The De Camp Controversy Part 1

On one of the discussion groups, the old perennial arguement about L. Sprague de Camp erupted for about a week or so. There are partisans on both sides debating the role of L. Sprague de Camp in things Howardian. I thought I would do a continuing series on L. Sprague de Camp. I will be upfront and state that I am a “Glenn Lord guy.” Glenn is an honest, upfront, standup man in my view.

Anyway, I collect reviews of Robert E. Howard especially in science fiction magazines. I have every review of Robert E. Howard from 1951 to 1968. These reviews are very revealing about the person writing the review and sometimes very stupid. The very first thing L. Sprague de Camp ever wrote on Robert E. Howard is a review of the Gnome Press Conan the Conqueror for the April 1951 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Keep in mind that de Camp’s career was just about done in Astounding. De Camp’s review of the Gnome Press book is the typical mix of attaction and admonition. He goes on to state “Howard was an almost-very-good writer who might have overcome certain limiting quirks had he not killed himself at an early age…His main fault was a tendency carelessly to throw his imaginary world together anyhow, so that the poor carpentry shows.” 

De Camp took over from John D. Clark editing the Conan series for Gnome Press. There were also problems. Oscar J. Friend had taken over Otis Adelbert Kline’s Agency after Kline’s death. Kline had been Howard’s agent in the 1930s and early ’40s. In short order, Friend was warning Dr. P. M. Kuykendall, the Howard copyright holder, on  March 14, 1954 that “There is one smart writer now who has been doing some work for us in rewriting several Howard stories, and he keeps pressing for a larger cut and keeps slipping in side remarks to the effect that if he wants to he can and will go ahead on his own and write about Conan as the author is dead, etc., etc. And I’ve warned him that I’ll sue the pants off him if he makes on silly move of this nature before the CONAN material runs out of copyright (56 years).

So, Oscar J. Friend was having problems with L. Sprague de Camp trying to horn in if need be illegally to serve his own purpose. Keep this in mind. More to follow.