A Silent Auction Treasure


Head on over to Rehupa.com to read Official Editor Bill “Indy” Cavalier’s thoughts on this year’s Howard Days. Lots of Howardian merrymaking and mayhem told in our Benevolent Dictator’s inimitable style.

At one point he mentions his donation to the Silent Auction, a “carved REH plaque.” Indy does all sorts of artistry, wood carving, and sign making at his day job, so a project like this is right up his alley. Back in 2005 he donated a similar plaque to the Silent Auction with (as I recall) only red and black colors in the mix. Carved from wood just like this one, hand-painted, suitable for hanging on your wall, with an accurate facsimile of Howard’s original signature at the bottom. At the time I thought the plaque way cool and unique, but ended up giving it up to another drooling fan.

When I saw this new and improved one on the auction table this year, I had to have it. I ended up bidding $100 to take it home, and I’m sure you can see from the photo above why I’m glad I did. I’m not much of a collector — my entire Howard collection takes up about three feet of bookshelf — but having this lovingly crafted item reminding me about one of my best friends in the field is worth a thousand Jenkins Gent from Bear Creeks.

At least until I break it over someone’s head during the next rowdy Howard get-together….

Cross Plains trip reports

Ed Blohm, Gary Romeo, and Dennis McHaney at REH Days 2007

As usual, I’m on the lookout for reminiscences, anecdotes, and photographs from all of you who attended Howard Days this year. With more things going on than any one person can cover, it really helps to get some different perspectives. Plus there are always choice one-liners and pithy observations that are remembered by some and forgotten by others.

Everyone who sends stuff in gets a free Limited Edition copy of the August issue (V4n4). So put all of those memories into an email and pop it over to Cimmerian Central. If you don’t, these two guys are going to come looking for you:

Scott Hall and Charles Gramlich at REH Days 2007

Some REH recommendations

At this year’s Howard Days I was struck by the quality of some of the publications debuting there, and thought I’d pass on my thoughts to the Howardian public.


Over the last year Damon Sasser, a good friend of The Cimmerian, has actively striven to improve his flagship publication REH: Two-Gun Raconteur in a variety of ways. From soliciting more thoughtful articles to starting a blog for Howard-related news, he’s taking the best that the 1970s fanzine heyday had to offer — lots of art, rare Howard originals — and fusing it with the more scholarly, serious tone of the modern era. I note that Damon has re-christened his magazine from “The Definitive Howard Fanzine” to “The Definitive Howard Journal.” A small change, but it hints at the subtle improvements quietly executed behind the scenes.

The result of all this tinkering is a blend and accessibility that no other Howard publication can match. For those who value rare Howard stories, poems, and fragments, the latest ish contains REH’s “A Touch of Color,” published previously only in the nearly impossible-to-find chapbook Pay Day. Canadian Charles Saunders, one of fantasy’s primordial black talents, brings his vast store of knowledge on African history to bear on Howard’s Hyborian Age. Danny Street tells you everything you’d want to know about Howard’s conception of the alluring, poisonous flower known as the Lotus. Morgan Holmes reviews a new Conan comic, and Cimmerian stalwarts Leon Nielsen and [redacted] fill out the issue with even more articles. The artists include recent Cimmerian Award winner and REHupa Official Editor Bill Cavalier.

Whether you are a comic-book loving, RPG-playing fan, or an academic intent on studying Howard as a classic American writer, there is something for you in REH: Two-Gun Raconteur #11.


There’s been a lot of bagging on the publications put out by the Robert E. Howard Foundation of late, but it looks as if things are turning around. This latest book, which was handed out to subscribers of the series at Howard Days, suffers from none of the deficiencies of A Rhyme of Salem Town and Other Poems. Well, I still blanch at the cover — comic book imagery, no matter how skilled, subliminally infantilizes the thoughts within, whereas a sepia-toned photograph would have lent an aura of Golden Age class and distinction to those same thoughts. But the book itself is meaty, well-formatted, and filled to the brim with previously unpublished REH.

If you are the proud owner of the two-volumes of Necronomicon Press’ Selected Letters of REH, you frankly will be astounded by all of the new material on display here. The claim made by Robert M. Price in the Introduction to Volume 2 of Necro’s Selected Letters — that, unlike Lovecraft, Howard fails to reveal his true personality in his correspondence — is destroyed once and for all in a flurry of new revelations and insights into the mind of the Father of Sword-and-Sorcery. And to think that this treasure chest of riches in only the first of three set to appear this year. It’s an achievement.

My guess is that by the time this project is finished, REH’s three volumes of correspondence will have opened up as many doors to further study as Lovecraft’s five-volume series did back in the day. The publication of such a project, and the intrinsic fascination of the letters within, is a massive confirmation of Howard’s value and interest as an author worthy of, and capable of absorbing and rewarding, serious study. This is the kind of thing that tends to shake loose all kinds of scholarship that would otherwise never have been written. It’s a galvanizing force in the field, and I predict that old and new Howard fans alike will find much within these books that will spur them on to new explorations of the Texan’s fiction.

The mental picture we have of Howard is about to become much richer and more complex, exactly as Lovecraft’s did when his own letters were published. Howard’s was a serious, thoughtful, brilliant mind, and learning about how his personal life and experiences crept into (and often overwhelmed) his fiction can only improve one’s evaluation of his artistry. The snide criticisms and flippant dismissals of yesteryear keep looking sillier and sillier in the face of such books.

2007 Cimmerian Awards Results Announced


Finally back home from Cross Plains, and sick as a dog from a throat/nose bug caught while suffering from the usual Howard Days dehydration and lack of sleep. But the Friday night Cimmerian Awards went off well, and now that they have been officially announced I have posted the winners here on our site. There is a lot of trivia and anecdotes to go along with this list, all of which will be explicated in the annual Awards issue available later this summer.

Here is the list of winners:

The AtlanteanOutstanding Achievement, Book By a Single Author
MARK FINN, for Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard

The Valusian Outstanding Achievement, Anthology
DENNIS McHANEY, for The Man from Cross Plains: A Centennial Celebration of Two-Gun Bob Howard

The Hyrkanian Outstanding Achievement, Essay
First Place: BILL CAVALIER, for “How Robert E. Howard Saved My Life” (from The Cimmerian V3n6)
Second Place: STEVE TOMPKINS, for “The Shortest Distance Between Two Towers” (from The Cimmerian V3n3)
Third Place: JOHN HAEFELE, for “Skull-Face and Others at Sixty” (from The Cimmerian V3n9)

The AquilonianOutstanding Achievement, Periodical
LEO GRIN, for The Cimmerian Volume 3

The StygianOutstanding Achievement, Website
MARK FINN, LEO GRIN, [redacted], STEVE TOMPKINS: The Cimmerian Blog

The Venarium Award Emerging Scholar

The Black River AwardSpecial Achievement
DON HERRON, for finding both the original Kline typescript to A Gent from Bear Creek and the collection of books owned by Dr. I. M. Howard.

The Black Circle AwardLifetime Achievement
RUSTY BURKE and DON HERRON (tie), dual inductees.

The Black Circle Award2008 nominee

As you can see, our bloggers here at TC Central are well represented: Steve Tompkins is now the only guy with two Best Essay awards to his credit, and fellow TC blogger [redacted] took home top honors for his biography even as it prepares to compete in both the Locus and World Fantasy balloting. The blog itself snagged Best REH Website of the Centennial year. I was heartened by the number of people who told me that they check this blog several times a day hoping for new content, and I’m going to attempt to ensure that postings here become steadily more frequent and substantive.

Remember, if you picked up your June issue of TC in Cross Plains, drop me a line so I don’t send you a duplicate copy in the coming days. For the rest of you, expect the June issue to hit your mailboxes within a week or so. No rest for the wicked — now it’s off to prepare the August issue, as well as the 2007 Awards, issue, the 2006 Index, and the 2006 slipcases (which as of now look like they will be in my hands in early July).

Thanks to everyone who helped make 2006 the amazing year that it was for Howard fandom.

Whole Lotta Waiting Going On

It’s a waiting game hereabouts. Waiting for the choicest anecdotes from the 2007 Howard Days (Were Leo ever to have a flashback to film school, the Sturm und Drang might surpass last year’s already-legendary Frank Coffman Nam flashback). G-8 summit in Rostock-wise, waiting to see if George W. Bush’s eyeballs will boil in their sockets if he tries to look into Vladimir Putin’s soul again. Waiting to learn if it’s all over for Tony Soprano — drop-kicked by his therapist, his underlings mostly dead or dying, and crouched in a safehouse with only an M-16 to comfort him — as of Sunday night. Here in NYC (against whose hundreds of soldiers Tony’s “glorified crew” in North Jersey stands little chance) we’re routinely assured that the Triads, the Vietnamese, the Albanians, and of course the Russian Mafia are much more dangerous than such Sicilians as have not yet been wiretapped and RICO-Acted into history’s landfill, and yet just this week a Gambino Family captain was hit as he sat in his car outside a Brooklyn social club (Ah yes, the social club — the Wild East’s equivalent of the Wild West’s saloon). Waiting for J. K. Rowling’s (slightly less sanguinary?) grand finale next month. And, most forlornly of all, waiting, thanks to a blog post by Howard Jones, for a samizdat copy of John Hocking’s never-published second Conan novel to find its way Tompkinsward…

One wait is thankfully over, that for REHupa’s June Mailing, #205. Given the consistently target-missing sniping about the “comic book art” of the Wandering Star/Del Rey books, I’m delighted to report that James Van Hise turns over his zine The Road to Velitrium to a sampling of Jim and Ruth Keegan’s ink wash interior illustrations for The Best of Robert E. Howard Volume One. The art hearkens back to the Twenties in general and Weimar Republic poster art in particular, from the interregnum before the cabarets closed and cinema became Goebbels-compliant. A Niord-versus-Satha showdown could be some lost poster for Fritz Lang’s Die Niebelungen: Siegfried, and Kormlada (of “The Grey God Passes” fame) is a bitch goddess who could blow Pola Negri and Theda Bara off the silent-but-silver screen. And I don’t see how Chris Gruber can fail to be pleased by the Keegans’ apotheosis-achieving Mike — this grinning canine could out-bulldog Drummond.

Gary Romeo risks being the pot in a proverbial said-the-pot-to-the-kettle combo by chiding Don Herron for being “a pretty negative guy in the main though,” but partially redeems himself by noting that “Big-nosed girls on covers” are not the optimum “new REH art for a new age” (That Salem Town debacle betokened neither rhyme nor reason, just rhinoplasty-in-waiting). Charles Gramlich is building a second home on Talera. “The Hyborian Age” is the square peg in the round hole of Dale Rippke’s Complete Timeline of Howard’s Fiction. Damon Sasser is purveying typewriter porn. On the evidence of her second zine, Amy Kerr seems unlikely ever to retell “Beyond the Black River” entirely in dog barks, as a notorious-if-not-much-missed female REHupan once did. Morgan Holmes confesses the classic rock past he flashes back to while watching Dazed and Confused. Patrick Burger removes Boston from the turntable and substitutes Shostakovich. Don Herron’s The Carter Collector is clearly what any serious Carterologist needs to acquire next after Tara of the Twilight and Robert M. Price’s Lin Carter: A Look Behind His Imaginary Worlds.

Scotty Henderson’s The Keltic Journal reprints a Castle of Frankenstein review of The Dark Man and Others by one Charles Collins, who way back when anticipated a belief that Jim Charles holds as firmly as he does his handguns: “People of the Dark is the only Conan story in the book, and a rather inferior one at that.” Larry Richter is still righting, or rewriting, the wrongs of de Camp and Carter’s “Black Tears,” and we can but wish him well and hope that he overcomes an apparent compulsion to misspell “Zuagir.” Fresh from reducing the Lion’s Den to an elementary school playground in the April TC, Dennis McHaney slags Larry’s cover for the “Isle of the Eons” TDM and opens our eyes to the fact that the journal in question is “a thing that keeps rearing its ugly head and doesn’t know when to give up and die.”

Me, I think The Dark Man‘s recent covers are breaths of fresh air in what had been a mephitic tomb of overused REH photos, but chalk up yet another one for the miracle of human diversity. An emergency TDM Review Board meeting has been called — members are already sliding down the firehouse-style pole from the Board’s living quarters into the blastproof conference bunker — to determine if there’s any point to continuing without a McHaneyian blessing. Should we pack it in? Or maybe, just maybe, this most incisive of critics will be mollified if we use a cartoon wherein Conan treats Lin Carter’s grave to a golden shower as the next TDM cover.

Lastly, Tim Arney wishes the filmmakers who botched Pathfinder would go sit on a horned helmet, but an actress named Moon Bloodgood, who plays the movie’s proto-Pocahontas, just might have him forgetting all about Bill Cavalier’s missus.

Out the Door


…to the airport, Austin bound, where I will meet up with Cimmerian contributor Brian Leno and have a nice dinner at Rudy’s BBQ before making the trek northward to Cross Plains. Two of your other Cimmerian bloggers will be there, too, leaving Steve Tompkins here at Cimmerian central to blog by his lonesome.

Stay tuned to this site for some news and pics of the event, especially the results of the 2007 Cimmerian Awards, which will be announced live this Friday evening. Some great races this year, with a wide selection of winners both repeat and new. It’s always cool to see how the vote shakes out, and what is deemed Best of the Year by the most knowledgeable group of Howard fans in existence.

If someone has an internet connection and a laptop, perhaps I’ll be able to arrange for some live blogging during the event. If not, you’ll here more when I get back next week. Until then, in the words of Indy Cavalier: May Crom ignore you.

Howard Days News


Alright, so I finally sat down and worked up a “Howard Days 2007 Information Page,” and popped it up over at rehupa.com. For those of you who have never been to REH Days before, there is a lot of useful tips and suggestions to be found throughout the document. For the rest of you, skimming the old sections and concentrating on the new is your best bet. Here are some highlights to be aware of.

First, notice that the schedule is a bit looser this year, with a few less panels and more free time factored in. This is to give us a bit of a break from the somewhat hectic schedules of years prior, giving us time during the day to take a day trip or two and see a bit more of Cross Plains and its environs than we normally do. You may want to drive down to Brownwood to see the Howard collection at Howard Payne University, then cruise on to Bangs and Clear Creek cemetery to visit Novalyne’s grave, then to Greenleaf cemetery to spend the time to see not only REH’s final resting place, but those of his friend Tevis Clyde Smith (in the back of the cemetery), or of Noah Byers and other historical personages. Or you could drive to Cross Cut and see where Howard lived in his youth. Or you could walk from the Howard house down the road to Turkey Creek, site of a few Howard anecdotes. Or perhaps you’ll just want to take an afternoon nap in your motel room, or chill out at the Dairy Queen, or fan yourself under the pavilion or in the dining room of the Howard Museum. Any way you spend it, I think having a bit more free time is a good thing. Most of us lament that we don’t have enough time to talk to everyone we want to at REH Days, so this should help in that respect as well.

Second, I have provided some more details about the Thursday trip to Fort McKavett and Enchanted Rock State Park. It was a fun trip the first time I took it in 2005, and I think everyone who goes this year will have a blast. If you’ve been going to Howard Days every year and feel a bit of “same old, same old” creeping in, this excursion should shake things up and provide a welcome change.

The panels this year are all focused far more on Howard’s work and characters than his biography, so general fans will have a lot more to sink their teeth into. From what I’ve heard so far from the panelists, they should be a lot of fun and very informative.

Of course, the Cimmerian Awards will be presented on Friday night, and with the huge influx of Centennial product last year, the races were the most thrilling and competitive ones yet.

And remember, Project Pride needs as many Silent Auction items as they can get. If you are a collector, why not send them some of your duplicates? If you’re an artist, how about sending some nice drawings for them to auction to fans? If you are a Howard publisher, perhaps a signed galley of one of your books could be mailed to them. Even items only tangentially related to REH are fair game. Lovecraft books, Leiber books, Wagner, Saunders, CAS, etc. are all welcome. In past years some people have made Howard woodcuts, Howard jean jackets, Hyborian maps, and many other one-of-a-kind collectibles for the auction. Use your imagination, and do your part towards keeping the Howard Museum in good repair and Howard Days a thriving concern. Send your auction items to:

Project Pride
P.O. Box 534
Cross Plains, TX 76443
ATTN: REH Days Silent Auction

If you are keen to share a rental car or hotel room with someone to defray some of the expense of the trip, post your request on one of the Howard forums listed on the sidebar of this website. Howard Days can be a pretty cheap trip when you utilize some forethought.

So if you can get down to Texas the second weekend of June, you’re in for a very nice time. The Centennial is past, but Howard Days continues as strong as ever. See you in a few weeks.

Howard Days schedule coming together


I’ll be posting a more official and thorough schedule at REHupa.com soon, but here’s the basics to whet your appetite and start your planning.


GUEST OF HONOR: Greg Manchess

Thursday, June 7 (pre-festival tour)
Join Leo Grin on a special caravan trip to some of Howard’s favorite haunts — Fort McKavett, Enchanted Rock State Park, Fredericksburg and all the beautiful Texas countryside that inspired the fictional land of Cimmeria. Leaves Jean’s Feed Barn after breakfast and returns to Brownwood for a late dinner.

Friday, June 8
9:00 – 4:00: Howard House Museum open for tours. Closed for lunch.
9:00 – 4:00: Postal Cancellation at downtown Post Office
10:00 – 500: Public Library downtown open. Original manuscripts available for viewing, copies for sale
10:30 – 12:00 Walking and bus tours, free time
12:00 Lunch in the pavilion – provided by Project Pride
2:00 Panel: “Black Rivers and Red Nails: The Art of Greg Manchess,” hosted by Craig Miller
3:00 Panel: “Shadow Kingdoms: Exploring Kull’s Thurian Age,” hosted by Larry “Deuce” Richardson
4:00 – 6:30 Dealer’s Room open for browsing adjacent to dinner site
Silent Auction available for browsing and bidding at dinner
6:30 Celebration dinner – fresh cooked, piping hot, mouth watering catfish and all the trimmings
Silent Auction ends right after dinner
9:00 The Cimmerian Awards, hosted by Leo Grin at Pavilion

Saturday, June 9
9:00 – 4:00 Howard House Museum open for tours (closed for lunch)
Annual Barbarian Festival downtown – a small town specialty: parade, car show, tractor show, live music, crafts, lots of food vendors
12:30 Kane film presented by Derek Stallings
1:00 Panel: “Desert Adventurers: El Borak, Kirby O’Donnell and other Gunslingers of the Wild East,” hosted by Dave Hardy
2:00 Panel: “Ringside Tales: The Amazing Stories Behind Howard’s Favorite Boxers,” hosted by Chris Gruber
3:00 – 5:00 Free Time
5:00 – 8:00 “Sunset BBQ at Caddo Peak,” hosted by the Middleton Family, owners of the beautiful ranch

I’m actually pretty excited about this year: the day trip will be a blast (Don Herron and I already did that one a few years ago as a test run), the catfish dinner will be a nice change from the usual banquet fare, and the more fannish panels from a roster of mostly “new guys” sound like a lot of fun.

Try the Oak

By now most of you know that the Motel 36 in Cross Plains is full. If you didn’t snag one of the rooms there and you still need to find a good place to stay for REH Days, give The Oak Motel in Cisco a try. Cisco is north of Cross Plains, and The Oak is right off of Interstate 20, the highway that leads west from Dallas, so it’s convenient.

I’ve stayed at The Oak several times and have always enjoyed it. It’s probably a bit better kept than the Motel 36, and I really like the fact that it’s out in the open air with a decent breeze always wafting through the courtyard, meaning you can sit out there all night and never worry about mosquitoes, which can sometimes be a problem outside the Motel 36 and the Howard House. It takes about twenty minutes to drive from Cisco to Cross Plains, which isn’t bad at all — Brownwood to Cross Plains takes a bit longer. And the Cisco motel prices are significantly cheaper than Brownwood.

There’s also a Best Western in Cisco that’s pretty good, so use that as a fallback option. Here are the numbers:

The Oak Motel (Cisco): (254)442-2100

Best Western (Cisco): (254)442-3735

If you can’t get a room in Cisco, then Brownwood’s probably your next best bet. The bad news is that Brownwood is more expensive by $20-$60 a night, depending on where you stay. The good news is that Brownwood is a pretty big town, so you have much better hotels, complete with swimming pools and other amenities. You also have a wide selection of restaurants and stores, compared to the small selection in Cross Plains and Cisco. Finally, Brownwood has Greenleaf Cemetery (where REH is buried) and nearby is Clear Creek Cemetery (where Novalyne is buried). Brownwood also is in Brown County, not Callahan County (which is dry), so you have beer and liquor stores.

The sooner you book a room, the better, as they tend to fill up quick after the first of the year. As for the dates, the rule to remember is that Howard Days always falls on the second weekend in June. This year, that will be June 8-9, 2007. We’re also making plans to assemble a caravan on Thursday June 7 and drive down to Fort McKavett and Enchanted Rock State Park, both fun Howard-related places which a lot of attendees have never seen before. So if that sounds interesting, you’ll want to book your hotel for Wednesday and Thursday nights, too. (The caravan will leave Cross Plains early Thursday morning, around 8 a.m. or so).

The GoH Who Got Away, a.k.a. Another Redbeard for the Black Circle

Greg Manchess, who came across so personably as both a panelist and an informal conversationalist during the recent World Fantasy Convention in Austin, will do his part and then some to ensure the success of the 2007 Howard Days as Guest of Honor. And yet his selection, through no fault of his, makes me want to recite Ossianic verses or intravenously inject peat whiskey or do something else expressive of Gaelic melancholia. Can’t help recalling the testimonials in Exorcisms and Ecstasies and reflecting what a Guest of Honor to End All Guests of Honor Karl Edward Wagner would have made, especially in advance of his Long Goodbye phase. Gary Romeo might have felt duty-bound to boycott the festivities and establish a rival or schismatic Howard Days, the equivalent of an Avignon papacy, outside a certain former residence in Plano, but most celebrants would have come away with anecdotes to be prized like amulets.

KEW is in no position to serve as Guest of Honor, unless we figure out how to work the Orastes/Valerius/Tarascus/Amalric trick. But with all due respect for the carnosaur-sized footprints the two current frontrunners have left all over Howard studies, he does belong on the Black Circle ballot as much as anyone save Novalyne Price Ellis herself (Leo asked for suggestions, and I can’t believe I spaced; guess I’m an imperfect Wagnerite). I went on and on in the Lion’s Den this past year about Wagner’s credentials as an REH editor and exponent, and will refrain from flogging that dead destrier here. Perhaps the thing to do is to add his name next year; for de Camp to beat KEW into the Black Circle would be a justice-miscarriage of Shub-Niggurathian proportions.

Sorry, Karl. Won’t happen again.

LEO ADDS: I put him on the list. No big deal, anyone who has voted and wants to change their vote before March 1 is welcome to. There’s probably a lot of others we could add to that list, but I figure we might as well wait until someone raises a stink about them.