Beat the Drum Slowly…

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Robert E. Howard onced asked his friend, Tevis Clyde Smith, “What shall a man say when a friend has vanished behind the doors of Death? A mere tangle of barren words, only words.”

All of those who posted today, including myself, never met Steve Tompkins personally, though I got damned close in 2006. None of us would presume to say that Steve was our “friend.” However, without a doubt, we all respect his work and regret his absence.  

Are all words spoken in regard to the dearly-departed or much-admired then “barren”? Robert E. Howard seemed to think so when he wrote those lines and sent them to Smith in 1928. Certainly, eulogies and whatnot can never bring back the deceased. All the same, I believe it can be argued that such words keep ones since-passed-on alive in the hearts and minds of those left behind.

In the case of Steve Tompkins, the words he wove with such skill live on here at The Cimmerian and elsewhere. As the tributes below attest, his wit, word-craft and insight are well-remembered. There can be no question that his thoughts on a myriad of subjects have found fertile, not “barren,” ground.

My original intent before actually starting this essay was to do a basic “wrap-up” and also discuss a few posts of Steve’s that I considered neglected. Reading the previous essays, I decided to change course just a bit. Gazing back over all the testimonials and seeing the inspiration Steve gave to so many, I think just one web log entry needs mentioned today.

Maybe Not a Boom, But a Drumbeat” was Steve Tompkins’ first post here at The Cimmerian. In it, he refuted the assertion by Leon Nielsen that Howard studies (and even REH’s literary legacy itself) were tied to an aging demographic and all would become as dust with the forgotten ages in the near future. With REH’s creations daily carving out kingdoms in the wastelands of pop culture, write-ups on Howard in Publishers Weekly and The L.A. Timesinclusion in Library of America and Penguin Classics volumes and millions of words of REH scholarship written since mid-2006, I’d say Steve’s view has been vindicated. A pity he’s not here to see it all.  A pity he wasn’t here to see The Cimmerian get its half-millionth hit last January.

If we’re not in the midst of some kind of “Howard Boom,” it certainly feels like one. Steve Tompkins and Leo Grin (and others throughout Howardom) helped rekindle a fire that had burned low, but now blazes from the beacon-hills of the blogosphere. Tompk said he could hear a drumbeat. He was right. Today, we beat the drum slowly for Steve Tompkins, but tomorrow we cinch on our steel and keep marching. The drum calls us forward.

*Art by Stephen Fabian