New REH Letter Found in Glenn Lord Effects

Dime Sports

[by Rob Roehm. Originally published April 15, 2012 at rehtwogunraconteur.com]

During my Spring Break this year [2012], Lou Ann Lord sent Paradox Entertainment [now Cabinet Entertainmentseven large boxes of paperwork from the Glenn Lord files. Paradox is located in Beverly Hills—or “Down Below” as we call everything south of here; “here” being the High Desert of Southern California. With such a large cache of material so close, I used up three of my seven days going back and forth to help sort the stash. Two of the boxes were full of assorted papers with no rhyme or reason as to organization: newspaper clippings, photocopies of magazine pages, Glenn’s retypes of REH typescripts, notes on foreign REH editions, copies of Glenn’s various efforts for a variety of amateur press associations, etc. A big mess. The other boxes were comparatively neat and organized and consisted primarily of correspondence. This was separated into file-folders, each labeled with either someone’s name—“Price, E. Hoffmann”—or the dates the letters were received—“1979 / January—June.”

Paradox was, of course, most interested in the contracts; I had a different focus: here was the history of everything, letters from the agents, Kittie West and Oscar J. Friend, and Harold Preece and Tevis Clyde Smith and . . . So after Nikko, Paradox’s intern, had gone through a box and made notes on its contents, I went through it and pulled various items for scanning or photographing. I’d originally planned on just scanning everything, but it quickly became obvious that I just didn’t have enough time to do that. I did, however, look at every single piece of paper in all seven boxes. I quickly skimmed each sheet and made my determination: copy or don’t copy. So the Foundation will have Roehm’s version of what was most important in the boxes. I’m sure others wouldn’t agree with everything I selected, and some will whine at what I left out, but the good news is that it will all be available at a Texas University at some point down the road, at least that’s the plan.

Anyway, I’d work at Paradox for four or five hours, then collect the items I thought most important and take them home to scan (their scanner isn’t very good). I’d spend the rest of the day scanning what I had, plus most of the next day, and then return to do it all over again the following day. I found out early that I wasn’t going to be able to scan everything while making the detailed notes about what each scan actually was—I just didn’t have enough time—so now I’m sitting here with a pile of images that need to be dated and sorted. I have no idea how long that’s going to take.

I also discovered that I sometimes lack focus. Several times, something from the stacks would send me off looking for more information. Case in point: a Glenn-typed document beginning “Name: Robert Ervin Howard” and ending “Dime Sports Magazine / June 1936.” The document appeared to be a transcription of an unknown “about the author” letter that Howard had sent to that pulp around the time that “Iron-Jaw” was published (April 1936). Why had we never heard of this? Maybe, I thought, someone had sent it to Glenn and he discovered it was a fake; or maybe he could never verify it was the real deal; or maybe it was just lost in the stacks.

No one I know has that particular issue, so I started making phone calls and sending emails to various places with pulp collections. This took time away from scanning, but I really wanted to know about this letter. Two days later, one of my contacts came through and we now have a new, verified Howard letter for the correspondence collection.

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And that’s just one of the items that we’ve found in Glenn’s collection. Members of the REH Foundation can look forward to lots of previously unknown material in upcoming Newsletters.

“We Spent the Winter in San Antonio.”

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[by Rob Roehm. Originally published Sept. 7, 2013, at rehtwogunraconteur.com; this version updated and lightly edited.]

One of the reasons I was so gung-ho about going to WorldCon this year was because it was in San Antonio. Readers of this blog may have noticed that I’m a tad obsessed with visiting county courthouses in Texas, and, up to this point, I hadn’t been to the Bexar County facility. There are reasons for this: I have generally found that the larger the courthouse, the less helpful they are; also, my usual traveling companion (my dad) disdains to drive in populated areas. But, since the Howards had lived briefly in San Antonio and visited on occasion, a stop at the courthouse was required. So, since I’d be traveling solo this time, I figured I’d brave the traffic and see what treasures I could uncover.

I’d originally planned on swinging by the courthouse in the morning, before my first WorldCon panel on Friday; however, I lost half an hour due to construction and the abysmal parking situation downtown, so I abandoned that plan and went to the convention center. During a lull between panels, I decided to take a walk. I asked my fellow Howard-heads if anyone else was interested; only equally-obsessed Patrice Louinet took the bait [that’s him in the photo above].

We walked the five or six blocks to the courthouse, emptied our pockets and walked through the metal detector, only to be told by the guard that everything we were looking for was at the annex across the street. We refilled our pockets and hit the county clerk’s office in the other building.

One good thing about the larger counties is that their land records have been scanned and indexed. A quick name search on the computer will generate a list of all the pertinent documents. I searched for Howards and McClungs while Patrice looked for Ervins. None of the Howards that popped up appeared to be connected to our Howards, but there was one item on W. O. McClung, Bob Howard’s uncle (Dr. Howard’s brother-in-law). The document raises more questions than it answers. Some kind of judgment was rendered against McClung and a few others, but the type of judgment is not mentioned and the clerk couldn’t find any other documents to help us make sense of this one. And it’s always possible that this McClung isn’t our McClung, though they were definitely in the area around that time. Maybe someone will look into it later.

After finishing up with the county clerk, we went down the hall to the district clerk, which is where medical/physicians registries are typically housed. There were at least two reasons for looking into this. In a November 7, 1936 letter to a sister-in-law, Dr. Howard says the following: “I well remember when Robert was only four years old we spent the winter in San Antonio and the spring months in Atascosa County, some thirty miles south of San Antonio.” In Dark Valley Destiny, L. Sprague de Camp reports this:

[O]n January 8, 1910, Dr. Howard presented his credentials at the county seat of Bexar County, giving his home address as Poteet, a few miles from the border. Years later Howard reported that he lived for a time on a ranch in Atascosa County, Texas, near San Antonio. These bare facts are the only records we have of the family’s South Texas adventures.

I already have a copy of the registration mentioned above, but it’s a crappy scan of a photocopy, and I always like to have color photographs of the real thing. Plus, there’s a problem with de Camp’s statement: The January 8, 1910 document was filed by the district clerk of Atascosa County, not Bexar County. Of course, when I went to the county seat of Atascosa County last winter, they couldn’t find a Medical Registry, so maybe, I figured, the book was housed in the larger county’s archives. Anyway, I wanted to have a look at the Medical Register for Bexar County.

With one exception, Clay County, the district clerks’ offices never know that they should have such a volume; Bexar County was no exception. Luckily, the director of archives happened to be in the building and he called over to his office. Someone there located the volume I wanted; unfortunately, the archives collection was clear across town. As Patrice and I walked back to the convention center, in the blazing, humid heat, I tried to decide if I really needed a color photograph of a document I already had a copy of. Obsession won.

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Leaving a trail of sweat behind, we arrived at the Bexar County Archives and Training Center—they were expecting us. We drank gallons of water and wiped the sweat off of our bald heads with paper towels while waiting for the book to arrive. The book (above) has seen better days, but its index is still intact, so I turned to the section marked “H,” found Dr. Howard, and went to page 260. I didn’t remember the short list of Dr. Howard’s other registrations at the bottom of the page, but I was so convinced that I already had a copy of this document that I didn’t pay much attention to that. After taking a few photos, we settled back and waited for a taxi—if we’d tried to hike back in the sweltering heat, there’d be nothing left of us but a sweaty smear on the sidewalk.

In the cab, I inspected the digital images a little more thoroughly in my camera’s display window and started to think that maybe this wasn’t the same document that I already had, but we arrived back at the convention center and I put that thought on the back-burner and enjoyed the rest of WorldCon.

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Once I got home, I pulled the image up on my computer and had a better look. Different document. The registration de Camp mentioned was indeed filed on January 8, 1910—but in Atascosa County, not Bexar—and Dr. Howard’s address is listed as Poteet. This document was filed on November 20, 1909, in Bexar County, and Dr. Howard’s address (after crossing out what would have been Holly Springs, in Arkansas) is listed as San Antonio! Plus, at the end of the page is a list of other counties in which Dr. Howard had registered: Palo Pinto (Oran), Gaines (Seminole), and Coke (Bronte). Some of the information here flies in the face of what has been presented in the past. For example, according to notes by de Camp’s partner in DVD, Jane Griffith, Dr. Howard registered at Seminole on the day that the Bexar Co. document has him registering in Coke County—I’ll take a document over someone’s notes any day of the week.

Using this document, and a couple of newspaper articles I found just before going to San Antonio, I’ve put together a more precise timeline for December 1907 to January 1910. To wit:

On December 20, 1907, I. M. Howard of Oran, Palo Pinto County, had his medical certificate recorded with the county. Shortly after doing that, he packed up his wife and almost two-year-old son and headed west. The January 3, 1908 edition of The Enterprise (edited by Hester Howard’s brother, William Vinson Ervin, in Big Spring, Texas), has this:

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“Monday” would have been Dec. 30, 1907, and don’t go scrambling for a map to look up “Cran” like I did; there is a Crane, Texas, very close to Big Spring, but as soon as I showed this to Patrice he said it is “of course Oran.” Duh.

The January 24 Enterprise has an update:

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The new San Antonio registration has Dr. Howard registering in Gaines Co. on February 3, and we know from a death record that he was there until at least July 24. The same document has him registering over in Coke County on September 14, 1908, and he starts recording births in Bronte at least as early as January 19, 1909. The last birth record I’ve found there with Dr. Howard attending was recorded on August 24, 1909.

I’ve theorized that after leaving Bronte the Howards visited the McClungs in Crystal City and went down the Nueces in the fall of 1909 (look here). Whether they did that then or not, we now know that they were in San Antonio sometime before November 20, 1909. Less than two months later, Dr. Howard registered in Atascosa County, with an address in Poteet. From there, things get pretty sketchy again.

I never did get a picture of the Atascosa County registration.

The Kline Connection

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[by Rob Roehm. Originally published May 1, 2011, at rehtwogunraconteur.com; this version lightly edited.]

Born in Chicago on July 1, 1891, and author of at least thirteen novels (most appearing as serials in the pulps), not to mention all the short stories, articles, letters, and even poems, Otis Adelbert Kline is perhaps best-known to readers of the Two-Gun blog as the author of The Swordsmen of Mars, and as the one-time agent for Robert E. Howard. In the 1920s, Kline hobnobbed with Farnsworth Wright and E. Hoffmann Price at his Chicago home. A successful pulp writer himself, Kline started agenting for others in 1932 or 1933. At the suggestion of Price, himself a client of Kline’s, Robert E. Howard joined the stable of authors that Kline served.

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The earliest Kline-Howard connection that I’m aware of is Kline’s May 11, 1933 letter to Howard. In that missive, Kline mentions having at least four Howard stories already on hand: “The Yellow Cobra,” “The Turkish Menace,” “The Jade Monkey,” and “Cultured Cauliflowers.” Not only did Kline attempt to place Howard’s fiction in different markets, he offered tips and strategies to more effectively produce those stories.

According to the Kline Agency ledger, “Wild Water” was received on June 15, 1933. The very next day Kline returned it, saying that while it was loaded with “excellent local color, powerful characterizations and fast action,” he was afraid he couldn’t sell it “because the plot is not powerful enough to support a story of this length.” While I don’t agree with Kline’s assessment, he apparently knew what he was talking about at the time. Howard rewrote the story and sent it back that October. It was shopped around by V. I. Cooper, who sent it to Fiction House, Wild West Stories, and others, to no effect. The story remained unpublished long after Howard’s death.

And so it went; Kline continued to place, or not place, Howard’s work. In 1935, business must have been going well, as Kline enlisted the aid of Otto O. Binder. Binder went to New York late in 1935 to be closer to the publishing scene than Kline’s Chicago offices allowed. And he had some success, placing several of Howard’s “Spicy” stories with Trojan Publications, as well as other items, like “Black Wind Blowing” and “The Curly Wolf of Saw-Tooth.” After a rough start in New York, when things started picking up, Binder wrote the following to his brother Earl on June 7, 1936:

The business is beginning to pick up a bit at that, though. I wish all our authors were like Robert E. Howard. Since I’ve been here, I’ve sold $700 worth of his stuff, getting him into Argosy, and into Star Western, and Complete Stories S&S. He’s thirty years old and has sold 22 different magazines and over 125 stories altogether. I’ve seen his picture—he’s a rough and ready Texan and claims he wears no underwear because there’s no sense to it!

Howard’s suicide a few days later certainly negated that “wish.” Binder sent a postcard to Richard Frank, a friend in Pennsylvania, mentioning the suicide. Rich responded in a July 9, 1936 letter:

Give me more dope on the suicide of ROBERT E. HOWARD. Funny thing about my hearing of the tragedy. Your card arrived telling me of the suicide and while I was waiting at the post office I saw a magazine thrust into my box. I pulled it out and it was the July issue of WEIRD TALES with Howard’s latest story, “Red Nails,” featured on the cover. It gave me a peculiar feeling to hear of an author’s death and then, in the same mail, receive his latest tale.

And while there would be no new Howard items to show, Kline Associates got first crack at the fabled trunk, and Kline continued to represent Howard through his father, Doctor I. M. Howard. During this time, A Gent from Bear Creek was published, and the foundations for Skull-Face and Others were laid. This stormy relationship would last until the doctor’s death in November 1944, but that was not the end of Otis Kline Associates’ relationship with the works of Robert E. Howard.

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In his will, Doctor Howard left “all property, both real and personal” to his friend Doctor P. M. Kuykendall. This included the literary rights to Robert’s work. And, while the actual items—typescripts, clippings, letters, etc.—were shipped off to E. Hoffmann Price in California, Dr. Kuykendall received royalty checks from Kline. Business was slow.

Kline died in October 1946, but his agenting business lived on. His daughter, Ora Rossini (later Rozar), took over the practice for a year and a half, but when her husband was transferred to Texas, of all places, she “turned over everything to Oscar Friend, including material published and unpublished, records, files, etc.” Oscar Jerome Friend was a veteran writer himself, as well as editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories from 1941 to 1944. Upon purchasing Kline’s business, he set out to fatten it by contacting various authors, including Binder and British science fiction writer Eric Frank Russell, and asking them to let him represent them. The Howard items were probably not very high on his priority list. Things change.

In 1950, a small specialty publisher purchased the rights for Howard’s The Hour of the Dragon—Gnome Press. Conan the Conqueror, as the novel was re-titled, was the first in a series of books covering the Cimmerian’s exploits. From all accounts the series wasn’t exactly lucrative, but it did show some possibilities. Enter L. Sprague de Camp.

According to de Camp’s introduction to Gnome’s King Conan (1953), he had been acquainted with Oscar Friend and, when he learned from Donald Wollheim that Friend had “a whole pile of unpublished Howard manuscripts,” he rushed right over. This was November 30, 1951. Upon his arrival, he met Harold Preece, and then Friend “hauled out the carton of manuscripts—about twenty pounds of them.” Among the stash, three Conan tales were discovered, and “it was agreed that [de Camp] should rewrite these stories—not, however, to turn them into typical de Camp pieces, but to create as nearly as possible what Howard would have produced if in his later years he had undertaken to rewrite them himself with all the care he could manage.”

Meanwhile, Doctor Kuykendall had decided that he’d had enough of the literature business and made Friend an offer: “We would consider a sale price of three thousand dollars for all rights, and a complete release of any claim to future royalties that might accrue.” Friend responded on March 14, 1954, saying that the property wasn’t really worth that much, and offered $1,250, instead. The reasons for this reduction in price seem quite reasonable, for the time. There was, after all, no guarantee that the Conan name would take off.

Friend described his efforts to continue the Conan series, and the amount of work that would entail:

Now let us consider the future prospect of a continuation. In the first place, I have to guide, cajole, help plot, supervise, etc., the future books, and keep a firm rein and control—or the project would go completely haywire and finally bog down in complete ruin. There is one rather smart writer now who has been doing some work for us in rewriting several Howard stories, and he keeps pressing for a larger cut and keeps slipping in side remarks to the effect that if he wants to he can and will go ahead on his own and write about Conan as the author is dead, etc., etc. And I’ve warned him that I’ll sue the pants off him if he makes one silly move of this nature before the CONAN material runs out of copyright (56 years).

We all know how that worked out.

Sometime later, Kline’s daughter recalled that “Oscar moved to another place and I suspect disposed of practically all OAK material, records, and files.” This may be when the Howard items listed on the Kline lists disappeared. Items like “The Phantom Tarantula” and “Footprints of Fear,” which are listed on the list, but no copies have ever turned up.

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Friend enlisted the aid of his wife, Irene M. Ozment, as vice president, and his daughter, Kitty F. West, as early as 1955, with West acting as secretary for Kline Associates and sending letters to the above-mentioned Eric Frank Russell. Around this time, also, a young Howard fan named Glenn Lord secured the rights to Howard’s poems and published Always Comes Evening (1957) with Arkham House. Friend’s health began to fail in the early 1960s, and he died on January 19, 1963. His wife and daughter continued the agency through 1964. In the interim, Dr. Kuykendall had also died, leaving the rights to Robert Howard’s works to his wife and daughter. With the Kline agency closing up shop, the heirs were in need of a new agent.

In Costigan #7 (REHupa mailing #9, May 1974), Glenn Lord explains what happened next: “The Howard heirs asked Mrs. West to find another agent to handle the Howard material, and L. Sprague de Camp was asked, but turned it down due to his own writing. De Camp suggested that I might be a good possibility.”

The Kuykendalls apparently agreed and, in the winter 1965 issue of The Howard Collector, Lord made the announcement: “Otis Kline Associates, the agent for the Howard Estate, went out of business at the end of 1964. I have accepted the handling of the Howard material for the Estate.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

[Note: Most of the information used to write the above came from the forthcoming collection from the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press, The Collected Letters of Doctor Isaac M. Howard. Ora Rozar’s information is from OAK Leaves #2, Winter 1970-71, edited by David Anthony Kraft. The letters to and from Otto Binder are unpublished; copies were provided by the Cushing Memorial Library at Texas A&M. Binder’s list of sales appeared in OAK Leaves #5, Fall 1971. Letters from Kline Associates to Erick Frank Russell are unpublished; they are housed at the University of Liverpool Special Collections and Archives.]

The House that Leo Built

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[by Rob Roehm. Originally published May 30, 2010, at rehtwogunraconteur.com.]

The Cimmerian Blog Calls It Quits

Over at the TC blog Deuce Richardson has announced that they are closing up shop. Love it or hate it, the passing of the Cimmerian blog marks the end of an era.

Anyone doing the history of Robert E. Howard fandom in the new millennium will have to start with Leo Grin. The first few years of the 2000s saw the expansion of Wandering Star’s publishing program into the Del Rey trade paperbacks and the birth of Wildside Press’ Robert E. Howard series, but on the fandom frontline these years were pretty much business as usual. Other than the triumphant return of Damon Sasser’s REH: Two-Gun Raconteur in 2003 (its previous issue had been published in 1977), REH fans had the same things to look forward to as usual: maybe an issue of The Dark Man would come out, maybe Dennis McHaney would do something, maybe Joe Marek would do another Howard Reader, maybe . . .

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Leo Grin changed all of that with The Cimmerian Volume 1, Number 1, dated April 2004. Scholarly, but without being scholarly, TC quickly became THE journal of Howard Studies. Informative, entertaining, timely: no other Howard publication could come close. And no longer would Howard fans have to wait, sometimes years, for a publication devoted to their favorite Texan, now they would receive a bi-monthly dose. And Leo remained true to that schedule for the life of the magazine, except in 2006 when he actually increased its frequency to monthly. True, sometimes issues were delayed, but never for long, and certainly not for years.

As if editing and publishing a serious, bi-monthly journal wasn’t enough, in 2005 Leo introduced The Cimmerian Awards. The awards honored the best and brightest in Howard scholarship from the preceding year. Presented at Howard Days that June, the awards were a big success. He also started The Cimmerian Library that year. This series of chapbooks featured items that didn’t quite fit in the regular publication. And Mr. Grin wasn’t finished yet.

After having my first article published in The Cimmerian (“Howard’s Ruin,” February 2005), Leo and I became fast friends; I was still new to fandom and Leo was kind enough to show me the ropes. It was during one of our initial email exchanges that I first heard of The Cimmerian blog, August 1, 2005, almost a year before it actually appeared. Leo had been telling me about his plan to get Howard the recognition he deserves and, completely off the cuff, mentioned that “one of my projects is going to be to revamp The Cimmerian’s website, put up a blog,” etc. At the time, I barely knew what a blog was and pretty much forgot about it.

By March of 2006 the blog was in its embryonic stage, with Leo using it to test posts and host information about old REHupa mailings that he was selling on eBay. Not many paid much attention to it though, especially considering that the print Cimmerian had gone monthly for the Howard Centennial. So, besides the monthly production, the annual TC Awards, a series of chapbooks, and a HUGE project he’d undertaken for the 200th mailing of the Robert E. Howard Amateur Press Association (ask a REHupa member for details), Leo still had one more trick up his sleeve.

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Above: Mark Finn, Leo Grin, Steve Tompkins and Rob Roehm at the 2006 World Fantasy Convention.*

One week after Howard Days 2006, Leo sent the “keys” to his blog to Steve Tompkins, Mark Finn, and me, with the following instructions:

You are free to start whenever you want. No rules or regulations, just go for it. Any news items that crop up on the lists should be posted, as well as any new Howard projects or gossip. You can comment on your new REHupa, can muse a bit about some story or letter you’ve read recently, can review new books and products from others. Any other fantasy, Texan, or other related writers can be discussed, keeping in mind that Howard should at least ostensibly remain the focus of the blog.

The blog “went live” and on June 17, 2006, Leo posted the official announcement: “In an effort to improve the experience of Cimmerian readers and to further Howard studies on the Net in general, I am making some changes at the website for The Cimmerian that I hope will make a difference. [. . .]”

Then the instruction began. Only Leo knew the magical language of the blog. He patiently explained all of the ins and outs of posting to Mark, Steve and me: how to upload pictures, remove code from our text, and so on. And then we were off and running. For two and a half years the four of us posted on all manner of esoteric Howard nuggets. Good times.

When the print version of The Cimmerian ceased production at the end of 2008, the blog, also, was scheduled to end. But Steve Tompkins, by far the most active blogger of the bunch, petitioned Leo to leave the blog to him, and a new era of the TC blog began. With the exception of Tompkins, the original bloggers retired—even host Grin drastically reduced his frequency of posts when he turned the management over to Tompkins—and were replaced by an ever growing cast of bloggers: Steve Trout, Deuce Richardson, Brian Murphy, Al Harron, Barbara Barrett, Jeffrey Shanks, and several others.

With Steve’s unexpected and untimely death in 2009, Deuce Richardson took over the maintenance of the blog. And, while the Howard content has become more and more secondary, there was always something new to read at TC, and, if Al Harron’s information is accurate, its readership has been on the rise. That all ends on June 11.

The passing of the TC blog will erase the last public outcropping of Leo Grin’s involvement with Howard studies, but his and its impact will remain. No Howard fanzine produced today can ignore TC’s five year run; because of Leo, Howard fans expect a little more for their hard-earned cash than the pre-TC publications provided. And both this blog and the REHupa blog [now also defunct] are direct results of the TC blog, with Grin himself helping to update them and bring them to the modern generation.

Hopefully, the end of the TC blog will reinforce Howard’s presence on the internet, with the current host of TC bloggers being absorbed elsewhere, starting their own websites, or continuing the conversation in other forums. As Leo frequently told me: One can always hope.

*Thanks to Mark Finn for having the wherewithal to get a picture of the four bloggers while we were all in Austin—the first and only time we all met together.

Good Ol’ Boys

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[by Rob Roehm. Originally posted September 9, 2007 at thecimmerian.com.]

The fans who participated in the bus tour at Howard Days 2007 received a special treat. Not only did they get to hear some great stories by the tour guide, long-time Cross Plains resident Don Clark, they also heard some great color-commentary by Alton McCowen (above at right) and Norris Chambers (at left), a man who actually knew the Howards. Those of us who were seated near the front of the bus even got to eavesdrop while these three chatted between tour stops. The trio seemed to know everything about the local area and quickly assimilated each other’s knowledge. One would say, “Did you know so-and-so?” and all the relevant details would follow from one of the others. “Didn’t so-and-so live there?” and so on.

As we passed the little-used dirt roads in the Cross Cut vicinity, Mr. Chambers said, “Boy, I went down that lane a lot.” And another conversation ensued. I tried my best to stay out of their chat, but couldn’t resist a few questions. Alton McCowen told me that he knew someone who had helped build the road from Cross Plains to Brownwood, and that he’d been paid .56 cents an hour for his work. Mr. Chambers piped in, “They built this big road after the war. It wasn’t paved then, and was awful muddy.”

At the bridge into Burkett, the bus stopped. Under the bridge is the Pecan Bayou—covered with shrubs and trees, all green from the heavy spring rains. Don Clark told us all that there used to be carnivals and dances in the Bayou. “After the fair stopped coming,” he said, “there was a lot of ‘parkin’ and sparkin’’ down there.”

At one of the stops—a no-foolin’ Texas ranch, complete with Longhorns—I cornered Misters Chambers and McCowen for a longer conversation, while the rest of the crowd went to get a close-up look at the steers. Mr. Chambers told me that Doc Howard wasn’t the best driver around: “Once we were driving to Brownwood and he’s got the car stuck in 2nd gear. I told him, ‘You might want to put it in high.’” He also told me about taking Robert’s Chevy “down to get the bullet hole fixed” after the suicide, and that Doc Howard used that car for a good while after.

Mr. McCowen answered my questions about Cross Plains, telling me where the movie theater was located (“Next to the tax office by the library”) and that there was no radio station in town; the closest was in Brownwood.

While not the best of drivers, Mr. Chambers had no doubts about Doc Howard’s medical skills. He told me about a minor car accident that he was involved in, saying that one of the girls passed out. He took her straight to Doc Howard to get “patched up.”

About this time, Mr. Chambers’ wife ambled up and listened as her husband said, “When we were first married, we lived with my folks in Cross Cut. Doc Howard would come by sometimes.”

This brought a chuckle from his wife who said that Doc Howard was always hungry. When he came calling, “We had to start the fire in the old stove and cook things—from scratch!” When she didn’t feel like cooking, she told me, she’d just whip up some scrambled eggs.

We started to discuss Dark Valley Destiny as the rest of the crowd returned. Mr. Chambers remembered talking with de Camp and that “He said he would give us a copy, but he never did. We had to buy one.” And then the tour was back on the road and I had to content myself with eavesdropping once again.

Honoring The Howard Collector

 

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[by Rob Roehm. Originally posted February 27, 2007 at thecimmerian.com; this version lightly edited.]

Robert E. Howard died in June of 1936, but his work lived on. He may have lived long enough to see “Black Canaan” in the June issue of Weird Tales replaced by “Red Nails” in the July issue if, as in current practice, magazines appeared a month in advance of their cover date. The fact that Howard was dead and gone in no way slowed his publication; he had stories in Argosy, Action Stories, Weird Tales, and others throughout the rest of 1936. Action Stories’ January ’37 issue contained a Howard yarn; Golden Fleece published “Black Vulmea’s Vengeance” in their November ’38 issue and “Gates of Empire” in the January ’39 number; Weird Tales continued a fairly steady stream of Howard’s poetry and prose until August of 1939. And then things went quiet—for a while.

The very early 1940s saw little Robert E. Howard. Fight Stories continued the practice they’d begun in 1937 of reprinting Howard’s stories once or twice a year using the “Mark Adam” byline; their last reprint appeared in the Fall 1942 issue. Spicy Adventure Stories reprinted three of Howard’s yarns, also in 1942, but again, his name was absent. From late ’39 all the way through 1943, none of Howard’s fantasy or horror tales appeared in any mainstream publication; it seemed that Robert E. Howard had finally gone west. But then “Texas John Alden” appeared in Masked Rider Magazine for May of ’44, and August Derleth included “The Black Stone” in the anthology Sleep No More. In 1945, Crawford Publications brought out their eponymous The Garden of Fear booklet. Things were looking up.

In 1946, Arkham House got the ball rolling. Skull-Face and Others, despite reportedly sluggish sales, got Howard back on the radar. Throughout the late ’40s and into the early ’50s, Howard’s work appeared in the top fantasy magazines of the day: Avon Fantasy Reader, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Fantasy Fiction Magazine. The early ’50s saw several of Howard’s westerns also reprinted. Meanwhile, the folks over at Gnome Press were busy making sure that Howard’s most famous creation wouldn’t be trapped in the pages of crumbling pulp magazines; Conan the Conqueror, the first of seven Conan volumes, appeared in 1950, with new volumes appearing fairly often until 1957. That same year Glenn Lord made his first big splash in Howard publishing by issuing Always Comes Evening, the first major collection of Howard’s verse. But then things slowed down again.

The late ’50s saw very little Howard publishing. The well-known fan endeavor, Amra, began, but had next to nothing to do with any of Howard’s works besides Conan. Donald Wollheim included “The Cairn on the Headland” in his The Macabre Reader. And then—nothing.

Fortunately, Glenn Lord was far from finished.

Glenn

After compiling Always Comes Evening, Lord began his search for other obscure Howard items. In a recent letter, Mr. Lord told me, “I began buying large runs of Action Stories and Fight Stories as I knew they ran a lot of Howard’s work. Fortunately, at the time, pulps were cheap — I paid $1 each for them from Midtown Magazine Service in New York City.” He also got in touch with Lenore Preece, who sent him copies of The Junto and Howard’s letters to her brother, Harold. George Haas provided copies of letters to Clark Ashton Smith. And, through a series of contacts beginning with E. Hoffmann Price, Lord was able to track down the legendary “Trunk” of Howard’s unsold manuscripts and other assorted items.

The items slowly trickled in and Lord began work on a preliminary bibliography. As that work progressed, he told me, “I began thinking of putting this data and material in a fanzine. I named it The Howard Collector after Ray Zorn’s The Lovecraft Collector.” And thus, in the summer of 1961, smack dab in the middle of a severe Howard drought, appeared The Howard Collector #1. In his “Editorial Notes” for that issue, Lord states that THC “is dedicated to the memory of Robert E. Howard and will contain material by and about him. Frequency of publication, or continuation, will depend upon reader response.” No worries there.

That first issue provided a model that has been followed by nearly every Howard fan publication since: a little biography, “Facts of Biography” and “Letter: Dr. I. M. Howard to Frank Torbett”; a little commentary, E.H. Price’s “Robert Ervin Howard”; a little bibliography, “Verse Index”; some Howard fiction and verse, “Midnight,” “With a Set of Rattlesnake Rattles,” “The Sands of Time,” and “Sonora to Del Rio.” And Lord was just getting started. He published a total of 18 issues of THC, from that groundbreaking first issue in the summer of 1961 to the final edition, a 52-page extravaganza, in the autumn of 1973.

Anyone who has ventured into the publishing arena has some stories to tell; it’s not as easy as some might think. Lord started having problems fairly early on: “Alvin Fick printed the first issue; he did nice printing but could not continue to print for me,” said Lord. And he needed a printer; of the 150 copies of THC #1 that were prepared, most had sold. When THC #2 appeared, in the spring of ’62, Lord’s “Editorial Notes” stated, “Response to the first issue of The Howard Collector has been favorable. A few copies still remain for those interested.” Luckily, Donald Grant stepped in, but he would not be the last printer, as Lord reveals:

Donald Grant printed several issues, until he finally got so busy that he could no longer do so. With THC #9, I found out that 150 copies were no longer enough, so I reprinted that one and upped the print run to 300 copies. After Grant quit printing THC, I managed to borrow an IBM Executive typewriter, with a Bold Face No. 2 typeface — the same one used by Grant at the time — from a secretary at my workplace, and typed out the next two or three issues, sending the prepared Text to a print shop in Missouri that I was told about. And then I managed to purchase a reconditioned IBM typewriter, same typeface, of my own and I used that for the remainder of the issues.

While advanced in its day, the IBM typewriter was worlds away from modern desktop publishing:

The IBM Executive spaced the letters so that you could justify the right margins. You had to do a first typing, then add or delete spaces in the second typing, so that it all came out at the right evenly. And certain letters took up more space — an “i” for instance was one space, an “a” was two, a “w” was three, if I recall correctly.

Despite the printing problems, Lord managed to present to salivating Howard-heads everywhere some truly unique and original material, coupled with extremely rare (at the time) items that had appeared in publications as diverse as they were limited: The Tattler, The Poet’s Scroll, The Yellow Jacket, and so on. In 1979 Lord collected the best of the material from his Journal and sent it off to Ace Publications, where it saw print in the volume aptly entitled The Howard Collector. This is still the best place to find the nuggets of Howardia that were published within those fragile pages. Other publishers have reprinted many of the items included in the journal, but some still remain locked in its pages, especially the non-Howard items, like a letter from Chandler Whipple to Glenn Lord, reviews by Fritz Leiber and Fred Blosser, poetry by Tevis Clyde Smith, Manly Wellman, de Camp, and others, articles by E.H. Price, Lin Carter, and so on.

With Amra doing its thing in the Conan world, The Howard Collector was an important voice for Robert E. Howard during this time—Amra even helped, as Lord recalls: “I got notices in Amra and ran ads in Bibby’s Fantasy Collector, possibly one or two others, for subscribers but quite a few probably found out by word of mouth from other subscribers.”

And what a list of subscribers it was. The first fans were lucky enough to be in contact with people who had actually known Howard, as well as some of the pioneers in the field. Lord remembers a few of those important readers: “Larry McMurtry subscribed, at the time he was running a used book store in Houston. The Preeces were also subscribers—Louise Preece, Lenore Preece, Harold Preece, Kathering (Preece) Luparello. Clyde Smith bought five copies of each issue.”

During his time publishing THC, Lord acquired “The Trunk” and became agent for Howard’s literary rights. Business was soon booming, fed in part by the growing popularity of the Lancer Conan volumes, which began their historic rise in 1966. As Lord reports in the final THC, “This will be the final issue of this magazine. This is its twelfth year of publication and while I dislike having to terminate it, there are a number of factors that dictate that policy, not the least of which is lack of time.” Lord explained further in a recent letter: “I cut it off when my agenting business got so busy that I had little free time—I was still working at my regular job also.”

So, at the dawn of the Howard Boom, The Howard Collector closed up shop. But it had done its job; it had kept the name of Robert E. Howard alive and well when Conan had threatened to eclipse him. For a complete listing of all items that appeared within the pages of that first Howard ‘zine, have a look here. I’ll let Glenn Lord sign off: “And I guess that is all for THC. It did run to more issues than I anticipated, after all.”

2018 09-24 THC1