Blogging: Yet Another Job “Americans Won’t Do.”

Well, a few days ago I finally received my Deluxe edition of The Children of Húrin — arch-collector Doris Salley will be horrified to learn that Amazon mailed it to me with a slight ding in the slipcase, and I kept it. It has taken all of my willpower not to take a week off from work and read it from cover to cover. I have dipped into the Introduction and Appendices, and spot-checked some of my favorite moments from parts of the tale I have read before. It has the feel of a DVD director’s cut, with new passages that are fine in their own right but feel tacked on and a bit superfluous because of how well I know the original. Still, there’s a lot of new material, and I’m really looking forward to getting the time to read this.

If I got my copy, then Steve Tompkins must have got his, which means he’s likely read it several times by now, with a mental highlighter covering the pages in neon notations for use in the new essays already percolating within the supercomputer he calls a brain. I think we can assume he won’t be posting here for the next few days, until the Tolkien fever wears off. Rob is likely in the middle of the horrendous last few weeks of the school year, wrapping up his teaching duties in time to head down to Howard Days. Mark is off at the movies, probably running around the corridors of his new movie theater decked out in zombie makeup and scaring the kids attempting to sneak into the matinée for Twenty-Eight Weeks Later. Which leaves me taking a bit of time away from finishing the June issue of TC to point you to a few things of interest.

Over at Black Gate magazine, there is a new interview with a guy who has been kind of important to some members of the inner circle of Howard fans: writer David C. Smith. A former fantasist who penned a number of Howard pastiches in the late 70s and early 80s, Smith also had a stint in REHupa and is still friends with several members of that organization. In the Black Gate interview, you can read a bit about his career, how he managed to snag the Howard gigs, his writing style that pays homage to Howard’s pulp roots, and more. Check it out.

In other news, frequent Cimmerian contributor Gary Romeo has started a new Yahoo! group called “D is for de Camp.” This is a forum to discuss the work of the late science fiction grandmaster, including his intimate association with Howard publishing. Gary already has a few dozen people posting over there, and is looking for more posters and readers. I imagine a lot of the postings will relate to REH in some way, so put it into your Howardian online reading rotation.

Finally, there’s a few new posts over at, both by Morgan Holmes, who has been away from blogging for awhile but is now back with a vengeance. One post is about the version of the Prose Edda that Howard owned and read, and the other is Part II of his personal history of his involvement with REH fandom.

Not much else going on save for frantic preparations for Howard Days. Every year I try to get ahead of things and every year I end up rushing at the last minute to get everything finished. Still, it’s been worth it — the June TC is shaping up to be a real hot issue, with some great articles that will keep you turning the pages. It’s one of those issues that has a little something for everyone.

More Star Roving

Guest Blogger Fred Blosser adds his two cents to Steve’s recent post on The Star Rover.

FRED: I appreciate Steve’s tip of the hat in his posting today. The other guy who should be mentioned in regard to connecting the dots between The Star Rover and Howard was de Camp. I believe he was the first observer — at least, the first in print, via Dark Valley Destiny in 1983 — to remark on the similarities between The Star Rover and concepts in the Conan and James Allison stories.

With a little more luck and persistence, I might have beat Sprague to the punch by fifteen years, but to paraphrase Robert De Niro, I blew it.

I noticed the proto-Howard details in the London book when I first read it in 1968, and at that time, I asked Glenn if evidence existed that Howard had read the novel. Glenn supplied me with Howard’s “book that goes to my head like wine” comment, and I built on that in writing a college freshman English paper that I titled “Jack London and the Hyborian Age.” Before the fall semester was over that year, I revised the paper a bit and submitted it to Amra. Over Christmas break, I received a card from George Scithers accepting it for publication — but it never appeared, as far as I’m aware.

When I signed with Ted Dikty and FAX in 1976 to write a book about Howard’s weird fiction, I covered the Little People stories and salvaged a bit of “Jack London and the Hyborian Age,” particularly noting the references to Il-Marinen by both authors. I started writing my book in October 1976 and delivered the final portion of the manuscript to Dikty in February 1977. Dikty said he liked it, and sent me a galley of the first chapter to proofread, along with a xerox of artwork by Alex Nino that he said he’d use for the cover.

I proofed the galley and sent it back to Ted. Around this time, unfortunately for me, Ted decided to put my book on the back burner and first publish a big, expensive map of the Hyborian Age, along with his wife’s accompanying Gazetteer. I never heard from him again, and I presume the single galley chapter was the only one set in type. My book, like several other promised titles, never saw the light of day. (Not from FAX at least. One of the books that Dikty advertised as in the works, Glenn’s The Howard Collector anthology, later found a home at Ace.)

Looking around for something to submit to The Dark Man in the ’90s, I performed another salvage job and turned the unpublished section about the Little People stories into the article that Steve graciously mentioned. At that point, my product wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, since de Camp, in the meantime, had published his observations about Howard’s debt to The Star Rover in the background to the Allison stories, in the genesis of the Æsir and the Vanir, etc. But I’m glad that Steve seems to have liked it, and I was interested in how he picked up many, many other parallels that I hadn’t noticed.

I’ve seen a couple of new trade paperback editions of the London book in the past few years, including a moderately priced Modern Library version. I hope Steve’s article will prompt new fans to seek it out.

Steve adds: Drat. Had a survey of Howard’s weird fiction possessing the customary Blosserian seriousness of purpose appeared in 1977 or 1978, coinciding with Karl Edward Wagner’s game-changing forewords and afterwords to the Berkley Conans, that would have done a lot to improve the locust years that preceded The Dark Barbarian. I’ll have to file this one next to the history of heroic fantasy Leiber once intended to write on my Should-Have-Been Bookshelf.

Correction: Don Herron, far more knowledgeable about Fritz Leiber than are certain antipodean resurrection men I might mention, has informed me that Leiber hoped to tackle not just our favorite subgenre of fantasy but the whole genre, which leaves me yearning even more to read what was mostly never written.



The above photo is well-known to those of us who have read and reread Dark Valley Destiny. In that book, the caption states: “Robert E. Howard, Dr. Isaac M. Howard, Dr. and Mrs. Solomon R. Chambers, Galveston, Texas, probably 1918.” It’s a photo that has always intrigued me, mostly because of the amazing pose REH is caught in, gazing wistfully up at the sky as if daydreaming his first stories, so distracted by the tales floating around in his mind that he can’t bring himself back to reality long enough to pose properly for the photo being taken. Dr. Howard and the Chamberses do their part to make the photo interesting, too, with Isaac standing imperiously and confidently as the nexus of attention while the others almost recoil from the towering man dominating the center of the composition.

Over the years I have been in Howard fandom, I’ve often wondered what the provenance of this photo was. Dark Valley Destiny says:

Late in 1917, Dr. Howard delivered the Chamberses’ new baby, Norris, and thereafter Dr. Chambers became restless. As he had earlier discovered that the active practice of medicine kept him away from home more than he liked, so now he found his duties at the drugstore too confining. After the Armistice of November 11, 1918, he decided to move his family to Galveston, on the Gulf of Mexico, and take up truck farming.

Of course, Dark Valley Destiny also calls the newborn Norris “Robert’s schoolmate,” and then debunks one of REH’s childhood memories by saying that schoolmate Norris didn’t remember it, so Howard probably made it up. But as we just read in the DVD excerpt above: Norris was born in 1917, making him a full eleven years younger than Howard, and so couldn’t possibly have been his schoolmate. Call me wild and crazy, but it’s small wonder he didn’t remember anything about the incident Howard wrote of considering he might not have been born yet when it happened.

Until recent years Dark Valley Destiny was the first and only place this photo was published, albeit severely cropped compared to the raw version above. I suppose de Camp got this and most of his other photos from Glenn Lord, who had been patiently hunting down and securing copies of such photos for decades. The copy above is the one Glenn has in his files, with the names written across the top like that. Glenn in turn must have got a copy from Norris, or from one of the other Chamberses.

In June of 2005, Don Herron and I went to White Settlement, Texas and interviewed Norris Chambers at length (the results of which can now be read in TC V3n10, with a further tantalizing excerpt available in V3n6). During the course of that interview I learned that Norris’ sister’s name was Deoma, which immediately set off alarm bells in my mind, because the name written on the photo above also says “Deoma.” Norris’ Mother’s name was Martha. Hmmmm. (in case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of opportunities to say “hmmmm….” in REH scholarship).

When I got home from Texas, I looked up Deoma in the Social Security Death Index, and she is listed under Deoma E. Morgan (according to this genealogical listing on Norris’ website, Lilburn Morgan was her second husband, Lonnie Triplitt was her first). That record tells us that she was born in 1899 and died in 2000 (she was 101 years old!) That would make her around nineteen at the time of the above picture. Hmmmm — come to think of it, the lady (girl?) in that picture has always looked a little young to be the wife of the then fifty-year-old Solomon Chambers (1868-1950).

It appears, then, that de Camp assumed that Deoma Chambers was Mrs. Solomon (Martha) Chambers and wrote his caption accordingly. But now twenty-three years after the fact we finally know that the woman in the picture in not Solomon’s wife but his daughter, and hence Norris’ older sister. Those of you who already own TC V3n10 knew this already, of course — one of the perks of subscribing.

During my interview of Norris in 2005, I asked him whether he had the original of this photo, in the hope that it perhaps had some writing on the back that might pinpoint the date a bit better, or provide any additional information. He said that he didn’t have it and wasn’t sure who did, but he suspected that Deoma’s only daughter Marjorie Leeton — who is 84 years old and still living in Texas, might know where it went off to, along with several other photos Norris recalls were taken with the Howards on that Galveston trip.

Well, I contacted Marjorie, and sure enough she does have the original photo, although there are no others that she is aware of. According to her, the splotches you see on the print reproduced above are there on the original, too, perhaps caused by dripping photo developer or something at the time it was made. And most importantly, on the back of the photo itself is written the names of the subjects along with the following additional information: “Feb 1918 near Alta Loma, Texas.”


Alta Loma is a very small town in the Galveston area — you can read about its history here at the Handbook of Texas Online. Note that in recent years it’s been swallowed up and incorporated into the larger town of Santa Fe. Cimmerian readers have read all about how the Chamberses moved down there to farm and sell fruit door-to-door. Reading the Handbook of Texas entry brings home how difficult a life that must have been during those years.

So that confirms de Camp’s guess (probably a guess Norris gave him) of “probably 1918.” But it brings up another problem with the dating. If, as de Camp states, the Chamberses didn’t move down to Galveston until “after the Armistice of November 11, 1918,” then how could this photo have been taken the previous February, a full nine months before they moved? Doesn’t make sense. Perhaps they went down on a scouting trip of sorts with the Howards in February? Or perhaps de Camp’s information about them moving in November of 1918 was wrong, and they actually moved a year earlier? Norris sounded a bit vague on exactly when they moved down there, and he himself was far too young to have any memories of the years the family spent down south, so it’s possible he misremembered to de Camp. Someday I’d like to spend enough time at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, where the de Camp papers are kept, to get to the bottom of this and many other mysteries.

I’m having Norris make me a scan of the photo, both sides, so I’ll know more information directly, and will report any updates here. It will be interesting to see how much more detail is in the original photo, if any. I dearly wish the other three or four rumored photos had survived — who knows what they would have shown us? A group photo of the entire Howard trio at that age would be wonderful to see. Maybe they are still out there somewhere, waiting to be found. Stranger things have happened — Rusty Burke and Patrice Louinet found the photo of REH outside his house with Patch a mere few years ago, at the house of another old lady who knew the Howards in her youth. I’ve got to get Rusty to write up that interview and experience in The Cimmerian, it’s a doozy of a yarn.

Thank God for people like Norris Chambers and Marjorie Leeton, keepers in their own small way of the Howard flame, both via their memories and by way of a most miraculous photograph.


The World of the Lancer Conan Paperbacks


Guest blogger Morgan Holmes offers his own take on the pros and cons of the Lancer series….

MORGAN HOLMES: Leo’s post contrasting the Lancer and Del Rey editions was the latest in an ongoing debate of what is or was the best Robert E. Howard edition. I had been thinking for some time why the Lancer paperbacks had such an impact that later book editions never were able to duplicate.

There were advantages that Conan the Adventurer had in 1966. First was suppression of Sword-and-Sorcery fiction. It was something new to most people in 1966. Sword-and-Sorcery fiction was rare for fifteen years. In the early 1950s, you could still find Robert E. Howard influencing stories in pulps such as Poul Anderson’s “The Virgin of Valkarion” in Planet Stories. The pulps were meant to be cheap entertainment. In the early 1950s a copy of Planet Stories cost $.25, thus within the reach of a young reader. The last pulp science fiction magazines also died in 1955 when the distribution system collapsed. Science fiction was also king in the 1950s, driving fantasy and horror figuratively underground.

The Gnome Press editions of Robert E. Howard started in 1950, but Gnome was a small press. Most of its business was direct mail order or from specialty mail order book dealers. Plus the Gnome Press hardbacks were $3.00-$4.00. In today’s dollars, $3.00 would be $22.65. These books were aimed at older fans wanting the stories in book form. The small print runs would prevent creating many new ones. A teenager would have to save up in order to get a Gnome Press book in the 1950s, provided he knew of them or ever heard of Robert E. Howard.

The baby boom started in 1946 and ended in 1964. That means you had a growing population in their teens — the prime group for buying fantasy fiction. The mass-market paperback had stepped in as the replacement for the pulps as a source of inexpensive fantastic fiction. There was a massive rebirth of Edgar Rice Burroughs in paperback in 1963 when it was discovered copyright was not in effect for those stories. Ace Books published wonderfully packaged books with covers by Roy Krenkel and Frank Frazetta.

Just months before the release of the Lancer Conan was another important event that helped prime the pump. Ace Books discovered a copyright loophole and published The Lord of the Rings with Jack Gaughan covers. Ballantine Books published the authorized editions in 1966 with the psychedelic flamingo covers. Burroughs and Tolkien were major factors in preparing the scene for Howard. Plus you had two of the L. Sprague de Camp edited anthologies, Sword and Sorcery (1963) and The Spell of Seven (1965) that would have introduced some readers to Robert E. Howard for the first time. There were no trade paperback science fiction books, as trade paperbacks were mainly meant for the college market.

The Lancer paperbacks were for the most part sold in drugstores and some grocery stores. You did not have the bookstore chains like you do today. There were regional distributors who supplied paperbacks to the places that sold the books. A regional distributor knew that one place might sell more westerns and mysteries while another might move science fiction paperbacks. In some ways, the Lancer paperbacks may have been available in more places than the average paperback would today. Someone going to the drugstore to get the newest issue of Eerie or Creepy would have stumbled across the now iconic image of Conan as created by Frank Frazetta.

Then there is the question of cost. The first Lancer paperbacks were $.60, going to $.75 and then $.95 in 1968. Sixty cents in 1966 would convert to $3.81 today! That is incredible — science fiction and fantasy paperbacks are $7.99 today. That would convert to $1.25 in 1966. So the Lancer paperbacks were a great deal. More so, the minimum wage in 1966 was $1.25 an hour. That converts to $6.83 an hour today. Western writer and Robert E. Howard fan, James Reasoner, once told me that mass-market paperbacks should cost one hour at the minimum wage. Paperbacks are often an impulse item. The higher the cost, the more a potential buyer has to agonize if that book is worth it. In 1966-67, a teenager working a few hours a week could stop at the local drug store and pick up a Lancer paperback and still have money to pick up the latest 45 record like “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “Ruby Tuesday.”

There were some other factors — horror had made a comeback by the 60s after having a low profile in the 50s. Our theoretical teenage buyer could see the latest Hammer horror flick before picking up Conan the Adventurer. What impact did the Italian sword & sandal movies have, the ones starring Steve Reeves or Gordon Scott, and all those Hercules/Maciste/Samson/Goliath movies?

So, you have an intersection of demographics, cost, distribution, interest, and of course the Frazetta look that combined to create something that will probably never occur again. The nearest you could get today to recreating what the Lancer Conan paperbacks would be to have Leisure Books publish Robert E. Howard at $4.99 (price of their westerns) with distribution to truck stops and grocery stores. Plus you need an artist to create something totally new, and there is only one Frank Frazetta. Why are western paperbacks $4.99 but science fiction and fantasy paperbacks $7.99?

Lancer or Del Rey?


Gary Romeo, a longtime champion of L. Sprague de Camp and a frequent contributor to The Cimmerian, took a bit of umbrage at the last post’s dismissal of the de Camp/Carter pastiches. He sends in the following rebuttal:

Conan the Warrior is not really a good example of a de Camp/Carter pastiche, as it contains all Howard stories: “Red Nails,” “Jewels of Gwahlur,” and “Beyond the Black River.” No doubt old books that feature stories readily available in new volumes will lose value, but I doubt the Karl Edward Wagner edited Berkley Books (without the Ken Kelley foldouts) are doing much better on e-Bay. Although I do believe sellers than sell for 1 cent usually jack up mailing costs to still make a profit, so the sale of the book with mailing cost was probably $3-$4. Not so bad for a twenty-five-year-old, cheaply made paperback.

I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that since the de Camp/Carter books (Conan the Buccaneer, Conan of the Isles, etc.) are not available in new editions they might have held their value if not for the Law of Supply and Demand. It is well known that the de Camp-edited Lancer/Ace Conan series sold in the millions, but today there are far too few devotee Conan fans to make such an enormous supply of used books scarce. The Del Rey series appears to be doing well enough, but it is nowhere near the success of the de Camp edited series. By your reasoning the big question is not “who care[s] about getting the de Camp/Carter pastiches?” but “who cares about the new Del Reys?” What is it, maybe less than a 10th of the people who cared about the Lancer/Ace series?

For the record, in the last few weeks Conan the Buccaneer has also sold at auction for a mere 1 cent, and failed to sell when the minimum bid on another copy was 99 cents. Too rich for most speculators, apparently. A copy did sell for a BUY IT NOW price of $1.99, but the whole point of BUY IT NOW is to pay more than something’s worth in order to get it without the hassle of an auction. Conan of the Isles did a bit better, selling a single copy at $2.54 after two bids, while numerous other copies went unsold at any price. For some of those the minimum starting bid was ridiculous: $5, $7. Another copy priced at a minimum bid of 99 cents also failed to sell.

Meanwhile, what about the Berkleys? They typically sell from $1-$3 per paperback copy, while one set of three hardbacks went for over $20. At the paperback level, the price difference between them and the Lancer/Ace Conans is negligible. The Berkley’s have always suffered from the same problem that the Grants did, namely they weren’t complete. Now that a textually restored complete set is available, they too will go the way of the dodo and the Baens, with the Wagner intros perhaps being pulled and preserved in some critical anthology. So will the Grants, and so will the Gnomes (although the Gnomes will maintain collectability due to their being the first complete set of Conan, more or less, in hardback. But people won’t be seeking them out to read, but only to collect).

Unlike many of my Howardian compatriots, I do think Gary has a point about the old Lancers selling better back then. There was something magical going on there. Few would dare argue, for instance, that any Conan art done in the four decades since even comes close to approaching the genius at play in those Frazetta covers. If this new Del Rey set ever gets published in mass market with no modern illos but with the Frazetta paintings used as covers and interior plates, look out! — it would make a big difference, I think.

To give de Camp his due, I also remember the palpable excitement I felt when discovering the Ace Conans in the early 1980s as a ten-year-old. Specifically, I marveled at and reveled in the “saga” that had been assembled, the sense of history and continuity that echoed what I had earlier felt in The Lord of the Rings. At the time, I liked those textual bridges linking the stories together, I loved the map, and while I did notice a qualitative difference between the Howard tales and the filler, it didn’t bother my teenage sense of taste overmuch. As Gary so often points out, that entire vibe was created with great originality and skill by de Camp — it was his brainchild, and it worked.

Gary’s probably right: re-releasing the entire “saga” today with those Frazetta covers (perhaps with the non-Frazetta books merged into the others, or with the old Ken Kelly Berkley covers substituting for the terrible Duillo/Vallejo ones), and with new intros to give the whole works a “bringing back the classics” feel, would likely sell very well, much better than the Del Reys. That series achieved a power that was far greater than the sum of its parts, and while hardcore Howard fans generally can’t bring themselves to dive back into the Lancers and recapture that magical thrill, a new generation of Conan fans and nostalgic old-timers — the guys who adore the films and the comics, for instance, or modern RPG players — would eat it up.

So will it ever happen? I don’t think so, not from a major publisher anyway. Probably the best that can be done is to strike a deal to repackage the de Camp/Carter stories into a separate set of their own, but of course that won’t achieve the effect Gary is pining for. De Camp/Carter without Howard attached isn’t magical at all to the vast majority of fans.

My dream Conan set would be three big meaty hardcovers, text in a large readable font, each with a Frazetta painting on the cover and a second one on the back cover, a very large, redrawn, full-color fold-out map glued onto the boards with little lines and markers showing Conan’s travels, and the stories presented in the order of Conan’s life with no fragments or editorial distractions of any kind aside from a short, evocative introduction — written by ME, ha ha ha. I’ll probably make a single set like that for myself someday just to have around the house and on the shelf.

Berkley/Putnam Conans: Hardcovered, But Soft-Pedalled?

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What follows is excerpted from “A View From Corona #13,” a January 11, 2003 editorial by Jeremy Lassen. All of Lassen’s Views From Corona are worth reading, and he’s stockpiled good karma as the Night Shade Books editor who convinced Charles Saunders to write “Betrayal in Blood,” an all-new novella dealing with truculent sword-and-sorcery hero Imaro as a haramia (bandit) chieftain for whom nothing exceeds like excess until the armies of the feuding kingdoms he’s been raiding unite against him. “Betrayal in Blood” is now available as the concluding section of Imaro, the extensively revised version of Saunders’ 1981 novel published by Night Shade earlier this year.

(Continue reading this post)

1975 World Fantasy Con pics

Chet Williamson has posted a large set of pics from the 1975 World Fantasy Con, many of which will be of interest to Howard fans. Attendees included Glenn Lord, L. Sprague de Camp, Karl Edward Wagner, David Drake, Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, Donald Sidney-Fryer, Manly Wade Wellman, Frank Belknap Long, and many others. Check it out.

Dark Valley Dust Jacket

When I recently picked up the hardcover edition of Dark Valley Destiny by L. Sprague de Camp, Catharine Crook de Camp, and Jane Griffin (Bluejay Books, 1983) for the hundredth time, a quick perusal of the dust jacket copy suggested a number of thoughts.

The first was one I never heard anyone else mention before, namely that it’s risible that two thirds of the triad that penned the only biography to date on Robert E. Howard were women, and antipathetic women at that. While I of course have known this factually for many years, this observation had never struck me with such force before. Try as I might, I find it impossible to escape the conclusion that dissecting the life of Howard, one of the all-time classic men’s writers, requires a sympathetic and understanding male outlook and empathy far beyond what a pair of old ladies like Mrs. de Camp and Mrs. Griffin could ever hope to either possess or compensate for. The dust jacket copy of Dark Valley Destiny is also a microcosm of both the pleasures and the problems inherent in the book. It begins, as de Camp’s ruminations on Howard almost always did, with noting the suicide, stating:


On the morning of June 11, 1936, thirty-year old Robert E. Howard ascertained from his mother’s nurse that Mrs. Howard would not regain consciousness. He had spent the night before sorting through his papers; he had made funeral arrangements earlier in the week. Then he calmly walked out the door, got into his car, carefully rolled up the window, and shot himself in the head. Thus ended the life of one of America’s most significant writers.

Such a preternatural focus on the suicide to the exclusion of all else is a large part of what infuriates so many fans about de Camp’s book. But tellingly, the dust jacket then goes on to heap ample praise on Howard in unabashedly admiring terms. “The definitive biography of Robert E. Howard, who created the archetypical fantasy hero … the heroic sweep of his narratives, the vividness of his imagery, and his ability to convey mood, magic and mystery mark his writing as exceptional. Had he lived, he might have become one of the most celebrated of all American fantasy writers.” That he actually has become one of the most celebrated of fantasy writers shouldn’t cause us to judge this last statement too harshly; Howard fans have well-documented the penchant of critics to leave Howard out of books on the fantasy genre, despite his preeminent status. On those grounds, the statement that Howard “might have” become celebrated is valid.

The various analytical statements that follow the above praise, describing how the de Camps and Griffin have masterfully delineated “Howard’s problems,” should be weighed against the remark that “Dark Valley Destiny is a fascinating work of research, interpretation and writing that illuminates the personality of the man who, almost single­handedly, created the subgenre of American fiction now called `heroic fantasy.”‘ The italics in “interpretation” are mine, intended to highlight one of the stated techniques de Camp used to flesh out the shadowy areas in Howard’s life, one of the techniques that any biographer has to use when a vast swath of the subject’s life is mist. De Camp can surely be criticized for the logic and strength, or lack thereof, of these interpretations, but let us not damn him for the necessity of interpreting in and of itself.