Remembering My Friend and Mentor, Glenn Lord Essay
I learned of Glenn Lord’s passing on the morning of January 1st upon receiving Paul Herman’s email - Remembering My Friend and Mentor, Glenn Lord Essay introduction. The shock was heightened by the fact that I received the information at such a moment, just after the New Year’s festivities, or so I thought initially. I was numb, and remained morose and tight-lipped for a number of hours, unable to participate actively in the conversations around me, in the house of the people where my wife Sheila and I were staying. Somewhat later, Sheila explained the situation to them, and they, in turn, asked me who this Glenn Lord person was and why his death affected me in such a way.
It was at this moment I realized it would be hard to explain why the death of someone residing several thousand miles away from me, someone I had met a handful of times in 23 years, could affect me so much. But I knew that I was truly afflicted, much more so than I would have imagined, and I soon realized that the state of mind would not leave me for quite some time, New Year’s Day or not.
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I first encountered Glenn’s name in 1983 or 1984, when I read the French translations of the Howard books published in France. The (de Camp-edited versions of the) Conans briefly mentioned his name as an agent for the Howard heirs and someone who had discovered Conan typescripts. The NeO books (REH’s non-Conan books) contained some more, if still sparse, information. I learned that you could reach Glenn at a certain P.O. Box 775 in Pasadena, Texas. I didn’t even know at the time what a P.O. Box was, but understood it to be some kind of postal address that would not let average people know where this important person Glenn Lord actually lived, so he would not be bothered by fans. Reading more of the NeO introductions, I became puzzled as to the source of all those stories that were appearing in the French books, and which were mentioned as having been found by Glenn Lord in a cache in Howard’s home. I had visions of someone discovering some hidden passage in the house, or maybe a loose panel behind which were stacked tons of then-unknown typescripts. For whatever reason, I pictured that man as elderly, and elderly he remained in my mind for a few years, as I had no way to find more about him, in those pre-Internet days. Francois Truchaud’s introductions sometimes included excerpts from his correspondence with Glenn, such as when NeO published the eleven juvenile El Borak stories a few years before they appeared in the States, and the man came off as friendly and helpful. Perhaps, after all, he was not that unreachable.
It was a few months later that I decided to embark upon what would become my Master’s Degree Memoir on Howard, and that I formed plans to go to Texas for the first time. Truchaud assured me Glenn was the nicest person on earth, at least judging from his letters (as he had never met him), and he encouraged me to write directly to him. Which I did in late 1988 as I was preparing my first pilgrimage to Bob Howard’s state. “Mr. Lord” as I then called him replied promptly to my letter, to my utter joy and pride to have received a personal letter from the man Truchaud called “The Guardian of the Idol.” Preparations were made, dispositions were taken, and a few weeks later I landed at Houston International Airport, where I met Glenn for the first time. The first thing I noticed was that he wasn’t the elderly man I had pictured. He had brought along a few things for me, among which, I remember, a copy of Dark Valley Destiny. He drove me to my motel and we spent a good chunk of time discussing Howard, what else? The second thing I was to notice was that his English and mine were two different languages. It took way more time to adapt to that than to the question of his age. The next day, I was invited to have lunch with Glenn and his family, at their place, little doubting at the time what a privilege I was granted. He had probably pitied that French guy who had really no reason to be in Pasadena other than to talk to him and ogle a few typescripts and rare books. Thanks to Glenn, I was introduced to Rusty Burke, learned about REHupa, about Novalyne Price, about everything I needed and a million of things I didn’t know I needed. He phoned to people in Cross Plains and Brownwood to make sure I would be welcomed and shown around, and because of him, my stay there was infinitely more pleasant and smoother than it would have been otherwise. Suddenly, I had been put into orbit, propelled in the American sphere of Howardom, all thanks to Glenn. All he got from me was a French fanzine or two when I arrived, and my immense gratitude when I left, which was all I could offer him. When I came back to France, I wrote him that I had been wondering if I could join REHupa, but feared I was not up to the skills and knowledge required, to which he replied that I should not worry and go ahead, that this Bill Cavalier guy would be very happy to have me join.
Glenn’s letters would soon become the highlights of my correspondence. Every day, when I went to check my mailbox, I was hoping to find a Glenn letter in there, informing me of what was going on in the world of Howardiana. As I was always in need of material — for my Master’s Degree Memoir at first, my Pre-Doctoral Thesis after, and my personal research and editorial activities later — he would always include some copies of typescripts and, at first, even bought me the books I needed but had no way to find in Limoges, France. I sent him money at first, but he soon told me that he was not keeping count, and proposed what he called a “gentleman’s agreement”: I was to find him what foreign books and publications he needed, and send them to him. Over the years, he would send me thousands and thousands of pages. There was no way the trickle of French publications could compensate the time and money he was spending on those photocopies of typescripts. So I soon started to scour the world thanks to that new thing called the Internet, in search for Howard publications in countries sometimes more exotic than those of the Hyborian Age, it seemed to me. We discovered Howard had been published in virtually every country in the world, most of the time in pirate publications, and many had begun to appear after the collapse of the USSR. I remember tracking those from Estonia, how he would marvel at the sheer number of Conan books published in Russia (nearly a hundred at the time), and the fun we had trying to match the text or cover to a specific story or equivalent of an American edition. Over the next few years I would buy, receive and send him books from I don’t know how many countries. It was more than a fanzine or two this time, but it was — again — terribly inadequate when compared to the sheer bulk of material he was sending my way.
The flood of all those typescript pages was such that I soon preferred to read the Howard stories from the photocopies. I became increasingly familiar with Bob’s practices, idiosyncrasies and began learning how to date those typescripts. Thanks to those pages, I eventually wrote an article for The Dark Man on the literary “birth” of Conan. It was this essay that led Rusty Burke (and Marcelo Anciano) to ask me to edit the Wandering Star Conans a few years later, and which opened the way to all that followed, in the States and in France. Without Glenn, this would never have happened. I wouldn’t have had any typescripts to study and my life would have been different.
And the life of everyone reading these lines would have been different, too. Each and every Howard scholar and reader is hugely indebted to Glenn Lord. He was there first, the one who lit the way and paved the road. And without him, there would have been no road to speak of.
He was there in 1957 when he published Always Comes Evening, partly funding the endeavor from his own pockets, and showing readers that Howard was not all blood and thunder. He launched the very first Howard fanzine, The Howard Collector, in 1961, sharing his treasures with what few Howard aficionados there were at the time: prose pieces and poems of course, but also biographical articles and related essays, a template from which many future Howard publications would take their inspiration. The publication of his bio-bibliography The Last Celt in 1976 was a landmark event, a sum as impressive as it was staggering. When Glenn became the agent for the Howard rightholders in 1965, he made the transition from amateur to professional in a matter of months. Via Donald M. Grant, a series of beautifully produced and illustrated books began to appear, books that would serve for blueprints for the luxurious editions that have appeared since. Glenn would also ensure that Howard’s name was present in anthologies, giving away stories or poems to the fanzine editors. Thanks to his tireless efforts, Howard was soon present everywhere, from fanzines to classy semi-professional booklets, from hardcovers with limited print-runs to massmarket paperbacks. By the mid-seventies, virtually every story Howard had penned was available in one form or another, a mere ten years after he had become the agent for the rightholders. Impressive as this was, it is just a facet of Glenn’s accomplishment as a Howard champion.
Without Glenn, we would probably all be reading the de Camp-edited versions of the Conan stories. The story of his long and arduous battle against de Camp has been recounted elsewhere, but Glenn was instrumental in having the pure-text Berkley editions of Conan stories published in the 1970s under the editorship of Karl Edward Wagner, even going to the point of furnishing the publisher with his own personal copies of Weird Tales to typeset the stories. Years later, when he was no longer agent, he furnished the Wandering Star/Del Rey crew all the material we needed for the books, and continued to do so even though there was some very bad blood between him and the then rightholders.
Perhaps even more importantly, without Glenn tracking down, locating and eventually buying the contents of the long lost “trunk” of Howard typescripts that Isaac M. Howard had sent to E. Hoffmann Price in 1944, as well as buying a number of original typescripts from the Otis A. Kline agency, we would be short of thousands and thousands of pages of original material. No one can say what fate would have been theirs, at a time when no one cared. No one but Glenn.
Without Glenn, a Conan story, several fragments and more than 2,000 pages of drafts and carbons that were so important when publishing the purest edition possible would have been unavailable.
Without Glenn, a Kull volume would contain “The Shadow Kingdom,” “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune,” and the poem “The King and the Oak.”
Without Glenn, Bran Mak Morn would have starred in “Kings of the Night” and “Worms of the Earth” only.
Without Glenn, the Solomon Kane volume would be missing five stories. Without Glenn, no Cormac Mac Art stories, no “Marchers of Valhalla,” no Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, and hundreds of poems lost to time. Without Glenn, no “Three-Bladed Doom,” not a single story about Dark Agnes, no “Isle of the Eons.” Of the dozens and dozens of Howard’s juvenile efforts, not one would have survived.
Without Glenn, we would know that Bob Howard and H. P. Lovecraft were correspondents, but the 400+ pages of the Howard side would have disappeared.
Without Glenn, people like Harold Preece, Lenore Preece, Truett Vinson or Tevis Clyde Smith would probably have never told what they knew, and whatever material they had would have been lost as well. No Juntos, and probably not a single one of those important letters to Harold Preece.
Writing a biography of Howard would have been almost unthinkable given the scarcity of the material and information that would have survived.
Without Glenn, we would know almost nothing about Robert E. Howard, and his entire known output would have been reduced to what was published in the pulps.
Without Glenn, we would never even dream of finding hidden philosophical meanings and intellectual puzzles in the Conan stories, and we probably would be convinced that Robert E. Howard was crazy and maladjusted to the point of psychosis.
We are fortunate that Glenn was there when he was, before anyone cared. We are fortunate to have had a man who spent years tracking down typescripts, stories, memoirs, information and everything pertaining to Robert E. Howard.
We are fortunate to have had a man who was always there to help from fans to publishers, even when he was assailed by those who held him in low esteem or deemed him an enemy.
Fortunately, he lived to be old enough to see the rewards of his actions. He saw Howard published in pure-text editions and his importance reconsidered. He lived long enough to have people come up to him and thank him for what he did. He saw Dennis McHaney publish a tribute book where everyone involved on some degree in Howard studies and publishing wrote as many “thank you” articles. In the little world of Howardiana, where quarrels and bickerings are the norm, everyone has but an immense respect for Glenn and what he did.
As the impact of the shock slowly fades away, the impossibility to write anything about him fades away as well, and the happy memories slowly come back to the surface.
I remember him and Rusty in our motel room in Cross Plains in 2001, discussing the progress on the Conan book for Wandering Star.
I remember Glenn laughing at the World Fantasy Con in Austin, in 2006, when I brought him a page from a transcript of an interview in which the de Camps described him as a truck driver and a man so inferior in social status to them it was almost shocking. I remember him showing that piece of paper to everyone in sight and just chuckling: “a truck driver!”
I remember that evening in Cross Plains when he brought me, among other things, the original typescript to “The God in the Bowl” so I could read it so very close to the Howard house, a few yards away from where Bob Howard had typed it. It was one of those magical moments in my life, and I know he knew perfectly well what it would mean for me.
I remember the next day when I told him I was afraid I had lost the original page to the synopsis for “The Scarlet Citadel.” I was mortified, but he told me it was okay, nothing to worry about. It turned out he had left it on the dashboard of his car.
I remember asking him one day for duplicates of some Howard pics, and my utter shock to discover in his next letter a bunch of 1920s and 30s original photos, with a note saying that I should return those when done.
I remember one time when Paul Herman was interviewing him at the World Fantasy Con in 2006. Paul’s question took him about a minute to formulate, and Glenn’s answer was three laconic words, to Paul’s amused dismay, which episode provoked much laughter from the audience.
I remember the instant sparkle in his eyes when I showed him the original to the famous 1934 Howard picture that had been given me a few weeks before.
I remember him saying he had brought me something which I would “probably find interesting” when he, Rusty, my friend Lionel Londeix and I had dinner on Halloween night in 1990, and which turned out to be the bulk of the Howard/Lovecraft correspondence in typescript.
I cherish what Glenn brought to my life. Those Howard documents and publications first, then his comments and advice on what I was writing and then, increasingly, as he was less and less involved in day-to-day Howardian activities, those special moments I could share with him, rare as they were. Surely there was more I could do than buy him a fanzine or a foreign book.
When Fabrice Tortey and I arrived at George Bush International Airport two years ago, the customs officer asked him the reason of his presence there, for what was a three-day stay only, to which Fabrice answered: “I am here for a birthday.” When asked the same question, I gave an identical reply. The man stared at us for a while, nonplused, and simply added: “Well, that must be one hell of a friend, then.” There is certainly not a single person not part of my family for whom I would have been ready to travel all the way to Houston simply to be present for a birthday party.
I like to think that he knew how much he was appreciated.
I’ll miss you, Glenn.