Number One, March 2002, produced exclusively for

The Robert E. Howard Electronic Amateur Press Association

by Dennis McHaney.

Copyright 2002 by Dennis McHaney / [email protected]


[page 1] This first issue of Robert E. Howard And Weird Tales is an overview and introduction to Howard’s best work and the fantastic magazine in which those yarns first appeared. If you are a long time fan of Robert E. Howard you will probably find nothing new here. If you are a newcomer to Howard’s fantastic worlds, this should be a fair introduction to the man and the magazine during Weird Tales’ finest years, which also featured most of the greatest names in fantastic literature at that time. H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Seabury Quinn, Jack Williamson, Otis Adelbert Kline and many other great talents were all contemporaries of Howard. H.P. Lovecraft seemed to spend more time writing Howard than he did working on new stories! In this “electronic” journal, I will be covering Howard’s entire career with Weird Tales. This first installment will serve as an introduction. The next will begin the first of three installments covering the years in which Conan was rampaging his way into the hearts of the world for the first time. Dennis McHaney.

[page 2, Cover: "The Fire of Asshurbanipal for WEIRD TALES, December, 1936]

[page 3] Weird Tales is one of the most important pulp magazines ever published. It is important for a number of reasons, but the main interest here is that WT is where Robert E. Howard single-handedly created the genre which would come to be known first as "Sword and Sorcery" and later re-defined as "Heroic Fantasy". Many writers have tried to imitate Howard, most failing miserably.

If you like your Conan in his best published form, Weird Tales is still the place to look at this time. The Weird Tales versions have not been censored, rewritten, or burdened with an abundance of typographical errors, as they have been in almost every reprint of the stories.

Weird Tales was not the first pulp devoted to the weird story. There was The Thrill Book, published several years before Weird Tales and Ghost Stories hit the stands.

Weird Tales first appeared in March of 1923 under the editorial control of Edward Baird, whose choices for stories in those early issues were less than spectacular. After a little more than a year of somewhat uninspired issues, Farnsworth Wright took over as editor, and the magazine blossomed into the brilliant and legendary magazine title so revered to this day. Wright's unique approach and enthusiasm for the weird fiction genre gave the magazine the magic touch it needed.

Wright quickly built a stable of exceptional writers, which included Clark Ashton Smith, H. P. Lovecraft, and Robert E. Howard. Seabury Quinn was consistently the favorite writer among readers of that time, but his work has not continued to be heralded with the same reverence as the work of the BIG 3 listed above.

Wright also "discovered" several famous writers and published their first works. That list of noteworthy names is headed by Tennessee Williams and Robert Bloch. Howard submitted several tales to Wright before he chose "Spear and Fang", which became Howard's first professionally published story. After a couple of initial sales to the magazine, however, nearly everything he subjected to Weird Tales was rejected. After his second published story, "In The Forest of Villefere" (a short but entertaining Werewolf yarn), in August of 1925, Howard wouldn't appear in the pages of the magazine for seven months. In 1926 and 1927 Wright rejected more stories by Howard than he printed. During that time, Howard's depression over his lack of success drove him to frequently speak of leaving "the writing game". A few years later, when Wright asked Howard to tell him something about himself, Howard wrote of his relationship [page 4] with the editor:

"...You gave me my start in the racket by buying my first story..." " ... Pounding out a living at the writing game is no snap - but the average man's life is no snap, whatever he does. I'm merely one of a huge army, all of whom are bucking the line one way or another for meat for their bellies - which is the main basic principle and reason and eventual goal of Life. Every now and then one of us finds the going too hard and blows his brains out, but it's all in the game, I reckon.

And after all, even the bitterness of existence has certain compensations, slight though they may be. To be brought up in the lap of luxury, to live a life of idle pleasure - never to know the bite of cold, the sting of heat, the pangs of hunger, and the agony of unceasing toil, the black bitterness of failure, the sordities of poverty, the blood, the grime, and the sweat - to live such a life is to miss the full grip of human realities. The best way a man can live is by hard slugging, and the best way he can die is with his boots on..."

Fortunately he didn't quit "the writing game" - he improved and sold more yarns.

Two years later, Howard went into that period a bit deeper, in a letter to H. P. Lovecraft:

"...Thanks very much for the kind things you said about "Wolfshead" and other early attempts. I was eigtheen when I wrote "Spear and Fang," "The Lost Race," "The Hyena"; nineteen when I wrote "In the Forest of Villefere" and "Wolfshead." And after that it was two solid years before I sold another line of fiction. I don't like to think about those two years. I wrote my first story when I was fifteen, and sent it - to Adventure, I believe. Three years later I managed to break into Weird Tales. Three years of writing without selling a blasted line. (I never have been able to sell to Adventure; guess my first attempt cooked me with them forever!) I haven't been any kind of success, financially, though I have managed to get by. I could have studied law, or gone into some [page 5, Cover for WEIRD TALES, August 1928, "Red Shadows"]

[page 6] other occupation, but none offered me the freedom writing did - and my passion for freedom is almost an obsession. I honestly have paid the price of freedom by living with Spartan simplicity, and doing without things I really wanted. Of course, I've always hoped to someday make more than a bare living out of the game, and I was beginning to do that, when the markets started cracking up.

Writing has always been a means to an end I hoped to achieve - freedom. Personal liberty may be a phantom, but I hardly think anybody would deny that there is more freedom in writing than there is in slaving in an iron foundry, or working - as I have worked - from twelve to fourteen hours seven days out of the week behind a soda fountain. I have worked as much as eighteen hours a day at my typewriter, but it was work of my own choosing, and I could quit any time I wanted to without getting fired from the job. Yes, writing has been more of a means to an end than it may be with some, but it is not to be thought that I have any contempt for it.Is it likely that I would despise a profession to which I have devoted the best years of my youth, and which I expect to follow the rest of my life?..."

Weird Tales had an excellent letters section in each issue. It was called The Eyrie, and the magazine's fans were not shy about giving their opinions. The writers who contributed to WEIRD TALES were also regular contributors to The Eyrie. This highly entertaining feature was one of many elements that gave the magazine a unique personality.

In August, 1928, readers met Solomon Kane, and Howard's first great hero got him on the cover of Weird Tales for the first time, with “Red Shadows”. The cover was by C. C. Senf. Seven of the Solomon Kane stories would appear in Weird Tales over the next four years. Although the story was only voted third most popular in the issue, Solomon Kane would eventually become one of the magazines most popular series characters. Weird Tales readers talked about Kane for years after his final appearance in the magazine. With the publications of these Kane stories, Howard was rapidly becoming one of the magazine's favorite writers, and soon only three or four issues a year would lack a poem or story by Howard. Kane was not, however, an instant favorite with readers. In a popularity pole in The Eyrie, “Red Shadows” came in a disappointing third place. In August of 1929, Howard introduced readers to Kull of Valusia, who would become another readers' favorite in the magazine. In fact, Kull got off to a much better start than Solomon Kane. That first Kull story, [page 7] “The Shadow Kingdom”, was the readers' favorite that issue.

Farnsworth Wright would later say of that issue: "It is the consensus of our readers that the August issue of Weird Tales was a little bit better than any previous issue of the magazine. The Shadow Kingdom, by Robert E. Howard, evoked enthusiasm that in some cases bordered on delirium;" (from The Eyrie, October, 1929)

When the magazine began serializing Howard's “Skull- Face” in October, 1929, readers thought it was so much in the same vein as Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu some of them were convinced the story was actually written by Rohmer. It was the most popular item in that issue. The second part of the tale was beaten out for most popular story by a Seabury Quinn story. That issue, however, The Eyrie featured a rare note from Robert E. Howard.

Howard wrote: "I have just been reading the September WEIRD TALES, which blossomed out on the newsstands today. I was especially taken with A Jest and a Vengeance by E. Hoffman Price. I've never been east of New Orleans, but as far as I'm concerned Price has captured the true spirit of the East in his tales, just as Kipling did. His stories breathe the Orient. In this latest tale I note, as in all his others, that patterned background of beauty for which he is noted. The action is perfectly attuned to the thought of the tale and that thought goes deep. More, through the weaving runs a minor note of diabolical humor, tantalizing and enthralling."

When the third and final installment of “Skull-Face” appeared in December, it was the readers' favorite. “The Fearsome Touch of Death” was Howard's contribution to the February, 1930 issue. This is the only Robert E. Howard story from Weird Tales which has never been reprinted in book form. Besides “The Fearsome Touch of Death”, readers had to be happy with only a few poems by Howard during the first half of that year.

The second half of 1930 was much better for Howard and for his fans, who were treated to a two-part serial featuring Solomon Kane. “The Moon of Skulls” was serialized in two parts in the June and July issue, and “The Hills of the Dead”, another Kane tale, followed in the August issue.

Readers also got their first look at a new character, Bran Mak Morn, in the story “Kings Of The Night”, featured in the November 1930 issue. Bran was not as successful as Solomon Kane or Kull, but the readers warmed to Howard's pictish hero.

The next two years saw a period of growth in Howard's talent that was very apparent in the quality of the stories Weird Tales published. Kull and Kane took a back seat while Howard delved into a number of unrelated weird stories which are considered among his finest. The stories “The Dark Man”, “The Thing On The Roof”, “The Horror From The Mound”, and “The Black Stone” were all published during this time. They are some of Howard's most reprinted stories.

From late '31 until early '34, Howard made frequent [page 8, Cover: December 1931 WEIRD TALES, "The Dark Man"]

[page 9] appearances in a new companion magazine to Weird Tales, Oriental Stories, which was also edited by Farnsworth Wright. The name was later changed to The Magic Carpet, and did not survive the depression, folding in early 1934.

In March of 1932, Howard again appeared in The Eyrie, expressing his high opinion of the magazine. He wrote: "Congratulations on the appearance and excellence of the current WEIRD TALES. The makeup and all the illustrations are unusually good, and the contents are of remarkable uniform merit. That is what struck me - the high standards of all the stories in the issue. If I were to express a preference for any one of the tales, I believe I should name Derleth's Those Who Seek - though the stories by Smith, Long, Hurst and Jacobi could scarcely be excelled. In the latter's tale especially there are glimpses that show finely handled imagination almost in perfection - just enough revealed, just enough concealed. Smith's sweep of imagination and fantasy is enthralling, but what captivates me most is the subtle, satiric humor that threads its delicate way through so much of his work - a sly humor that equals the more subtle touches of Rabelais and Petronius. Yes, I consider the current magazine uniformly fine, of an excellence surprizing considering the fact that neither Lovecraft, Quinn, Hamilton, Whitehead, Kline nor Price was represented."

At the end of 1932, readers were treated to a story that would introduce Howard's most famous character, Conan of Cimmeria. The first Conan story, which appeared in the December 1932 issue, “The Phoenix on the Sword” was actually a re-written Kull story that Wright had rejected the year before. It was the most popular story that issue. Two and a half years later, Wright editorialized about the Cimmerian: "Conan stalked fullgrown out of oblivion into Robert E. Howard's consciousness several years ago and so inspired with his own ardor that he (Howard) was set to work, willynilly, recording the sagas of Conan's adventures. Conan, that mighty man, is now known and admired [page 10] throughout the world. ..."

In April of 1933, Clark Ashton Smith one of the magazine's most popular authors wrote: "Howard's The Scarlet Citadel, in the current WT(Jan., 1933), gave me a grand thrill. It seems to me that Howard is improving, that his tales are becoming weirder and more imaginative. The only drawback, from my viewpoint, is the excessive manslaughter: some time, I wish he would write a tale in which the hero isn't always mowing people down in windrows with a double fisted sword. Apart from that element, The Scarlet Citadel is absolutely first-rate; and probably most readers will like it all the better for the superheroism." Many readers did not agree with Smith's opinion on the "excessive manslaughter", and Conan continued to hack and hew with increasing fervor.

In the June 1933 issue, Conan appeared for the fourth time, in “Black Colossus”. Margaret Brundage's cover is the first time a Conan yarn got the cover, but Conan is not depicted.

In the August 1933 issue of The Eyrie, Farnsworth Wright discussed this cover: "The cover designs by M. Brundage seem to have caught the fancy of our readers. Enthusiastic letters from all parts of the United States have been received praising this artist's covers since we first began to use them a year ago; but even so, we were unprepared for the flood of approval that greeted the cover of the June issue, illustrating Robert E. Howard's fascinating story, Black Colossus. This artists work is done with pastel crayons, and the originals are so delicate that we are afraid even to sneeze when we have a cover design in our possession, for fear the picture will disappear in a cloud of dust; and we are always glad when it is safely in the hands of the engravers. Perishable as the originals are, they lend themselves well to reproduction by the engravers and printers; and you, the readers, have shown that you have liked them."

Some of “The Eyrie's” contributors did not agree with the "soft" approach Brundage took to illustrating Howard's stories. It is unfortunate that Virgil Finlay did not start working for the magazine until the year Howard died. In all, Howard stories made the cover a total of 13 times, 9 of them being by Brundage. Artists doing interior illustrations for Howard stories include Hugh Rankin, Vincent Napoli, Virgil Finlay, J. Allen St. John, Harold Delay, and C. C. Senf. Delay and Finlay did some of the best [page 11] illustrations in the magazines history, and Finlay and St. John are responsible for some of the magazines finest covers. Brundage did some wonderful, stylish work for the magazine, but was not particularly the right choice for a Howard cover.

In September of 1933, the fifth Conan story, “The Slithering Shadow”, appeared. To date, it is the only Conan story which appeared in Weird Tales which has never been reprinted in this “un-edited” form. The story was the second Conan tale to get the cover, again by Brundage. “The Slithering Shadow” was the most popular story in the issue, but it is not one of Howard's best. Howard's sixth published Conan story, “The Pool of The Black One” appeared in the October 1933 issue. In The Eyrie, a tirade against Howard is preceded from a note from home. "Robert E. Howard gets better and better," writes H. J. Ervine, of Coleman, Texas. "Let's have a story by him in every issue of WEIRD TALES." This was written by Howard's mother, who frequently wrote notes to the Eyrie, signing them with her maiden name to fool the editor.

This was followed by a letter from a Sylvia Bennett, of Detroit, who wrote to The Eyrie: "Will Robert E. Howard ever cease writing his infernal stories of 'red battles' and 'fierce warfare'? I am becoming weary of his continuous butchery and slaughter . After I finish reading one of his gory stories I feel as if I am soaked with blood. The first few of these kind of tales were mighty fine and truly exciting, well written and slightly weird. But apparently the 'hits' they proved to be gave Mr. Howard the mistaken idea that readers would be weirdly thrilled month after month by his excessive slaughter. This last Howard concoction, Black Colossus, I dozed all through while reading it, and when I finished, it was with a feeling of 'at last the damned thing ends.' Now if Mr. Howard would write more stories like his Red Shadows, Skulls in the Stars, Skull-Face, The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune, and Wings in the Night, he would restore his old-time prestige which he has lost by turning out such bunk as Black Colossus and The Tower of the Elephant. Solomon Kane, next to Jules De Grandin, is my favorite character in Weird Tales. If Mr. Howard could incorporate Solomon Kane into his stories, instead of using this lousy, heroic Conan stuff, he would again find himself perched near the top of WEIRD TALES' outstanding authors instead of slipping away into oblivion as he is surely doing by turning out his present type of work. So all I dislike about WEIRD TALES is Howard's Conan, and Hamilton's interstellar Patrol." That opinion was not shared by most Weird Tales readers, who voted that issue's "The Pool of the Black One" the most popular story.

However, in the April, 1934 issue, which contained Conan's seventh appearance in the magazine, “Shadows in the Moonlight”, contained a similar opinion by a [page 12] seventeen year old named Robert Bloch, who wrote: "WT is pretty good this month. At last the readers are in arms against the covers, which are rapidly getting worse. In my opinion, Hugh Rankin is once again your foremost illustrator, to judge from his work on Robert E. Howard's story this month. Howard, by the way, is wonderful in this issue; if he sticks to avatism, the ancient Britons and Solomon Kane, and drops Conan the Cimmerian Chipmunk, he will maintain his present supremacy in your pages..."

This started a volley of hate mail aimed at Bloch, who would later sell his first professional story to the magazine, making a total of 66 appearances over the years. To counter all this negative vibe about Conan, in the next issue, Howard's mother, again appearing anonymously under the name H. J. Ervine, wrote: "I vote for Robert E. Howard's story, Shadows in the Moonlight. I hope Mr. Howard will write more Conan stories. They are great."

In August of 1934, Conan made the cover again, in Brundage's illustration for "The Devil in Iron". Another sloppy Rankin illustration was with the story. Rankin’s serviceswere eventually terminated due to personal problems. Brundage's cover the September 1934 issue is one of her best, illustrating “The People of the Black Circle”, the first part appearing in this issue(chapters 1-7). The November issue contained the conclusion of “The People of the Black Circle”.

Wright printed Robert Bloch's now semi-famous attack on Conan: "Conan is rapidly becoming a stereotyped hero, but I greatly pleased with Francis Flagg, a real writer, with something to say. I am awfully tired of poor old Conan the Cluck, who for the past fifteen issues has every month slain a new wizard, tackled a new monster, come to a violent and sudden end that was averted (incredibly enough!) in just the nick of time, and won a new girlfriend, each of whose penchant for nudism won her a place of [page 13] honor, either on the cover or on the inner illustration. Such has been Conan's history, and from the realms of the Kushites to the lands of Aquilonia, from the shores of the Shemites to the palaces of Dyme- Novell-Bolonia, I cry: 'Enough of this brute and his iron-thewed sword-thrusts-may he be sent to Valhalla to cut out paper dolls.' I would like to see the above tirade in print - I feel sure that many of your other readers would support me - at least there is good material there for an argument."

December 1934 gave readers "A Witch Shall Be Born", the twelfth published Conan yarn, and one of the finest, which continued to impress Weird Tales readers, in spite of the “youthfull” opinion of Robert Bloch, who again opened his pimpled yap: "Conan vile, C. L. Moore splendid."

In the January 1935 issue, there was another note from Mom this time using the name Jane Howard, of Marlin, Texas. She wrote: "Robert E. Howard's serial story, The People of the Black Circle, is one of his very best." Anybody keeping count of how many different names Howard's mom used?

In May of 1935, Robert Bloch attempted to defend his opinion on Conan.

Bloch stated: "I have been highly interested in the comments anent my so-called 'attack' on Howard in the Eyrie. Now, in all fairness to myself and such readers as Mr. Mashburn, allow me to rise to my own defense against the accusation of using 'polecat tactics'. I believe the following points will serve to clear up the matter. 1st - I did not attack Howard. On the contrary, my November letter contains only a psuedo-frenzied tirade against one of his heroes, Conan. If you recall, my previous Eyrie letter of April 1934 praises Mr. Howard to the skies for his fine Valley of the Worm and his Solomon Kane stories. At no time have I ever, directly or indirectly, maligned Mr. Howard's fine and obviously talented abilities as a writer; I confined myself sole to a criticism of Conan's career. 2nd - I have no desire to 'rival' Mr. Howard. I do not presume to pit my seventeen years and some months against his mature brain, nor shall I. 3rd - I wholly agree with Mr. Mashburn's views regarding the unethical policy of criticizing a fellow-author. But at the time I wrote that letter I had never had anything printed in Weird Tales or any other magazine; consequently, when it appeared, I was not an author at all, but a plain reader, with a reader's rights of criticism. My letter was in November, my first tale in January. I had no intention of doing anything that might be construed as unethical, nor can I be considered so in view of [page 14, Cover: WEIRD TALES, "The Slithering Shadow"]

[page 15] these facts. And that, I hope, settles matters. I am glad that some readers liked my story."

The summer of 1935 was a drought for Howard fans. For four months in a row there was no Robert E. Howard material included. Had Bloch influenced the magazine? Of course he hadn’t, but this absence of Howard was unusual - by summer of 1935 he was one of the magazine's biggest drawing cards.

After months, Howard returned to Weird Tales bringing Conan with him, in the fifteenth published Conan story, “Shadows in Zamboula” in the November issue. Brundage's cover was from that story, but Conan was not depicted.

In December of 1935, the first of five installments appears for “The Hour of the Dragon”, the sixteenth published Conan story. Conan himself made it to the cover with another Brundage depiction of the Cimmerian. The first part of the serial was the most popular story that issue.

In the February 1936 issues, some of Howard's fellow writers voiced their opinion of Conan. In The Eyrie, H. P. Lovecraft lists “Shadows in Zamboula” as one of the "good yarns" of recent issues in a passing reference. Henry Kuttner, of Beverly Hills, wrote: "...Incidentally, for those who kick about the 'sameness' and gore of Howard's yarns, I have always found that his stories, whether of Conan, King Kull, or Solomon Kane, were engrossing, and that to me is the test of a good story. Howard's "Valley of the Worm", combining weirdness with excellent style of narrative, seems to me his best."

In the June 1936 issue Howard’s terrific “Black Canaan” appeared”. Wright had Howard make so many changes to the story he hardly recognised it by the time it was published. Unfortunately, the original version of the story is considered to be lost.

REH also showed up in The Eyrie for what would be his final appearance there as a letter-writer: "Enthusiasms impels me to pause from burning spines off cactus for my drouth-bedeviled goats long enough to give three slightly dust-choked cheers for the April cover illustration. The color combination is vivid and attractive, the lady is luscious, and altogether I think it's the best thing Mrs. Brundage has done since she illustrated my Black Colossus. And that's no depreciation of the covers done between these masterpictures. I must also express my appreciation to Mr. Napoli, who has done a splendid job of illustrating my serial. I hope the readers have liked the yarn as well as I liked writing it."

In the July issue, which hit the stands days before Howard’s death, the magazine contained the first install- [page 16] ment of the seventeenth and last Conan story to appear in Weird Tales. That was “Red Nails”, and it was the most popular story that issue. It was the last issue of the magazine Howard would see.

In the August-September issue, the second part of “Red Nails” is the highlight of that issue. The Eyrie begins with Wright's announcement of Howard's death: "As this issue goes to press, we are saddened by the news of the sudden death of Robert E. Howard at Cross Plains, Texas. Mr. Howard for years has been one of the most popular magazine authors in the country. He was master of a vivid literary style and possessed and inexhaustible imagination. His poems were works of sheer genius. His fictional characters - the dour puritan adventurer and redresser of wrongs, Solomon Kane; the ancient battle-chief King Kull from the shadowy kingdoms of the dawn of history; the doughty barbarian soldier of fortune, Conan - were so convincingly and vividly drawn that they seemed to step out of the printed page and grip the sympathies of the readers. It was in WEIRD TALES that the creme of his writing appeared. Mr. Howard was one of our literary discoveries. He made his literary debut in WEIRD TALES of July, 1925, while he was still a student in the University of Texas. Since then sixty works from his hand have appeared in this magazine. Prolific though he was, his genius showed through everything he wrote, and he did not lower his high literary standard for the sake of mere volume. Red Nails, his current serial in WEIRD TALES, is the last of the stories about Conan, though several of Mr. Howard’s stories with other heroes will appear in this magazine. His loss will be keenly felt.”

In October of 1936 Conan bid farewell to WEIRD TALES and the world with the conclusion of Red Nails. At the end of this story was the R. H. Barlow sixteen line poem, R.E.H. Died June 11, 1936.

In The Eyrie, the column began with this editorial statement:

"The tragic death of Robert E. Howard called forth a chorus of praise from discerning critics who have appreciated the genuine literary value of his work. H. P. Lovecraft, one of the acknowledged masters of weird fiction, whose keenly analytical mind has started many young writers on literary careers, makes the following comment on Howard's work: "Howard's death forms weird fiction's worst blow since the passing of good old Conan (Henry S. Whitehead) in 1932. Scarcely anybody else in the pulp field had quite the driving zest and spontaneity of Robert [page 17] E. Howard. He put himself into everything he wrote - and even when he made outward concessions to pulp standards he had a wholely unique inner force and sincerity which broke through the surface and placed the stamp of his personality on the ultimate product. How he could surround primal megalithic cities with an aura of eon-old fear and necromancy! And his recent Black Canaan (WT's best story in the last three or so issues) is likewise magnificent in a more realistic way - reflecting a genuine regional background and giving it a clutchingly powerful picture of the horror that stalks through the moss-hung, shadow-cursed, serpent ridden swamps of the farther South. Others' efforts seem pallid by contrast. Weird fiction certainly has occasion to mourn." To which E. Hoffman Price, the only Weird Tales author who knew Howard personally, adds: "I know of few people whose sudden death would be such a savage kick on the chin. Lovecraft says it is the saddest blow to writers since the death of Henry S. Whitehead - and I answer, saying, 'Be damned to writing - it's a lot worse blow to anyone who knew Bob and his parents.' Bob Howard was as complex and likable a character as one would meet in any long day's march. There is going to be much wailing among the fantasy fans, and just as much among those who read only Howard's vivid action yarns in other books - but the heaviest of it is coming from those who met him in his native territory."

Howard wrote his own epitaph shortly before his death, when he typed the following couplet, the second line of which is taken from the well-known poem by Ernest Dowson:

All fled - all done, so lift me on the pyre; The Feast is over and the lamps expire. "

In the October, 1936 issue, Robert Bloch wrote: "Robert E. Howard's death is quite a shock - and a severe blow to WT. Despite my standing opinion on Conan, the fact always remains that Howard was one of WT's finest contributors, and his King Kull series were among the most outstanding works you ever printed."

Seabury Quinn wrote: "The field of fantastic fiction has lost one of its outstanding and recognized masters in Robert E. Howard. His Solomon Kane stories, his tales of Kull, and latterly his Conan sagas, all of them were superb in their own way. He was a quantity producer, but always managed to keep his stuff fresh and vigorous. There are few who can do this."[page 18]

Howard had the cover story the December 1936 issue for “The Fire of Asshurbanipal”. The cover and interior illustration for the story was done by J. Allen St. John. This is one of the best Weird Tales covers for a Howard story.

In The Eyrie, Clark Ashton Smith wrote: "I admired Barlow's fine sonnet in memory of R. E. H. It seems hard to realize that Howard's work is at an end, and that a whole world of noble myth and fantasy has perished in his dying. What he has left behind, however, may well outlast many things that have been acclaimed and widely touted as literature."

The January 1937 issue had no material by Howard, but he was still the main topic in The Eyrie. The column started out with the following statement:

"Letters about Robert E. Howard's untimely death continue to come into the editor's desk. They are letters of appreciation of his genius, and of sympathy and condolence. Mr. Howard was undoubtedly a superb writer, with a spirited, vigorous style and an inexhaustible imagination. His poems were works of sheer genius. We believe that his greatest stories will outlast most of what passes today as literature in the slick-paper magazines. By his death, WEIRD TALES has suffered an irreparable loss." Bernard E. Schiffmann, of Laurelton, New York, became the first dimwit to ever suggest pastiches: "It was with deep sorrow indeed, that the tragic death of Robert E. Howard affected me. It was not merely that a fine author has passed on, but that I myself had lost something personally. I'm sure that I but voice the sentiments of thousands of your readers. For years his stories had entertained me, and had gotten to mean something to me. I felt I knew his characters myself. I have a suggestion to offer. I really don't know what you will think of it, but here it is. Is there, and I think there is, some way to continue Conan? I know that it is being done with other characters whose authors have passed away, and I'm sure Mr. Howard would be happy if he could know it was being done. In my humble opinion, no finer tribute could be paid an author, and as no one could ever take the place in your magazine of Conan, nothing could ever please your readers more. I have thrilled and adventured with Conan since his first appearance. Please try to have him remain. Let us not lose both of them, and in that manner, in some small way we may lessen the blow the death of Robert E. Howard has dealt all of us." [Several other readers have expressed the wish that Conan's adventures be continued by other hands, for Mr. Howard's barbarian hero is very popular. But Mr. Howard's style was so compelling and so individual, bearing the marks, not of mere talent, but of actual genius, that we fear any attempt of other and different authors to recapture the mood and style of Mr. Howard's fascinating stories about Conan must fail to accomplish their purpose. - THE EDITOR.]

I'm going to conclude this look at Howard and Weird Tales in the words of Howard himself, in a letter he penned to Farnsworth Wright thirteen months before he committed suicide. Weird Tales was notorious for being behind in paying for stories it bought. The magazine barely managed to stay afloat during the Depression. In spite of the slow payments, most of the magazine's best writers remained loyal. In his letter, Howard wrote: Dear Mr. Wright:

I always hate to write a letter like this, but dire necessity forces me. It is, in short, an urgent plea for money. It is nothing new for me to need money, but the present circumstances are different from those in which I generally found myself in the past. [page 19] My expenses for the past months have been great. My mother was forced to have her gall bladder removed, a very serious operation, especially for a woman of her age and state of health. She has been almost an invalid for years. She was in a hospital at Temple for a month, during which time I stayed with her, and was not able to do any writing at all during that time. But for the professional discount on the operation, my father being a physician, I do not know how we would have been able to meet the expenses. As it was they were great, considering the hospital expenses, special nurses, etc., and my own expenses, though I cut these as closely as I could by staying in the cheapest rooming house I could find and skipping meals with such regularity that I lost fifteen pounds during that month. We have been at home for over a month, but my mother is far from recovered. An abscess developed in the operation wound, which necessitated her staying for several days in a hospital at Coleman, and it is still necessary to take her there, a distance of some thirty miles, every few days in order to have her wound dressed and cleansed, as my father does not have the proper facilities for this. Meanwhile, the expenses go on, naturally, for we are forced to hire a woman to do the cooking and such of the house-work as I am unable to do. Whether my mother ever recovers or not possibly depends on the kind of care and attention I am able to give her, and that in turn depends on the money I am able to earn.

And that brings me to the matter at hand. For some time now I have been receiving a check regularly each month from Weird Tales - half checks, it is true, but by practicing the most rigid economy I have managed to keep my head above the water; that I was able to do so was largely because of, not the size but the regularity of the checks. I came to depend upon them and to expect them, as I felt justified in so doing. But this month, at a very time when I need money so desperately bad, I did not receive a check. Somehow, some way, my family and I have struggled along this far, but if you cut off my monthly checks now, I don’t know what in God’s name we’ll do. Costs of living have gone up; this part of the country has suffered bitterly through drouth and duststorms. My father is an old man and most of his patients are poverty-stricken hill people who seldom have anything but farm produce to pay him. This year they may not even have that. Poverty is no new tale to me. I’ve gnawed crusts all my life. But the hardships I’ve suffered in the past may be picnics to what confronts me if WEIRD TALES discontinues my monthly checks

I do not feel that my request is unreasonable. As you know it has been six months since “The People of the Black Circle’ (the story the check for which is now due me) appeared in WEIRD TALES. WEIRD TALES owes me over eight hundred dollars for stories already published and supposed to be paid for on publication - enough to pay all my debts and get me back on my feet again if I could receive it all at once. Perhaps this is impossible. I have no wish to be unreasonable; I know times are hard for everybody. But I don’t believe I am being unreasonable in asking you to pay me a check each month until the accounts are squared. Honestly, at the rate we’re going now, I’ll be an old man before I get paid up! And my need for money now is urgent.

Of course, I sell to other magazines from time to time, but these sales are uncertain; to make markets regularly requires much time and effort, and for years most of my time and effort has been devoted to the stories I have written for WEIRD TALES. I may not - may never be a great writer, but no writer ever worked with more earnest sincerity than I have worked on the tales that have appeared in WEIRD TALES. I have grown up in the magazine, so to speak, and it is as much a part of my life as are my hands and arms. But to a poor man the money he makes is his life’s blood, and of late when I write of Conan’s adventures I have to struggle against the disheartening reflection that if the story is accepted, it may be years before I get paid for it.

This is a statement of my case, spoken in the only way I know to speak, that is to say frankly. I trust that my bluntness has given no offense. Necessity drives me. A monthly check from WEIRD TALES may well mean for me the difference between a life that is at least endurable - and God alone knows what. Cordially, Robert E. Howard . The next installment of ROBERT E. HOWARD AND WEIRD TALES will begin a three part series on the Conan years.

[page 20, Cover: WEIRD TALES, "The People of the Black Circle"]