A Texan Feast

“In fact, I’m something of a gourmand — I believe you spell it that way.” Robert E. Howard to H.P. Lovecraft, ca. December 1932.

Howard Days in Cross Plains is just around the corner. Thus and therefore (and especially since I’m unable to attend this year), I find myself yearning for fare of the Texan persuasion. My first trip to Howard Days (in 2006), I stayed over in Dallas the night before. One of my Texan cousins steered me to a little hole-in-the-wall called Lee Harvey’s in a fairly disreputable quarter of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Excellent burgers, cold beer and billiards (and discussions regarding Dan Brown and the Knights Templar) made for a memorable evening.

Soon after pulling up to the Alla Ray Morris Pavillion in Cross Plains the next day, I savored the hearty fare purveyed by Joan McCowen and the other estimable members of Project Pride. Nachos and chili just do a pilgrim’s soul good, I must say.

The gustatory highpoint (figuratively and literally) of both my trips to Robert E. Howard’s hometown would have to be the Saturday night barbecues at the Caddo Peak Ranch. Do not breath a word of this to my Kansan brethren, but Texan BBQ has it all over KC barbecue. Marjorie Middleton (and many others) put on a mouth-watering spread of Texan proportions, with attendant Lone Star hospitality.

However, my trips to Cross Plains were but the latest of my personal forays into the splendrous fields of Texan cuisine. Ever since the Christmas of ’76, I’ve visited Texas and sampled its culinary wares. Having relatives in the Dallas area helps mightily in that regard. Probably my most memorable visit (in regards to Texan food) was in 1980. In the short week I was there, my uncle took me to the legendary Tolbert’s Chili Parlor (founded by a Texan with the most Howardian moniker of “Frank X. Tolbert”) and a Tex-Mex restaurant (name unremembered) which served a delectable (and still unknown-beyond-Texas, at the time) dish called “fajitas”. Yeah, I thought my Uncle Gary Bradbury was pretty cool.

Robert E. Howard was, by his own admission, a bit of a “gourmand.” Judging from what Rusty Burke cites in “The Gustatory REH,” Howard was not laying claim to a false title. For a small-town Central Texas boy who reached manhood before the Second World War, REH’s tastes in food were wide-ranging (indicative of his far-reaching studies in numerous other areas). In his letters, Howard speaks of his appreciation for Mexican, Italian, German, Creole (and, by extension, Caribbean) cuisines. Such might be more likely expected (in that era) from a well-heeled sophisticate born to a more cosmopolitan clime.

That said and noted, I believe Robert E. Howard would be highly pleased by the latest (July 2009) issue of Saveur magazine, which is on newsstands as we speak. Most fortuitously (considering that Howard Days are just around 120-121_saveur_cover_306the corner), the editors and writers of Saveur (several of whom have Texan connections) decided to dedicate their most recent issue to the food-ways of the Lone Star State. To my knowledge, Saveur has never devoted an entire issue, cover to cover, to just one region, state or country (depending on whether you’re a Texan or not, the “state” or “country” designation may be problematic).

So, a singular honor has been granted to Texan cuisine by the finest cooking magazine in print (which Saveur is, in my opinion). Several chapters in the July 2009 issue relate specifically to Robert E. Howard’s opinions and tastes. Here’s a few… (Continue reading this post)

Last batch of REHupas posted on eBay


I have posted a large batch of REHupas on eBay, the last ones I will be selling in fact, save for some odds and ends and a few more recent issues that I’m not quite ready to part with yet. This current batch has some really neat associational items included with some of them, including some inter-a.p.a letters and a rare REH Days postcard. See the whole list here.

Each REHupa mailing is filled to the brim with rare Howardiana. Folks continue to score some incredible deals, getting large and notable mailings for a relative pittance. My personal view these days is that anything under $50 for an old REHupa, and anything under $30 for a newer 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.

In the Beginning: a Kane Chronology story


Fellow blogger Brian Murphy has indicated wanting to hear more about the part of my bio that reads: “he broke into the fantasy critical world in the gamer’s magazine Sorceror’s Apprentice, with an essay on Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane which ultimately prompted the author to correct his own previous statements about the character’s chronology.”

So this is for him, and hopefully some others will be interested. Sorceror’s Apprentice #3 (Summer 1979) had the Trout Kane essay (which dealt with the interesting aspects of the character) along with a first stab at the chronology.

This was the story listing, which took the clues from the stories regarding the status of Carsultyal, the Habros Serranthon Empire’s rise and fall, and other clues.

Two Suns Setting
The Dark Muse
Sing a Last Song of Valdese
Lynortis Reprise
Reflections for the Winter of my Soul
Cold Light
Raven’s Eyrie

Spacing in time is, of course, wildly varied — sometimes years, sometimes decades, mostly centuries and sometimes many many centuries, but for the most part obscure. There are really only a few that you can nail down.

So, oddly, the first book published is the last Kane novel to read. Karl noted in his remarks that “The Other One” is the last of the short stories, placing it just before DARKNESS WEAVES. I had probably not located a copy of that story yet.

With “Misericorde” four years in the future, obviously it’s not in the list, and I don’t know that I’ve ever tried to place it, though I think Joe Marek or Dale Rippke may have. Both have added on to my work, though I don’t think either of their versions are currently available.

In an afternote to my article, Karl asserted all the story collections were chronological within each book, which would move “Raven’s Eyrie” back to right after “The Dark Muse” and I guess he knew best on that one. But it would also reverse the positions of “Lynortis Reprise” and “Sing a Last Song of Valdese”; which is impossible according to the internal evidence, and I wrote him and told him so and why. So then he remembered that he had preferred to have the closing line of “Valdese” be the closing line of the book, and so had switched them.

In his letter admitting he was wrong, he said my point was “well-made and correct” and he appointed me “Kane Chronologist 1st class, with all privileges and obligations attendant on that rank.” I ran this letter in REHupa #40, but otherwise its been little-known.

John Mayer made a comment a while back on the Wagner Yahoo group that Karl didn’t really want the readers to know the chronology, so they wouldn’t be sure whether Kane would survive a particular adventure or not. Apparently, he never expected anyone to notice the switch.

Brian adds: Thanks for sharing, Steve. You’ve achieved your own small piece of heroic fantasy immortality.

‘Tol acharn!’: Part Two of “The Wanderings of Hurin”

He that sees through the eyes of Morgoth, willing or unwilling, sees all things crooked.”

From “The Wanderings of Húrin” by J.R.R. Tolkien

In my first post concerning Húrin, the mightiest mortal warrior of Middle-earth’s First Age, I looked at what befell him before he was released from his imprisonment in Angband. All of that was a prelude to the collection of writings that Tolkien entitled, “The Wanderings of Húrin,” which can be found in The War of the Jewels: The Later Silmarillion.

The tale begins in Angband, the ancient stronghold of Morgoth, wherein Húrin had been held captive for twenty-eight years, all the while being forced to witness Morgoth’s curse upon his family unfold, and always, always, viewing the events through the Dark Lord’s darkling mirror of spite and deceit. A year after the death of Túrin, son of Húrin, Morgoth deemed the time was ripe to unleash the embittered Húrin upon the world…

He feigned that in this he was moved by pity for an enemy utterly defeated, marveling at his endurance. ‘Such steadfastness,’ he said, ‘should have been shown in a better cause, and would have been otherwise rewarded. But I have no longer any use for you, Húrin, in the waning of your little life.’ And he lied, for his purpose was that Húrin should still further his malice against Elves and Men, ere he died.

396px-nasmith34 Hurin/Morgoth

(Continue reading this post)