REHupan had called his zines “so seemingly clever as to be unintelligible”. To which Steve, with characteristic élan, thanked Morgan Holmes, I, and several others for pretending to find them intelligible, and then proceeded to give this guy a verbal smack down upside the head the likes of which I’ve never seen.

Steve’s writing style was also unique, and evidence of a brilliant and broadly experienced mind and an excruciatingly well-read one. Erudite wasn’t the half of it, he also seemed to be able to recall everything he had ever read — like he had a major fantasy library in his head. Looking back over the old mailings, I see my comment to his first zine, which included dozens of pages, was simply “Wild writing style.”

But it didn’t take long before we were exchanging snail mail letters (this being before everyone had e-mail), recommendations, and books (when he complained that the New York bookstores were charging $15-20 for Glen Cook’s Dread Empire series, I spent a week or so picking them up dirt cheap and sent them off, for which Steve was deeply appreciative).

Steve turned me on to Adam Corby (among others), and I in turn alerted him to the sequel (I would have scored him a copy had not Morgan Holmes bought it first). Together we pondered whether a third in the series would have occurred and why it might not have.

I would like to report that at PulpCon we spent long evenings regaling each other, but the sad fact is we exchanged pleasantries, went out to a group dinner together or two, but I came away thinking he was nice, but not nearly as verbose in person as he was in print. He certainly was genial enough, and I was glad to meet him, but our relationship seemed to be destined to be e-mail, zining, and blog posting.

We certainly exchanged many e-mails. Like me, he was very fond of cats, and we commiserated over feline losses. I’ll also never forget his e-mail reporting his experiences on 9-11, when he joined the panic-stricken mob fleeing the toxic dust cloud that followed the collapse of the Twin Towers. He said that his weight served him in good stead as lesser mortals were hockey-checked into plate windows and trampled underfoot. Of course, there were more downsides than upsides to carrying that weight.

I’m glad that his work made it into hard covers, with The Barbaric Triumph, The Black Stranger, Kull: Exile of Atlantis and eventually, I suppose Grim Lands. He came a long way from his start as a Marvel letter-hack. (Which I say without malice, as I graced some of those same pages myself) He could have gone much further. He will be missed. It is a great loss to all who knew him, and to the field he loved as well.

REH Words of the Week: stylus and papyrus



1. an instrument for writing, marking or incising.

[Origin: from the Latin stylus, “a pointed instrument” ]


1. a writing material made of strips of the pith of the papyrus plant laid evenly across similar strips in thin layers, the whole being soaked and then dried under pressure; used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

[Origin: from the Greek papyros, “reed” ]


Now he laid down the golden stylus with which he had been laboriously scrawling on waxed papyrus, rested his chin on his fist, and fixed his smoldering blue eyes enviously on the man who stood before him.

[from “The Phoenix on the Sword”]

It seems seldom recognized or appreciated by many Conan fans (especially those who “live by the Lancers”), that in the first scene Robert E. Howard ever wrote featuring the redoubtable Cimmerian, Conan is wielding a writing utensil, not a sword. “The Phoenix on the Sword” was the first Conan tale ever written, though it takes place late in his career (and near the end of the Lancer series), shortly after he became king. The readers of the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales first saw Conan the Cimmerian at a writing-table, using a stylus to incise a sheet of waxed papyrus.

(Continue reading this post)