The Robert E. Howard United Press Association.

The Horror Stories of Robert E Howard

Posted by Rusty Burke on September 30th, 2008

Illustration by Greg Staples © 2008 Robert E Howard Properties, Inc

Illustration by Greg Staples © 2008 Robert E Howard Properties, Inc

I’ve had a number of requests, the latest from friend Leo Grin over at The Cimmerian, to list the contents of The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard, due from Del Rey Books in time for Halloween. Now that the book is in press, I am glad to do so.  Here is the lineup, poem titles in parentheses:

In the Forest of Villefère / (A Song of the Werewolf Folk) / Wolfshead / (Up, John Kane!) / (Remembrance) / The Dream Snake / Sea Curse / (The Moor Ghost) / (Moon Mockery) / The Little People / (Dead Man’s Hate) / (The Tavern) / Rattle of Bones / (The Fear that Follows) / The Spirit of Tom Molyneaux / Casonetto’s Last Song / The Touch of Death / Out of the Deep / (A Legend of Faring Town) / Restless Waters / The Shadow of the Beast / (The Dead Slaver’s Tale) / Dermod’s Bane / The Hills of the Dead / Dig Me No Grave / (The Song of a Mad Minstrel) / The Children of the Night / (Musings) / The Black Stone / The Thing on the Roof / (The Dweller in Dark Valley) / The Horror from the Mound / (A Dull Sound as of Knocking) / People of the Dark / Delenda Est / The Cairn on the Headland / Worms of the Earth / (The Symbol) / The Valley of the Lost / The Hoofed Thing / The Noseless Horror / The Dwellers Under the Tomb / (An Open Window) / The House of Arabu / The Man on the Ground / Old Garfield’s Heart / Kelly the Conjure Man / Black Canaan / (To A Woman) / (One Who Comes at Eventide) / The Haunter of the Ring / Pigeons From Hell / The Dead Remember / The Fire of Asshurbanipal / (Fragment) / (Which Will Scarcely Be Understood) / Miscellanea: Golnar the Ape / Spectres in the Dark / The House / Untitled  fragment [Beneath the glare of the sun...]

The book is illustrated with 36 story headings and 14 full-page illustrations by Greg Staples, of which those here are but two fine examples.  I edited, with a huge assist from Rob Roehm (The Hardest Working Man in Howard Fandom), who did all the scanning and initial cleaning to produce usable e-texts, and who noted a number of textual problems during the process; I also relied on the invaluable advice of Paul Herman and Patrice Louinet.  Jim & Ruth Keegan art directed, and it is no exaggeration to say that without them, the book might not have come together.  We owe them an immense debt of gratitude. And, as always, Stuart Williams did a superb job with the typography, despite being saddled with an editor who crowds deadlines. And I have to mention what a fine group of professionals we have the pleasure to work with at Del Rey.  One thing we all learned is just how much we miss the involvement of Marcelo Anciano, the guiding spirit of this series.

There is an introduction, by me, but I will frankly admit that it is not one of my better efforts.  For some reason it fought me every step of the way.  In retrospect, I probably should have found someone else to write it.  If it ended up at all serviceable, thank Steve Tompkins, Mark Finn, and Patrice, who made very helpful suggestions.  I did enlist a Well-Known Authority on the Literature of Horror and the Supernatural to write an essay for the book, but despite repeated assurances that said WKALHS was working on it, just needed another day or two, etc., when the deadline rolled around there was no essay, and the WKALHS would no longer respond to my frantic emails.  Thus there is no essay in this book.  There is, of course, “Notes on the Text,” detailing all variations from the original sources used.

But the main attraction, of course, in any of these collections is the Howard stories, and this collection has a bunch of his best.  One of the things that impresses me as I look over the list is the range of Howard’s horror.  All of us who are fans of the Texan’s work have known for years, of course, about the range of his work in toto, from fantasy to horror to western to boxing to detectives to weird menace to spicies to pirates to historicals to… well, he didn’t cover everything in the pulp spectrum, but he certainly covered a lot.  But even given that, the range here is really astonishing.  There are some of the standard figures of the horror tale, like vampires, werewolves, and zombies, but by the time Howard gets through with them, there is nothing “standard” about them.  There is psychological horror.  There are several stories centered on the concept, borrowed initially from the great Welsh master of the weird, Arthur Machen, but later given Howard’s own unique spin, of an underground race of “little people.” There are stories of the sea (though notwithstanding the claim on the Del Rey website, there is no Steve Costigan), and westerns. There are gentleman-scholars and barbarians, boxers and sword-wielders. There are tales set in the ancient world, and others in the contemporary era.  Many writers of horror, it seems to me, tend to find a “formula” that works for them, and stick with it.  They may do brilliant work within that form, but they rarely range far afield from it.  Howard saw that terror could find a home in almost any type of tale, in any type of setting.  Defending himself from charges of “’Germanism’ and gloom,” Poe famously wrote, “I maintain that terror is not of Germany but of the soul.”  Any human soul, anywhere, might experience horror, so Howard let the full range of his imagination loose in these stories.  It is my hope that this book will not only please Howard fans, but will introduce many new readers to the marvelous inventiveness of this extraordinary author.

Illustration by Greg Staples © 2008 Robert E Howard Properties, Inc

Illustration by Greg Staples © 2008 Robert E Howard Properties, Inc

Posted in Howard's Writing, news |