The Business, Part 8: 1958 Essay
[Part 7 is here]
On the face of things, 1958 was a pretty bad year for Howard publishing: the Gnome Press series of Conan stories had run its course and the “collected poetical works” had been published - The Business, Part 8: 1958 Essay introduction. De Camp, at least, thought that the remaining Howard material in the Kline Agency files was not suitable for publication. No new or reprinted Howard items appeared that year, but there was a lot going on behind the scenes.
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Following the publication of Always Comes Evening, Howard fan extraordinaire Glenn Lord began receiving letters of praise from the fan community, praise and complaints—why was this verse heading left out, what about that poem, etc.: the same sort of thing that goes on to this day. On December 18, 1957, shortly after receiving a copy of the poetry book, Bob Briney wrote the following:
As for the headings: the ones for “The Lion of Tiberias” and “The Thing on the Roof” are certainly not significant, as you say, but they are no less so than some of the poems which were included in the book, in my opinion.
Glenn also started to be the go-to guy for Howard items, a position he would hold until his death. In the same letter above, Briney asks for rare Howard:
Say, do you happen to have copies of those three Howard poems you mentioned, the ones which were not included? If you do, and if you should happen to have time to send me copies, I’d appreciate it very much. No matter how bad they are, they’re still Howard; and I still retain a bit of the old Howard worship which swept over me when I first encountered his works over ten years ago, and would appreciate seeing copies of these poems.
Glenn had caught the publishing bug, too. The ink on Always Comes Evening was still fresh, but according to Briney’s letter, Lord was already planning a “collection of six Howard stories.” And his hunt for rare Howard was still far from over, with Briney offering to “check in the Boston libraries for files of The American Poet, and see if I can locate any Howard material.”
What Glenn needed was a bibliography. On January 17, 1958, L. Sprague de Camp told Lord that “The only REH bibliography I know of was a partial one included in the first (and only) issue of the fanmag Criti-Q, put out in 1952 by fan David Jenrette.” That wasn’t good enough for Lord, so he started gathering information.
In the early months of 1958 Lord sent letters to fans and publishers inquiring about publications that contained the work of Robert E. Howard. And the information started coming in—slowly. Bob Briney reported on Howard’s stories in Argosy, so Glenn wrote to Popular Publications and received a list (dated February 19, 1958) of Howard titles that had appeared in the magazine. Darrell C. Richardson sent Glenn a list of Howard titles, so Glenn wrote to the copyright department at Street & Smith Publications who promised on February 14 to report their findings “when time permits”—their list of Howard titles was sent on February 21. On February 28, Glenn wrote the following to Standard Magazines:
I am doing some research on the late Robert E(rvin) Howard (occasional pen names: Patrick Ervin, Robert E. Ward [this name later turned out to not be a Howard pen name]) and it has come to my attention that he had some material published in some of your magazines. If possible I would like to know the dates and names of magazines carrying Howard material.
The publisher responded with titles from Thrilling Adventure and Thrilling Mystery.
All of the publishers told Glenn that they could not provide copies of the stories they mentioned, so Glenn began searching for pulps. He contacted various used book dealers and began trading with other fans. On March 5, he went to the source, Oscar Friend at the Kline Agency:
I have a favor to ask if you can help me. I am indexing Howard’s published material and wondered if you might have an index yourself. I need to know what was published in Action Stories, Fight Stories, Jack Dempsey’s Fight Magazine, and Strange Detective Stories. Also who published these stories—“Mountain Men,” “Guns of the Mountain,” “and “Black Wind Blowing.” If you do not have an index I’ll send you the results of my research when I complete it.
Friend responded on March 10, saying that he couldn’t help, but everyone else Glenn contacted was sending in nuggets of information, either about Howard appearances or where to acquire pulp magazines. Throughout the year, letters were flying back and forth between Glenn and Bob Briney, William N. Austin, F. Lee Baldwin, and Darrell C. Richardson, as well as various libraries and magazine services. Through his fan connections, Lord had learned of Jack Dempsey’s Fight Magazine and wrote William H. Kofoed for information. Kofoed responded on September 6, 1958:
There were only three issues of JACK DEMPSEY’S FIGHT MAGAZINE: May, June and August, 1934. The depression was still making itself felt, but it was the premature timidity of the people financing the magazine rather than the depression that folded the magazine. They quit before all the figures were in. Later it was found that with the third issue the publication moved out of the red and into the black.
The only issue you lack is May. I went through a copy and happily found a Robert E. Howard story entitled “The Slugger’s Game.” I have clipped this and am enclosing it.
I always liked Howard’s stuff. His was a nice sense of humor and he always had a story to tell.
You know, I originated FIGHT STORIES magazine for Fiction House in 1928 and edited it until it suspended publication in 1932. During my incumbancy there I ran quite a number of Howard stories.
As nuggets of information about Howard’s work drifted in, Glenn was also looking for unpublished Howard. At the beginning of the year, and at Lord’s urging, E. Hoffmann Price (photo at head of post, circa 1961) had begun trying to track down the Howard items that he’d loaned out over the years. On February 8, 1958, he wrote to Stuart Boland:
Glenn Lord wants tear sheets of Howard yarns other than those published in Weird Tales. I wonder if you’d mind shipping him, at his expense, the tear sheets I handed you in the course of one of your final visits? Also, those letters from Howard to Lovecraft: I think it’d be a grand idea to microfilm them, which I could now do, readily, and prepare a few duplicate 35mm. prints, to circulate among fans.
In a reply to Lord written the same day, Price says that he has “only a hazy recollection on the matter—it does seem that I gave Boland a batch of tear sheets [. . .]” and admits that Boland’s possession of the REH-HPL correspondence is “a shot in the dark. I do not know for a fact that I handed them to Boland. I simply can’t find them, and there is the lurking notion that I let him take them, six or seven years ago.” Price does offer to send Lord what he has, “a few feet of microfilm of REH verses,” and apologizes for the state of things: “Dr. Kuykendall did ship tear sheets etc.—in compliance with the late Dr. I. M. Howard’s final request, the whole works went to me [. . .] rather than let the tear sheets crumble from age, I let this one & that read—and, you know how such things go. But I think Boland got the majority of the lot.”
On March 24, Price sent Lord the microfilm strip containing the Barlow-transcribed Howard poems [for more information on this, see The Collected Letters of Doctor Isaac M. Howard], and said that “Stuart Boland just returned from a long trip in South America. He made brief acknowledgment of my message, but no reference to subject, Howard letters. Said he’d see me presently.”
On May 5, Boland finally wrote to Glenn, saying that he thought he “had returned all the material” to Price and “all duplicate material to a fellow named [Francis T.] Laney in Los Angeles at E. H.’s request.” He closes by saying that he “shall check diligently for any stray material and send it on to you if located.”
While the hunt for items from the Trunk continued, thanks to the publication of Always Comes Evening, Glenn was about to find another source for previously unknown Howard material: Lenore Preece. On May 24, Preece wrote to Lord: “I understand that you are publishing a book of Robert E. Howard’s poetry, to be entitled Always Comes Evening. Please inform me of the publication date and price. Also, is a biography available?” Thus began one of the more important correspondences in Howard studies.
Glenn replied with ordering information for Always Comes Evening. On May 28, Lenore sent a check, acknowledged that she was Harold Preece’s sister, and asked the following: “Since you are working on an index of his works, perhaps you can tell me if there is a book-length poem called The Dust Dance extant?”
On September 14, 1958, again at Lord’s urging, Preece wrote to Oscar Friend, imploring him to search for Howard’s poetry, saying that “Dr. Howard must have had a considerable quantity.” And she had a few in her own collection:
His best poems were apparently written in his very early teens and twenties. To this period belongs a book-length poem entitled The Dust Dance (I have four excerpts), a long narrative poem about King Geraint of Britain, and another long poem called Drum Gods. I have excerpts from the last two, also.
Duplicates of these excerpts ended up with Glenn Lord, who was slowly and methodically acquiring copies of everything.
[Part 9 is here.]