The proverbial truck hit me late Friday afternoon on April 3rd. I received a forwarded e mail stating that REHupan, Steve Tompkins, died of a heart attack March 23rd. I had spoken to him three weeks earlier and he had caught food poisoning eating at a Burger King. This has floored me that eating at a fast food place started a tragic chain of events.
Steve is best known for his essays, articles, and blog post over at The Cimmerian website. He had been been an active member of REHupa from 1995 until last year when he took a break. He had promised me he would be back once his employment situation was under control. Steve was something new and something very unique. He immediately wrote zines containing essays that were gargantuan in size and scope. Disparate elements came in from all directions expanding into something never attempted in Howard studies before. Along the way, Steve would throw in puns, some humor, many literary allusions, and the regular dovetailing of rock & roll music. He had an influence on me. I began writing longer articles and trying to think bigger. I talked to Steve often weekly on the phone bouncing ideas off of him, getting information, telling him about a new book or author I discovered not to mention conversations on music, movies, politics, and pop culture. He was my intellectual wing-man.
We traveled to Cross Plains for Howard Days in 1998 meeting up in Dallas and ransacked some of the used bookstores in Dallas. Along the way, we drove to Archer City to check out Larry McMurtry’s book store with Charles Gramlich in convoy with us. Steve also came to some Pulp-Cons in Dayton a few times. The Breakfast Club diner had no greater fan than Steve.
Among his writings, my personal favorite is probably “Gigantic Gulfs of Eons: Kull, Conan, and Tyrant Time” from The Barbaric Triumph (Wildside Press, 2004). Steve was the guy who discovered that George Orwell had read issues of Fight Stories containing Robert E. Howard stories. He tirelessly made the case for both Robert E. Howard and J. R. R. Tolkien. Publishers of Howard small-press zines had an easier time getting contents, as Steve was always a contributor. His work can be found in the pages of The Cimmerian, The Dark Man, The Robert E. Howard Companion, Two Gun Raconteur among others. It has been a bad weekend. Last year, I lost my buddy Chuck Eschweiler and now Steve. The loss is simultaneous for both Howard Studies and for those of us lucky enough to have shared friendship with him.