The Book of Robert E. Howard

The Book of Robert E. Howard was a pivotal book for me. That book transformed me from a Conan fan into a Robert E. Howard fan. The pump had been primed already by first exposure through the Berkley paperbacks edited by Karl Edward Wagner. Wagner’s focus was squarely on Robert E. Howard and Weird Tales. Wagner is partially responsible for my pulp buying habit.

The Book of Robert E. Howard was in print when I first read it.  A guy on my floor in the college dormitory lent it to me over Christmas break. This Glenn Lord guy wrote understated introductions that were packed with information. There was no editorializing in contrast to Wagner and de Camp.  I became aware of the wide range of pulp magazines.  Weird Tales, All-Story Magazine, and the science fiction magazines were all known to me but I had no idea about detective, boxing, western, or weird menace.  Glenn did not use any story that was in print with any paperback or hardback at the time of first publication in 1976. This was the first time I ever read a fictional western (“Knife, Bullet, and Noose”) and I liked it. Ditto for boxing, weird menace, and spicy. “Pigeons From Hell” might be the first adult horror story I ever read. This book was a gateway to new worlds. “The Voice of El-Lil” was not the first first “lost race” story I ever read but it was more intense than any of Tarzan’s visitations to Opar.

I was a confirmed Robert E. Howard fan when I finished that book. The multiple solid punches of “Red Blades of Black Cathay,” “The Voice of El-Lil,” “Knife, Bullet, and Noose,” “Black Wind Blowing,” and “Curse of the Golden Skull” converted me from being a Conanist to a Howardist in 240 pages.

The Second Book of Robert E. Howard included my first introduction to Kull and Solomon Kane.  “Two Against Tyre” remains a favorite of mine to this day. I would have liked to have seen more adventures of Eithriall the Gaul. I had no use for poetry up until then. Reading “The Gold and the Gray” and “The Song of Horsa’s Galley” made me begin to rethink the worth of verse.

There were some other pulp writers who could write in various genres. The idea of an omnibus collection exploring different genres is an excellent one. The Louis Lamour collection, Yondering, comes to mind of being in a similar vein. In an alternate universe, Zebra Books continued the idea with a series of books of pulp generalists. I will investigate that idea in future posts and who could have fit the bill.

Oh–My wife can blame Glenn Lord ultimately for my pulp buying habit. Glenn really introduced me into that wonderful (and sometimes expensive) world.