Two-Gun Bob: A Pure Text Conundrum

Or would it be Conandrum?

In his constant prowling around eBay from his lair in Bismarck, North Dakota, Brian Leno noticed something neither he nor I could recall hearing of before — a chunk out of a Robert E. Howard western printed in one of the Smashing line of pulps to cross-promo its appearance in another title.

“I’ve been watching this, Don. Never knew that the first page of Howard’s ‘Vultures of Wahpeton’ appeared in this western mag, and I don’t think many others did either.

“It should go somewhat high, but Brian isn’t too worried. When I saw this one I found another on ABEbooks for a mere pittance.

“I think that before this guy on eBay noticed it nobody knew anything about it, but of course I could be wrong. Who would have ever thought of checking Howard in a pulp that is really just worth pennies?”

Brian figured the shoot-out would be brutal, but it ended at only $29.00. Meanwhile the really cheap copy he found rolled in, looking like it had been soaked in piss and dried out for weeks in the sun. Even the legend that is Leno doesn’t win them all. 

He added, “I was certainly wrong at what price the Vultures pulp would go for, but I still think it’s a fairly unknown early appearance of Vultures, even if it is only a few paragraphs. Otherwise I would think some Howard scholars would be yammering that the story was so good it was given free publicity in Smashing Western.”

The trick that makes it interesting is that the full story appeared in Smashing Novels, cover-dated December 1936 — under the title “The Vultures of Whapeton.”

But in the Smashing Western ad the title is “The Vultures of Wahpeton.”

Sometime much later the typescript turned up, and Howard textual scholars began using Wahpeton — after the story had seen print previously in book form under the Whapeton moniker.

For pure text guys, a fascinating little scenario, with the story slugging its way to life under both titles. How often, if ever, does that happen?

“Howard Works lists the first time the spelling Wahpeton appeared was in Joe Marek’s New Howard Review, or Reader, I can’t remember offhand which,” Brian says. “Marek in Howard Reader #6 has the illustration heading and mentions of course the Smashing Novels appearance but nothing about the other printing. Only place I found any reference to the story being in Smashing Western was on the Fiction Index on the Internet.

“But we know it appeared in the January 1937 issue of Smashing Western. Even if it’s only a few paragraphs it is still an appearance.

“It would appear that Howard used Wahpeton in his story but someone at Smashing Novels — but not Smashing Western — changed it to Whapeton.

“There is a Wahpeton, North Dakota, by the way.

“Howard never knew it appeared there, he was dead by that time and dead men tell no tales.”

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Noir: More Murderous Monday

On Saturday July 23 I pulled on the worn gumshoes and led a group by appointment up and down the mean streets, and a fun parade it turned out to be.

A guy named Alec Binnie arranged the deal. He just let me know that he’s poking along with crime writing and has had a short-short up on the Akashic Press feature Mondays Are Murder for a couple of years — and tells me his “flash fiction piece has evolved into a full novel while I’ve been perched on that website.”

The story itself is titled “Rhumba.” Heavily atmospheric. A.k.a. noir as hell.

Last time I mentioned Mondays Are Murder was back in 2016, when Hammett biographer Nathan Ward let me know he’d knocked out a second 750 worder for the site.

Since the stories are short, I wonder how long it’d take to binge all those Mondays. . . .

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Two-Gun Bob: In Memoriam — or Not In Memoriam?

The noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook begs to differ on the question of whether the story “The Man from Dark Valley” by August Derleth was — or even could have been — a memorial salute to Texas author Robert E. Howard.

And while sending in his objections, he added a footnote to the post about the survey “The Hyborian Age” — the one where we learned that Kevin had his hairy eyeball on one of the three carbon copies then held in the collection of Richard Minter, which disappeared after his death.

“Richard Minter did loan it to me,” Kevin reports, “to allow for me to try photocopying it.”

Unfortunately it was the third of the three carbons, and so carried the lightest impressions of the typewriter key strokes.

“It was legible,” he says, “but the carbon of the Conan outline was too faint to photocopy. It was different than the published version in The Hyborian Age booklet because The Hour of the Dragon and ‘Red Nails’ had not yet been published when it was compiled.” 

And with that intriguing tidbit of Howardiana, Kevin proceeds to his main argument:

Knowing how fan publications were put together back in the 1930s, especially with the concept of publication deadlines, leads one to the logical explanation that Donald Wollheim was gathering the contents of Fanciful Tales back in 1935 and the publication of August Derleth’s story mentioning Dark Valley was only a coincidence and not a tribute to Robert E. Howard.

(I certainly hope that “The Man from Dark Valley” was not a Robert E. Howard tribute because it’s a crappy story, not much of a tribute at all.)

Remember that Wollheim’s publications were printed by William L. Crawford.

There’s a whole history — usually recited regarding the publication of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth — of the difficulties Crawford faced in getting his publications out.

The basis of all his problems, when you boil it down, was lack of capital; he never had the money to buy the right paper, the right ink, the right board stock for books.

I would bet that Wollheim gave him the contents of Fanciful Tales sometime in late 1935 and it took Crawford a year to actually get it printed.

Heart of the depression, after all.

I was surprised there was no mention in the post of why Fanciful Tales is still a Howard collectible, however, with the first publication of “Solomon Kane’s Homecoming.” In fact, the very inclusion of the REH poem would seem to indicate that Wollheim had been gathering  its contents for several months in advance and not just between the time of Howard’s death and its publication; that further rules against the “tribute” idea.

Just proceeding “Solomon Kane’s Homecoming” was the following blurb: It is our sad duty to report the tragic death of Robert E. Howard on June 11th — The Editors.

Looks to have been added to the page after it was already typed and ready for printing.

The first publication of “Solomon Kane’s Homecoming” — nearly 90 years later more than enough time has passed to recognize the importance of Robert E. Howard’s poem. 

But it was not something REH wrote in 1935 because he had stopped writing about Kane five years earlier.

It was a poem he had lying around that he gave for free to a fanzine, just as earlier he had given Wollheim “The Hyborian Age” to publish. There was no commercial value at that time, but he could get it into print for those individuals who appreciated the background of the Kull and Conan stories.

Why wouldn’t Derleth do the same thing for a fan publication with a dud he had lying around that had no commercial value either?

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Rediscovered: Milwaukee Party Animals

Always digging around, John D. Haefele uncovered a fanzine report of a party held in Milwaukee in 1940 — a science fiction and pulp gathering anchored by solving an appropriate rebus puzzle.

Meeting in the home of Ralph Milne Farley of The Radio Man fame (also a state senator, but let’s keep it fun here), guests included Robert Bloch — with Psycho not quite 20 years in his future — and Ray Palmer, editor of Amazing Stories.

Spoiler: Bloch came in second place in the game.

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Rediscovered: Abe & Roy

Autograph Hound Saturday once more, and that notable maniacal Autograph Hound Brian Leno brings the John Hancock of the famous pulpster Abraham Merritt back to These Mean Streets.

Plus the artist Roy Hunt also makes a return, after showing up a few years ago with his drawing of detective Solar Pons.

Let’s allow Brian to expound on the subject:

Usually when it comes to collecting autographs, for me it’s one and done — with some exceptions, of course.

It can be a tough business just getting one signature of any of the old pulp greats, but I’m always willing to buy more if the opportunity comes along. 

I got my first A. Merritt autograph years ago. A bit lackluster, consisting simply of a signed piece of paper.

Still, it’s an A. Merritt and I was fairly happy with it, until this one crossed my radar.

Beautiful “Abe Merritt” signature on a letter bearing The American Weekly letterhead. 

An added bonus is it’s addressed to Roy V. Hunt, one of the earlier fan artists — and a good one.

Hunt is worthy enough to recently get his own book, with an illustration from an A. Merritt story, “The Rhythm of the Spheres,” on the cover.

It’s a good book with lots of information on the early years of fandom.

My only complaint with the volume is that it states Andrew Wyeth did the illustrations for the 1918 edition of The Mysterious Island. Of course that would be N. C. Wyeth, not Andrew.

It would be pretty cool to see how Andrew Wyeth would have portrayed Verne’s adventure classic.

I’ve seen a few Merritt letters to Hunt and his wife on the block, but this one didn’t hit the pocketbook too hard. 

I guess it’s like donuts, two is always better than one.

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Two-Gun Bob: A “Probable Outline” Tidbit

The noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook was telling me about another collector he knew named Richard Minter, who would have made a great resource for the book on Arkham House ephemera I’m working on with John D. Haefele.

But then an intriguing aside related to Robert E. Howard suddenly came to light.

Sez Kevin:

You and John did miss out with Richard Minter.

When I knew him he had a whole drawer full of Arkham catalogs, flyers, bills of sale from Derleth and what not. After he returned from the war he began ordering at least ten copies of every Arkham book which he would then sell to collectors in that area of the south where he attended cons and such, basically North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. He had a long correspondence with Derleth as well.

Eventually, on my recommendation after Richard’s death, Mildred Minter sold everything to Dave Kurzman. But several things, including the Arkham stuff, had disappeared between the time Richard Minter got ill and the time Dave purchased everything else.

I think that someone came by the house when he was ill and persuaded him to sell things.

I was extremely pissed off at the time because there was one thing that I really wanted — and that he had promised to me — that was gone.

You might appreciate what that item was.

When P. Schuyler Miller and John D. Clark wrote a “A Probable Outline of Conan’s Career,” they typed up the original and three carbons. The original was sent to Robert E. Howard. Miller and Clark kept one carbon each. The third carbon was given to their friend — named Howard Snively?

Snively sold it to Richard Minter.

How cool is that? A carbon copy of what was mailed to REH in January 1936.

I have never seen or heard of it being offered for sale, but it’s out there in the world somewhere.

Someone has it, but it’s not me.

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Two-Gun Bob: In Memoriam?

John D. Haefele’s expertise on the subject of writer August Derleth, and his circle, just got called into action by a find made by Will Oliver, who writes a fanzine for REHupa titled Some Line-Faced Scrivener.  

You may recall that Oliver once before surfaced on Mean Streets under his Internet avatar Linedfacedscrivener, when he dug up Brian Leno’s legendary ten-part survey on the boxer Kid Dula.

Here’s Haefele:

On June 8, Leo Grin, operator of the Cimmerian Press — well aware the depth of the files I have on writer-publisher August Derleth — sent me this brief note: “In REHupa Mailing #292 for June, 2022, Will Oliver wrote the following. . . .”

REHupa — the Robert E. Howard United Press Association — with a primary focus on that author.

The “following,” in which Oliver summarized a find:

“The Man from Dark Valley” by August Derleth was published in the Fall of 1936 in Fanciful Tales of Time and Space. . . . So, I can’t help but think from the title and the timing that this was written as a tribute to Robert E. Howard. The story is a supernatural tale that reads more like something Howard would have written than Derleth. The woman in the story is “waiting for a man from Dark Valley” and it has a brooding atmosphere about it. The story also speaks of someone going “astral” and the dead returning to seek revenge. Does anyone know if this was meant as an ode to Howard after his death? I’ve never seen anything, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much.

Potentially, an intriguing insight — because more so than during any other time-frame, members of the circle of writers that included Howard, Derleth, H. P. Lovecraft and others entertained each other with artful “name-dropping” in their stories.    

Only recently Derleth had read the holograph manuscript of Lovecraft’s “The Shadow out of Time,” and undoubtedly smiled when in the crabbed handwriting he saw HPL referencing Howard’s fictional Valusian serpent folk and that forbidden book the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of Von Junzt — plus his playful nod to Howard’s Conan the Barbarian: “Crom-Ya, a Cimmerian chieftain of B.C. 15,000.”

Derleth himself also engaged in the fun, as in “The Dark Brotherhood” from 1966, a masterful parody in which he dropped: Arthur Phillips for Howard Phillips [Lovecraft]; Rose Dexter (within whom evil likewise resides disguised) for Lovecraft’s famous character Charles Dexter Ward; old Athenaeum, a term insiders knew Lovecraft used for the Providence library he habitually visited.

A tale not openly about Lovecraft.

A parody too often taken as if Derleth intended his story literally. 

But “The Man from Dark Valley” was new to me. Alison Wilson in August Derleth: A Bibliography summarized its plot: “Though Jim Everard is acquitted of murdering Tom Burt, everyone thinks he paid off the jury. But Mrs. Burt and some friends from Dark Valley manage to bring the murderer to justice.”

For Howard fans, the name-drop is obvious. The real Dark Valley of Howard’s youth had been a very small Texas community, a wild landscape he often described “sinister” and “malevolent” — inspiring the title of L. Sprague de Camp’s biography of Howard, Dark Valley Destiny.

That name led me to a passage in an October 1930 letter, Howard to Lovecraft: “At the mouth of the valley stood a deserted and decaying cabin in which a cold-blooded and midnight murder had taken place…in later years, the man who committed that murder…never dared ride past that ruined cabin by night-time.” 

This letter is relevant because Lovecraft, on November 19, 1932, sent a selection of Howard’s correspondence for Derleth to read: “Here are some of Howard’s earlier letters which dwell especially on the Southwestern frontier.”

Relevant, because the one quoted above was undoubtedly included.

At this point, rather unexpectedly, I discovered I did have Derleth’s story in a fanzine reprint, which I promptly read.

“The Man from Dark Valley” is not a good story at all — a formulaic freebee Derleth probably pounded out in a few spare minutes for the new fanzine — but it does feature an isolated cabin in Dark Valley, and a vaguely supernatural theme. The suggestion of a Western locale.

And there is the timing!

Howard’s letter to Lovecraft (October 1930); Lovecraft sharing the letter with Derleth (November 19, 1932); Howard’s unexpected death (June 11, 1936); Derleth penning his tale for the first (and only) issue of Fanciful Tales of Time and Space (Fall 1936).

An impromptu in memoriam from Derleth on the death of his comrade in letters?

Could be. Could be indeed.

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Rediscovered: The Return of a Doc

A year ago Brian Leno was appalled when bestseller James Patterson tried to write a novel featuring The Shadow.

Now he’s got word that Patterson is moving in on Doc Savage — and we know how much Brian likes Doc:

Just got the latest issue of the The Bronze Gazette with news James Patterson’s The Perfect Assassin: A Doc Savage Thriller will hit the stands in November.

It’s on Amazon. Just saw it.

What’s next? The Spider, Lone Ranger?

Maybe he will try a Conan novel.

This novel features Brandt Savage, the real Doc’s grandson. The co-author is Brian Sitts, who also worked on the Patterson version of The Shadow. The guy has so many collaborators pretty soon my neighbors in Bismarck will be assisting him in his literary endeavors.

I will, of course, read it.

In the Middle Ages I would have been one of those dumb bastard pilgrims walking thousands of miles, whipping myself continuously upon my back.

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Hammett: “D. Hammett”

 

Autograph Hound Super-Sunday once more, and the noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook asked if I’d like to put up images from a very recent acquisition to his shelves, “signed by a guy named D. Hammett.” 

Sure. Why not?

And with a tag line off Psalms.

“I bought the book from The Mysterious Bookshop,” Kevin reports. “Authenticated by Otto Penzler.

The Dashiell Hammett Omnibus from Cassell & Co. 1950, and the brief inscription is to mystery author Hillary Waugh.

“Cost some bucks, but I never thought I would have a chance at a Hammett autograph until this opportunity dropped out of the sky.”

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Two-Gun Bob: June 11, 1926 — 1936 — 2022

Today marks the anniversary of the suicide by gunshot at age thirty of Texas author Robert E. Howard, sitting in his Chevy outside the family home in Cross Plains.

Our resident Autograph Hound Brian Leno lays out another John Hancock to mark this occasion. One of his favorite parts of my book The Dark Barbarian, which Brian bought new in 1984, was the appendix by the late great Steve Eng going into books Howard owned. Fascinated the younger Leno, who went on to have his say on the subject in Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation and Ringside with Robert E. Howard.

(Incidentally, the book of crime stories featuring Mr. Wong mentioned in passing is on the list of San Francisco Mysteries.)

Here’s Brian:

Thanks to the Steve Eng list of books in Robert E. Howard’s library I’ve been able to research a few writers I’ve never read, and then go after their autographs. I’ve snagged quite a few of the writers from REH’s personal collection.

I happened to come across this Hugh Wiley signature some time ago and couldn’t pass it up. Howard owned two books — Wild Cat and Lady Luck — by this once very popular author.

If Wiley’s remembered at all today, though, it’s probably as the creator of the detective Mr. Wong from Collier’s Magazine and the book Murder by the Dozen — portrayed by Boris Karloff in a series of movies.

The Wiley signature is in the Knopf first edition, the dust jacket below belongs to the cheaper Grosset & Dunlap reprint.

Upon viewing that cover art it doesn’t take a genius to realize that Wiley was not the most Politically Correct author. I attempted the first hundred pages and finally gave up. Found him unreadable.

But it’s the inscription date that I love — especially in a book by an author Howard must have read.

June 11, 1926. Every Howard fan knows what happened exactly 10 years later. Eighty-six years ago today.

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