Dedicated readers of this blog will recall a post from Steve Tompkins, who last July took umbrage at the ravings of a guy on one of the REH e-mail lists, who had opined that Howard’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Novalyne Price was responsible for his suicide, and furthermore claimed that author Joe Lansdale had said much the same thing in his introduction to Wildside’s Weird Works of REH #3 (the intro in question is available for reading online here). At the time, Steve judged the claim preposterous — and guessed that Lansdale likely had said nothing of the sort in his intro.
Well, Joe himself happened onto The Cimmerian‘s blog archives recently and read the post in question. Needless to say, he agrees with Steve. Here are Joe’s own thoughts on the matter:
Read a piece on the site where it was suggested that I (“the western writer” which is probably no more accurate than horror writer or crime writer, and I’m better known for the latter two) said that Howard killed himself over Novalyne Price. No I didn’t. I did suggest that the loss of her — and his mother, among other things — were the final straw. But the straw was bent at birth, and to blame anyone for his choices is ridiculous.
I think Howard, had he lived in modern times, might have avoided an early death by the use of something along the lines of Zoloft. But it didn’t exist then and no one really understood that kind of depression. It took certain events to send him over the lip, but they could have been any events, and my guess is it worsened as he grew older. Suicide seems to have been a part of his thinking for a long time. But Novalyne sure didn’t have anything to do with it. She didn’t owe him her life to make his life a happy one, which, in the end, it couldn’t have.
Just wanted to get clear where I stood on this matter. You have to read the whole thing, not just take a line from it you like. I never bought that he killed himself over his mother, or for that matter Novalyne, just that all these factors back-to-back led him to do what he was wanting to do for sometime; it was more than he could handle, but he was the one who used the gun.
I never said what “simperingflophouse” said I said, at least it’s more as if he took the line, which I did say, out of context with my intent. That may have been my fault, but it wasn’t the thesis I was after. I’ve always disliked the idea Howard did it because of his mother or his girlfriend, but think that they were the final straws that broke his depressed back that day. It could have been most anything, really.