Mark is tied up with ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas at the moment, and so won’t be able to answer Gary until early next week. Until then, Arnie Fenner, the man whose introduction started this latest flurry of posts, writes in to clairfy a few things. Here’s Arnie:
Yee-haw, boys! Get a rope! We’ll teach that Fenner fella a…Godfrey Daniels! You guys are talking about me!
Just to be clear, I don’t think I did a hatchet job on REH, definitely didn’t deify Frazetta, and certainly didn’t give de Camp a pass, either, (shoot, Mark’s posting is longer than the intro) so I’m guessing that questioning some of the suppositions about Howard that have appeared in the last decade or so is what has raised everyone’s Irish. We all read the same stuff and can come to different conclusions, particularly when evidence is anecdotal or offered 70 years after the fact. In other words, its a big world and the last time I looked there was room in it for more than one opinion.
No, I don’t think Howard was a “great” writer, but (as I stated) certainly believe he was an exceptional storyteller. That’s not a dismissal or criticism or damning with faint praise at all — at least, it wasn’t intended as such. That he was able to overcome his circumstances and limitations and create work that people are still passionate about decades after his death…says loads. The difficulties a writer — or artist — surmount in order to create a lasting work makes their accomplishment all the more remarkable. But I also pointed out that Howard benefited from — became better at his craft with the guidance of — Farnsworth Wright’s editing. A matter of opinion, I’m sure.
Steve asked: who do I think are great writers? Joseph Conrad, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, to name a few. Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, George MacDonald Fraser, and Robert E. Howard (among others) are great storytellers. There’s more than enough room on my bookshelf for both.
I do agree that Rusty Burke would have written a better intro.
If Mark wants to talk about our differences of opinion sometime over beers, I’d be glad to. He’ll have to buy, of course: after all, I know Frazetta.
As I said awhile back, Leo, I greatly enjoy The Cimmerian. If you’d like a copy of the Conan book, I’ll ask Tim Underwood to send you one. Despite the introduction, it’s actually pretty nice.