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REH Word of the Week: Gath

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 8th July 2013

Philistine cities

Map of the five royal Philistine cities. Gath is located to the right of the last letter “I” in Philistines


1. An ancient city of Palestine east-northeast of Gaza on which the ark brought calamity. . It was one of the five royal Philistine city-kingdoms and the home of Goliath. It occupied a strong position on the borders of Judah and Philistia.

[origin: Latin: Geth]


I am ruler of the stars
I am master of Time’s pages
And I mock at chains and bars,
Now, as when I sailed the world
Ere the galley’s sails were furled

And the barnacles had crusted on their spars.
I am Strife, I am Life,
I am mistress, I am wife!
I am wilder than the sea wind, I am fiercer than the fire!
I am tale and song and fable, I am Akkad, I am Babel,

I am Calno, I am Carthage, I am Tyre!
For I walked the streets of Gaza when the world was wild and young,
And I reveled in Carchemish where the golden minstrels sung;
All the world-road was my path, as I sang the songs of Gath
Or trod the streets of Nineveh where harlots roses flung.

[from “Romance 1. (‘I am king of all the Ages’)”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 524, Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 125 and A Rhyme of Salem Town, p.22]

Posted in REH Poetry, REHupa history, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: tout

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 9th May 2011


1. one who gives tips or solicits bets on a racehorse; one who solicits customers brazenly or persistently

[origin: ca. 1853; Middle English tuten to peer; Old French tot, Compare Catalan tot, Italian tutto, Portuguese todo, Romanian tot, Spanish todo]


I was a prince of China, lord of a million spears;
You were a soak in Brooklyn, shining the bar for beers.
I lolled on a throne of sapphire, you loafed in a dance-hall door;
My love was a Manchu princess, yours was a Harlem whore.

I slumbered on velvet couches, lulled by a fountain’s tune;
You snored on a broken camp cot in the back of Mike Shane’s saloon.
My friends were lords of the Indies, rulers of lands immense;
Your pals were the tout and the con man, the dip, the yegg and the fence.

[from “Prince and Beggar”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 550 and Always Comes Evening, p. 77]

Posted in REHupa history, Word of the Week |

Steve Tompkins: Tribute to A Fallen REHupan

Posted by Damon Sasser on 23rd March 2010

The late Steve Tompkins was a longtime member of REHupa.  While he was not an active member at the time of his death, being a REHupan is liking being a Marine, once you are a REHupan, you are a REHupan for life. Today is the first anniversary of his passing and the many remembrances and tributes that have been posted the past 24 hours show just how much he is missed.

While Steve had contributed thousands upon thousands of words to Howard and fantasy scholarship, at the age of 48 he was just scratching the surface of what he was capable of contributing in years left un-lived. His keyboard and voice have been silent for a year, but his many essays and blog postings will live on as long as there are eager Howard fans out there willing to expand their knowledge.

I have a tribute to Steve on the TGR website, and there are numerous ones over at The Cimmerian blog and one at Jim & Ruth Keegan‘s blog.

And, listed below are links to some memorable ones from last year:

Rusty Burke

Morgan Holmes

Howard Jones

Brian Murphy

Deuce Richardson

Charles Saunders

Steve Trout

While Steve is not on this earthly plane, he still lives on in our hearts and minds.

Posted in People, Popular Culture, REHupa history |

In Defense of Gary Romeo

Posted by indy on 16th December 2009

All right, let’s everyone take a pill. I said I wasn’t going to get into this, but I can’t help myself.

The Howard Community at large has recently been thrown into blazing-pistolas-brandishing-Bowie mode by some minor-league blogging by some woman who doesn’t have one freaking clue what she’s writing about:

Maggie Van Ostrand wrote her Crazy Bob article based on what she read in L. Sprague de Camp’s REH Biography, Dark Valley Destiny. She read the opinions and conjecture and general b.s. Sprague brought forth in his book, further  extrapolated her own opinions and conjecture, and then went looking for support for her “facts”on the internet. Well, the article she found to prop up her hack job is right here (under CRITICISM) on the REHupa Website: Revisiting Dark Valley Destiny by Gary Romeo.

I’m not going to get into the merits or demerits of Gary’s article. Gary is well-known as a de Camp apologist/supporter – I’ve always admired him for that, and I’ve said so before - our Texas friend sticks to his guns, by gawd, and stands up to ALL the heavy-hitters in Howard Fandom! And he & I are in agreement when I say that the Lancer Conan the Adventurer is probably the book that has had the most impact in the last 43 years for the career of REH. L.Sprague de Camp and Frank Frazetta notwithstanding.

But thanks to Ms. Van Ostrand’s article, Gary Romeo is now taking an unfair whupping around the Howard internet community. So, all of you who are: get off his back. Leave him alone. Gary Romeo is NOT the problem, and he is taking unfair shit for his long-standing opinions. Get Off Gary! I’ve got news for you: Gary standing up for his opinions is Howardian Behavior that we should all admire!

So, direct your ire towards Maggie Van Ostrand and her stupid hack-job article – a number of us already have in the “comments” section there – and blame HER. It’s her fault for her crappy article. Besides, she writes just like L. Sprague de Camp did while writing DVD: make your conclusions first, then only use the “information” (opinions, conjecture, 3rd party accounts) that supports your conclusions. And don’t forget to make stuff up, too. Who’s gonna check your facts, anyway? Whoa – guess she didn’t know about Howard Fandom! Duck yer haid, Maggie!

OK, that’s all I got right now – don’t make me come out there.

Posted in L. Sprague de Camp, People, Popular Culture, REHupa history |

A Tribute to Joan McCowen

Posted by Rusty Burke on 5th December 2008

On Saturday, December 6, the Cross Plains Public Library is honoring Joan McCowen for her many years of dedication and service. Joan was a member of the original board that incorporated the library in 1978 (it opened its doors in February 1979), and she has served in various capacities for the past thirty years, as president, secretary, or treasurer of the Friends of the Library and the library’s board.  Until this year, when failing health intervened, she had missed only one meeting in 29 years. She was also a tireless volunteer, as was her husband, Alton.

In addition to all her work for the library, Joan has been a dedicated officer and volunteer for Project Pride and Robert E. Howard Days. In fact, Joan was the first person I actually met in Cross Plains, and it was from that chance meeting that Robert E. Howard Days sprang.

On another Saturday, March 22, 1986, I was returning to Houston from a business trip to Dallas but decided to take the long way around and pass through Cross Plains and Brownwood. I had taken on the planning for a REHupa trip to Cross Plains in June of that year, and several people, including Graeme Flanagan of Canberra, Australia, had committed to attending, so I wanted to nail down a motel, and I also hoped maybe I could find something for us to do in Cross Plains other than just stop by the side of the road and take pictures of the Howard House. At the time, that and a visit to the grave in Brownwood were about all I knew to do.

As I came into Cross Plains from the north on Texas 206, I decided to stop and see if the library was open. It had been closed on my only other trip to the town, in the fall of the previous year.  I thought that if anyone in town would know about REH, it should be the library. As I parked my car in front, I noted that while the sign said the library was closed, the door was ajar, so I ventured in. Behind the desk just inside the door was a young woman, probably a high school student.

I told her I was a visitor from Houston, planning to bring a group of Robert E. Howard fans to Cross Plains in June, and hoping there was someone I could talk with about whether the Library had any Robert E. Howard related material.

The young lady made a quick trip to the back of the library, returning in the company of a woman who introduced herself as Joan McCowen, and asked how she could help me. When I explained what I wanted to do, her face lit up — and if you’ve ever met Joan you know that her smile can light up the room — and she invited me back to the office to talk.  It was the beginning of what has been, to date, a wonderful 22-year friendship, and it was the first in the chain of events that created Robert E. Howard Days.

Joan was then president of the Friends of the Library, and it was simply good fortune she had happened to be there taking care of some business on a Saturday.  She told me that she had not known much at all about Robert Howard until very recently, when she had read Dark Valley Destiny and become very interested in Howard’s poetry.  She offered to do what she could to come up with some activities for the group I would be bringing, including, possibly, getting to at least walk around the yard of the Howard house: the owners, it turned out, were members of the Friends of the Library. I in turn offered to see if we REHupans could come up with some Howard books for the library, which had only a few battered copies of Conan paperbacks.

Joan, librarian Billie Ruth Loving, and the Friends that June treated us to a marvelous weekend. We did get to walk around the yard of the Howard house taking pictures (we did not get to go inside, but the owner, Floyd Carter, told us — as we later learned, quite correctly — that the inside did not much resemble what the house had looked like when the Howards lived there). We had a delectable dinner of barbecued brisket at the home of Drs. Charles and Lou Rodenberger, where we got to meet a number of the Friends of the Library, including Jack Scott.  And we learned that, in honor of our visit, the mayor had proclaimed Saturday, June 14, 1986 “Robert E. Howard Day.”  At a ceremony on Saturday at the library, the mayor read the proclamation, and on behalf of REHupa I made a formal presentation of about 40 Howard books, from hardcover copies of Mayhem on Bear Creek and The Dark Barbarian to paperbacks and fanzines, we had collected. Joan was delighted to find among the donated volumes a copy of the Underwood-Miller edition of Always Comes Evening.

From that day to this, REHupa has enjoyed a special relationship with the Cross Plains Public Library, and Joan McCowen has been a vital part of that tradition.  When a group of civic-minded citizens formed Project Pride, Joan and Alton were among them.  When some of those folks pooled their own resources and bought the Howard House, the McCowens were part of the group. Joan and Alton were always there during Howard Days, Joan greeting visitors in the Howard House, Alton for several years leading bus tours.  But that was only the public face: the two of them spent many, many hours on library and Project Pride business and activities, from Alton maintaining the Howard House grounds or attending to needed repairs, to Joan spending hours sorting through donations and setting up the Silent Auction.

Today, Joan’s dedication and service to the library is recognized and honored. We, as Robert E. Howard fans, join in that tribute, and thank her for everything she has done for Cross Plains and for Robert E. Howard. And I take advantage of this opportunity to say thank you, Joan, for twenty-two years of wonderful friendship.

INDY adds: I was among that first group of ten who came to the very first Howard Day celebration in 1986. Fortunately, Joan and Billie Ruth Loving were the first two people that I had the great pleasure of meeting in Cross Plains. Joan found out I was from Northwest Indiana and told me that she was from Chicago, so we had some immediate regional bonding!

She’s always been one of my absolute favorite people in Cross Plains, and I’ve admired her gracious straightforwardness coupled with charm and Texas hospitality. Joan is a great friend of the fans of Robert E. Howard,  and I can selfishly say I’m glad she’s my friend as well!

The Tribute to Joan McCowen is so well-deserved – please take some time in your own way to offer up a good thought for a great lady!

Posted in People, REH Days, REHupa history |

Muchas Gracias, Leo Grin!

Posted by indy on 2nd November 2008

The title says it all.

Mr. Leo Grin, the tall, handsome and humble REHupa webmaster, has passed on the reins of this site. After over eight years of tireless and stalwart behind-the-scenes work here, to say nothing of his unbelieveable generosity in footing all the bills, Leo has decided to move on. (Read: lighten his load a little!)

So, thank you so very much, Leo. We owe you a huge debt of gratitude for making this site a world-class effort where people can come for solid Robert E. Howard facts, commentary and opinions. Words can’t really express how much is owed to you, but in light of your generosity of refusing any payment, they’re all I’ve got! Many, many thanks, Leo!

Of course, most of you already know of Leo’s crown jewel of webmastering over at The Cimmerian blog, and it continues to be the very highest of standards for all Robert E. Howard sites. Hell, it’s a great standard for ANY website! If you don’t already know that, get your ass over there! Indy has spoken!

And let’s blaze our pistolas and brandish our Bowies for Mr. Richard Jervis, who is taking over the duties as the REHupa Webmaster. “Flash” is a former REHupan and longtime Howard fan, as well as being one of my most steadfast of friends. As is already noted, his takeover was seamless, and rest assured the REHupa website will continue in the most capable of hands. Besides, I know where Flash lives!

Posted in news, People, REHupa history |

Alton McCowen

Posted by Rusty Burke on 25th August 2007

Alton McCowen

I received a phone call this morning from Susan McNeel with the bad news that Alton McCowen had died yesterday of an aneurysm.

I met Alton in 1986 during the first REHupa trip to Cross Plains. I’d met his wife, Joan, a few months beforehand, when I stopped in Cross Plains to scout out what there would be to do. I figured I’d just bring a vanload of REHupans, we’d look at the house, maybe stop by the library; I really didn’t know what else there would be to do. Thanks to Joan, and to librarian Billie Ruth Loving and the Friends of the Library, there was plenty to do.

At the time I was living in Houston, and I started making frequent trips up to Cross Plains to learn more about Bob Howard’s home town. I’d ask questions of just about anybody who’d stand still long enough for me to get one out. One afternoon I was in the library talking with Billie Ruth when Alton walked in. “Want to go for a ride?” he asked. Up to then I’d mostly known Alton as Joan’s rather quiet husband. Sure, I agreed, I’d love to take a ride around town.

That turned into one of the best afternoons I’ve ever spent with anybody. Alton drove me out toward Pioneer and Rising Star, pointing out how the old road had run during Howard’s time; we also drove down to Burkett and he pointed out more of the old highway. I learned about post oaks and sand roughs, about peanut and cotton farming. I learned about the Old Town down by Turkey Creek, and got a tour of the historic homes of Cross Plains. I learned about Fos Bond and Tom Bryant and others whose names figure prominently in the history of the town. I learned about “old Doctor Robertson,” the owner of the Cross Plains Drug Store in which Bob Howard had worked. Alton had, as a boy, helped the Robertsons with errands and yard work and such, and he loved telling stories about the old man. My favorite: Dr. Robertson in his old age had trouble walking, he just kind of shuffled along without picking his feet up, just sliding them a little back and forth to provide enough locomotion to cover short distances. But he never got over wanting to go up to the drug store and sit around and visit with people. Alton would sometimes get to the house and Mrs. Robertson would say, “Alton, papa’s gone again.” Alton knew just exactly where to go find him: he’d have walked up toward town until he got to the railroad tracks, and the poor old guy would be standing there trying to pick his feet up high enough to get over the rails.

Folks who got to go on the bus tours guided by Alton during Howard Days over the past several years heard many such stories. His storehouse of knowledge of Cross Plains and environs was vast, and once he got warmed up he was an entertaining storyteller. (I think it’s something in the air out there: Cross Plains’ chief product seems to be yarn-spinners.)

Alton was one of the hard workers behind Project Pride, and until recent vision problems curtailed his activities had done a lot of the physical upkeep around the Howard House. He’s also the guy who made the picture frames using original pickets (which had become unusable) from the Howard House fence.
Alton was also one of the nicest, kindest men it’s been my pleasure to know, and I’m going to miss him. We all are.

Leo Grin has posted a nice memorial to Alton over at The Cimmerian. Check it out.

Added Sunday, August 26th: Here’s a link to the Abilene Reporter-News obituary for Alton. Please note that in lieu of flowers, donations in Alton’s memory may be made to the Cross Plains Library, PO Box 333, Cross Plains, TX 76443.

Posted in news, People, REH Days, REHupa history |

A Howard Fan’s Journey to the 21st Century: Part 2

Posted by morgan on 17th May 2007

Wow, I hadn’t intended this much time to elapse between blog posts! A combination of working on taxes in March, writing an essay for a symposium for the April issue of The Cimmerian, and then following up with something for the next issue of Two Gun Raconteur ate up two and a half months.

Anyway, to get back to the story begun in Part 1: Around 1985, there was an extinction event for sword and sorcery fiction. Things just dried up — other sorts of fantasy were taking over. Remember all those cheesy fantasy novels based on Irish mythology from that time? The Del Rey formula fantasy characterized by the likes of Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, and David Eddings was dominant. There were some Robert E. Howard reprints at the time by Ace. They had small print runs and spotty distribution. Luckily at this time, Cryptic Publications under Robert M. Price was steadily producing chapbooks bringing out never before published stories of Robert E. Howard. I bought them all with the exception of Bran Mak Morn: A Play and Others which was already out of print. In the late 80s, Karl Edward Wagner was editing the Echoes of Valor anthologies for Tor. Wagner was bringing out pulp era sword and sorcery loaded with information in the introductions. A mutual friend (the late Virgil Utter) told Wagner about my interest in pulp sword and sorcery and Wagner sent me a post card. In that post card, Wagner told me he planned a fifth and sixth volume if the first three volumes sold well enough.

I decided to take a job in 1990 in Corsicana, TX. I had lived in the Rust Belt growing up on northwestern Pennsylvania and had gone to school in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and worked in Allen Park, Michigan. I wanted a change of scenery. Within a few weeks of moving to Texas, I drove over to Cross Plains one Saturday in August, 1990. A kind resident there got me in touch with Billie Ruth Loving and Margaret McNeel. They showed me the Howard House and property. I then drove down to Brownwood to pay my respects at REH’s final resting place. A couple of months later, I received a note from Project Pride that some members of REHUPA where going to be at the house. This was late October just before Halloween. There was a little cookout at the Howard House and I met Rusty Burke, Bo Cribbs, Patrice Louinet, and Lionel Lomdiuex. Rusty told me about REHUPA and how I should join. A few months later, I received a spec copy from Bill Cavalier. I was in contact with Bo Cribbs having bought a fair number of pulps from him (Planet Stories for the most part).

In 1992, I moved back to Pennsylvania. I joined REHUPA right at the 20 year anniversary. From then on, I was plugged into all things Robert E. Howard. Mailings had letters from L. Sprague de Camp, information from Glenn Lord, and the various zines by many characters. In Summer 1993, I met Bill Cavalier, Tim Arney, Marco Praete, and Vern Clark (the Eric Cartman of Howard fandom).

The 1990s were not a great period for Howard publishing. The Tor Conan pastiche novels were ubiquitous while Robert E. Howard was absent. Baen did have the Robert E. Howard Library which had horrible Ken Kelly covers and those funky silver spines. The books had poor distribution and seemed to do little in building interest in Howard. It was a case of the same old same old. During this time, I became the Official Editor of REHUPA. It was a pain to tell the truth collating the mailings every 2 months. Something interesting happened — the internet. More and more of us were getting online. Then there was a Robert E. Howard discussion group at the old Ed Waterman set up some information on REHUPA online. Jim Van Hise’s book, The Fantastic Worlds of Robert E. Howard included my address for people who were interested. All of a sudden, I was getting inquiries from people on how to get on the Conan T.V. show, how to get their Conan pastiche novel published etc. This burned me out and in 1999 I passed things back to Bill Cavalier as O.E.

Things began to turn in the year 2000. A new small press, Wandering Star, was promising a new series of Robert E. Howard hardback books lavishly illustrated. Members of REHUPA were privy to these plans as Marcelo Anciano would send examples of art by Gary Gianni for the Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn volumes. Wandering Star sparked a new interest in Robert E. Howard. Before long, you had the Wildside books, Girasol Collectibles, the Del Rey trade paperbacks, Bison Books collections all making Robert E. Howard available to a new generation of writers. The Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp pastiche stories and novels were finally excised like removing a lamprey eel. Things are looking good. Writers such as David Gemmell, Paul Kearney, George R. R. Martin have come out and expressed their admiration for Howard’s fiction. There have been some duds — who can forget the awful Conan of Venarium by Harry Turtledove or the execrable Songs of the Dead scripted by Joe R. Lansdale for Dark Horse Comics last year? And then there is the specter of John Milius forcing another clueless Conan script for the movies. Let’s hope that never happens. But things are good from this vantage point looking back 27 years.

Posted in REHupa history |

Son of a Blog! (of Black Indy)

Posted by indy on 5th March 2007

The coffee’s in the process of brewing right now, and while I’m waiting I’ll get started in the process of getting my blogging in some sort of working order. I hope to fall into some sort of schedule here, and would encourage my fellow bloggers to do the same, but I can’t wield the whip here like I do over at the paper apa.

I was planning on doing some reviews here tonight (Rob Roehm’s wonderful HOWARD’S HAUNTS, the new REH poetry volume A RHYME OF SALEM TOWN AND OTHER POEMS, plus the new Vol.4 No.1 Cimmerian), and while I still may give them a cursory sentence, I’ve got other things on my mind. (Cursory sentence: Buy them!)

The recent redesign of this here REHupa website has indeed revitalized (and will continue to revitalize) a long neglected aspect of Robert E. Howard’s presence on the internet: REHupa’s responsibility. We (REHupa as a name-only entity, not a paper apa) have had this website up for quite awhile now, and we’ve used the paper apa’s name as the masthead because of it’s recognizability in Howard Fandom. We’re responsible.

That use of the REHupa name here on this website has come under some discussion recently. By way of explanation, REHupa’s main existence is as a bi-monthly amateur press association, a nice little fan club for people who want to make up their own little fanzines dedicated to REH and have them bound together into one entity, a “Mailing”. But it’s the type of discussion that gives me, as the Official Editor of REHupa (see also: “Chief Coallator”, “Single Stapler”, “Obligatory Ear” – my wife Cheryl gave me that one) cause to reflect on what exactly REHupa is, and what is its purpose, it’s responsibility.

Like I said, the Robert E. Howard United Press Association is an amateur press association (apa), and there are rules which govern its existence in paper form. We (the paper hold-in-your-hand REHupa) have managed to keep it together enough for 35 consecutive years, and we’ve published 203 Mailings. The Rules that govern the 30 members have kept us together, and have also been ignored and usurped and bent all to hell, but everything was (and is) done with the good intents of the apa in mind and at heart. It’s tough to argue with the success of 35 years and 203 consecutive Mailings published.

Now that the REHupa website is coming into some prominence and notoriety with a redesign and the establishment of three blogs to project that prominence, I’m having it pointed out to me that REHupa is more than just the paper apa. Well, yes and no. Is that nebulous enough for you? Our presence here on the internet uses the REHupa name to give credibility (and dare I say respectibility) to all aspects of discussion about REH. And with that lending of credibility comes responsibility to the Whole Wide World of Robert E. Howard Fandom.

If you’ve read this far, I hope that you’ll come to trust me and Rusty and Morgan (and Webmaster Leo) when I say that we will live up to that responsibility of portraying Robert E. Howard fandom, scholarship and comeraderie here on the REHupa website in a way that will make you all feel comfortable about coming over here for information and entertainment. In truth, the REHupa website has been ignored by the majority of the 30 member active Roster for too long now, and the time has come to step things up.

To wit: if you haven’t checked out all the little tabs at the top of the main page, I’d invite you to go there as soon as you can. Hell, you can even stop reading this right now…I won’t mind. While most of the stuff there has been on the site for awhile, Leo Grin’s great repackaging makes it look fresh. And I’ll bet a number of you (REHupans and non-REHupans) haven’t read some of the essays and commentary there in awhile either.

When you go there (either now or later), you’ll even find a brand new essay, “The Tao of Conan,” from REHupan Dale Rippke. Extremely good stuff. I say “REHupan” Dale Rippke because it’s only REHupans (and some former REHupans) who can post articles and essays here. I’m hoping this little pep talk will encourage more REHupans to submit their essays to this site. This will benefit all the non-REHupans who come here for a good Howard fix, and will only help to increase REHupa’s name prominence and respectibility. And, it’ll give each REHupan a part of that responsibility. While the paper apa REHupa remains a cloistered entity, we’ve got a lot of good stuff, past-present-and future, to share with everyone.

We’re still making it up as we go here, but I think we’re figuring it out.

Posted in REHupa history |

A Howard Fan’s Journey into the 21st Century: Part 1

Posted by morgan on 1st March 2007

This is my first post to the new updated REHupa blog. My connection to Robert E. Howard goes back to 1980. I was a junior in high school (Cathedral Prep in Erie, PA) and my English teacher had our class read J. R. R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring. I had been reading a steady amount of science fiction before that including some Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. Tolkien’s book was a remedy for the gray, cold January days and I immediately read The Two Towers and then The Return of the King including the appendices in the third volume. Then, I tackled The Silmarillion, which remains my favorite Tolkien volume to this day. That was it; there was no more Tolkien. This was before Unfinished Tales came out.

Spring of 1980 was a magical time for me. Disco was dead, boring 70s rock was on the ropes, the Ramones were getting a little airplay with End of the Century album, the Clash and Gary Numan had Top 40 hits. Music was great and exciting. I had also discovered a new and exciting for me branch of fiction. I wanted more fantasy. I attempted the first Thomas Covenant book by Stephen R. Donaldson but could not get into it. It seemed too “modern” for my tastes. A walk a few blocks after school from 10th & Sassafras Street over to French Street to the venerable Erie Bookstore was a life changing event. On the shelves was a copy of the Berkley edition of a book called The People of the Black Circle by a Robert E. Howard. The name meant nothing to me but across the top of the book in bright read letters was CONAN. That was a name I knew. I can remember looking at a copy of the Berkley edition of The Marchers of Valhalla the year before at one of the bookstores at the local mall. I can remember having an interest in checking out this “barbarian fiction” but had no idea where to start. I had no guidebooks to tell me what was good at the time the way you had with science fiction. I knew the name Conan from the comic book during the 70s but was never a reader. I bought People of the Black Circle, got home and immediately read the introduction by Karl Edward Wagner. This was the first time I had ever heard of a magazine called Weird Tales. Then I read “The Devil in Iron.” First impression- Conan was biggest bad-ass I had ever encountered. He had the self-assurance of Aragorn, the strength of Tarzan, and a generous dosage of very human desires. Conan initiated action and didn’t take any crap. He made Tarzan look passive. Plus, there was Howard’s hyper-adrenaline writing style that had the reader experiencing the story as opposed to reading it. In “A Witch Shall Be Born,” Conan kills a Shemite mercenary who slaps him. Later in the story, he bites the vulture swooping down for a meal. This guy was better than Dirty Harry or Charles Bronson! I loved sword and sorcery, it was adventure writ BIG! It was anything but boring in the hands of Robert E. Howard.

Unfortunately, Robert E. Howard books were uncommon at this time and I was unable to continue. It wasn’t until the next year that Ace reissued the Lancer editions with good distribution. I was able to pick up Robert E. Howard again my first year of college and continue a lifelong interest. From the paperbacks, I graduated to small press publications starting when I found copies of Fantasy Crossroads at the great comic book/science fiction book/punk rock record store, Eides. Eides was located on 6th Street across the river from downtown Pittsburgh at the time. The 6th Street Bridge had a bunch of skateboard punk rock graffiti and messages scrawled on it drawn by skate punks on their way to buy records at Eides.

In the mid-1980s while in Podiatry School, I was buying everything that Rev. Robert M. Price’s Cryptic Publications produced. I managed to get every Howard chapbook except Bran Mak Morn: A Play and Others. I picked up the Starmont Reader’s Guide to Robert E. Howard by Cerasini and Hoffman when it came out. I had read about a book called The Dark Barbarian in one of the Cryptic chapbooks but did not know how to procure a copy and was unwilling to spend the money for a Greenwood Press book.

Through Bob Price, I got into contact with Richard L. Tierney to tell him how much I enjoyed his Simon of Gitta stories. Through Dick Tierney, he got me into contact with his sometimes co-writer, David C. Smith. It turned out Dave lived in Akron, an hour’s drive from my apartment in Cleveland Heights. Thus started a friendship that remains to this day and one that had its ultimate genesis in my love of sword and sorcery fiction and Robert E. Howard. This was the first portion of a Robert E. Howard fan’s journey to the present.

Next installment: The REHupa era

Posted in REHupa history |