Tom Krabacher sent along a few notes on the recent Windy City pulp convention, held on the outskirts of Chicago. He had a posse lined up to roam the aisles, but for various reasons several bailed on him close to the last minute — Kurt Shoemaker from Texas and his long-time pulp collector pal from Iowa Bill Thinnes, and also the noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook, who chose not to fly in due to the mask requirements. Luckily he got to spend some time with John D. Haefele, who did his usual first day assault on the dealers on Friday, searching for the diminishing items left on his Want List. Haefele, in like a flash and gone, back to his lair in Wisconsin.
Got back from Windy City late last Sunday night — enjoyable, even if you toss in the usual hassles of air travel, which this time included Southwest sending my clothes to Raleigh, NC rather than O’Hare.
The event was significantly larger than the usual Pulpfest and offered the opportunity to connect with people I don’t see very often. Lots more dealers with a wider range of wares of somewhat higher grade — and higher prices — were there, including Gunnison’s former partner, Andy Zimmerly, who came in with dozens of long boxes full of good condition pulps. The result was a Thursday night pre-show feeding frenzy, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since the 1998 Pulpcon.
As they say: Pulpfest is for socializing, Windy City is for collectors.
Haefele and I connected a little before noon on Friday; I was talking to David Rachjel at his dealer’s table when John walked through the door. After he made a brief pass through the dealer’s room we headed out to a nearby tavern — a nice place with plenty of wood appointments, subdued lighting, and a friendly bartender— for pizza, alcohol, and a couple hours conversation, before he headed home. At Haefele’s suggestion we had wine — but he spoke too soon and would have preferred something harder after he saw they stocked Buffalo Trace whiskey. I’m not much of a bourbon/whiskey drinker, but the brand apparently must be all the rage in the upper Midwest.
It was the most enjoyable part of the weekend. Covid-cautious Cook was missed.
The Friday night auction was devoted to items from Bob Weinberg’s estate, which was dominated by lots of high-end Weird Tales issues. Bidding was fast and furious with lots of money being thrown around. Over the past few years, comic book collectors have started to look to the pulps as the new frontier for speculation and investment, to the dismay of a lot of pulp regulars, and at this show the presence of outside money was very apparent.
The prime example was the October 1933 Batgirl issue of WT (which has always struck me as one of the most overrated covers in all of pulpdom). It went for $11K — not to mention a 10% buyer’s premium.
There were three HPL items that Weinberg apparently got from Derleth (who, in turn, likely got them from the Barlow estate):
— an Errata sheet for the 1936 Visionary edition of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” with handwritten notations by HPL
— Postcard from HPL to Galpin from 1922 (HPL signed as “grandpa”) — $750
— Envelope addressed from the UK to HPL, with HPL handwritten note saying “Please return to HP Lovecraft” and giving his address — $360
As prices go at this point in time, I have no idea whether those are reasonable or not. I was tempted to try for the postcard, really a pretty minor item, but it was clear that the person who eventually won it was bidding aggressively and would probably have outbid me in the end, so I blew the money on other things. (I’m not sure whether I should be second-guessing that decision or not.)
Saturday night was mainly items from Glenn Lord’s estate — REH correspondence, lots of Arkhams — though the condition was not always great; insect damage marred a number of them. Top items were a copy of Ebony and Crystal inscribed by CAS to REH ($1300) and an ex-library copy with facsimile DJ of the Jenkins A Gent from Bear Creek ($2600).
The copy of E&C was in good shape given its age — covers and spine in good shape, pages tight — and I would have thought it would have gone for more than it did. One can speculate as to why it didn’t, the big money players were there for the Friday night auction with all the high grade pulps (especially WT). They weren’t there Saturday; winning bids on a lot of items were lower than I expected.
A more likely reason may be that people aren’t as enthusiastic about or as familiar with CAS, especially a collection of his verse. Still, an inscribed copy to Howard, linking two of the WT triumvirate, should have attracted more interest than that.
As for me, I came home with nothing spectacular: Biggest item was a nice condition Arkham 1944 edition of Jumbee, which I acquired at the auction, a copy of Will Murray’s new Shadow history (support one’s friends), some Unknown upgrades, and a number of early Adventure issues. Among the latter was a beat-up copy of the first issue (Nov. 1911) lacking both front and back covers; I’m not sure that I really needed it since I already have a complete scan of the issue but, like Jack Burton, I figured “What the hell.”
Plus a Quick Footnote from Haefele:
I did attend Windy City day 1, and found one Arkham House upgrade, but nothing else I couldn’t pass up. The highlight of the day was spending the afternoon with Tom.
One nice thing happened, however, when I was seen dragging Rajchel’s copy of Lovecraft: The Great Tales across the room. Some person unknown to me stopped to say I was going to enjoy reading the book, that he was 2/3rds through it and thought it was excellent.
As far as I know, he had no idea I was the author.
We were interrupted before we could explore the coincidence, and I didn’t see him later.
The collection of Lovecraft’s letters to Robert H. Barlow, O Fortunate Floridian, has so many irritating flaws and omissions I honestly think it would be better to toss it on the scrapheap and do a new edition under less fannish editorial hands — John D. Haefele’s recent Lovecraft: The Great Tales features much better (and previously unseen) photos of HPL visiting RHB in DeLand.
Visiting Barlow, and his cats High, Low, Jack and Doodlebug. . . .
Brian Leno’s recent interest in Barlow is by no means his first show of interest, he’s had this envelope for awhile. Perhaps it could be considered part of his Lovecraft collection, the tiny John Hancock from the Providence writer — but it feeds into any sort of Barlow collection he may seek out in his persistent quest for autographs.
Brian checked and the note anent Doodlebug is missing from O Fortunate Floridian. If you have that book, you might want to make a copy and insert it near the text of the September 26, 1935 letter.
Autograph Hound Super-Sunday continues Brian Leno’s recent fascination with the tragic literary figure Robert H. Barlow, spotlighting some of the most recent autograph items he’s picked up as satellites to that interest.
And just as one thing connects to another (really, would anyone in the normal course of things expect Barlow to have met William S. Burroughs?), Brian hauls back into the conversation Robert E. Howard, Doc Howard and Otis Adelbert Kline.
Your show, Brian:
I’ve never seen the Kline note I just acquired reproduced anywhere before, but that certainly doesn’t mean it hasn’t — images of both sides above.
I’m no authority on Kline and his dealings with Dr. Howard after Robert E. Howard’s 1936 suicide, but I believe Druid Press — which consisted of Robert H. Barlow, Groo Beck and possibly Claire Beck — were sent a package containing Howard’s poetry somewhere at the end of 1939, or the beginning of 1940.
In February 1940 Druid Press wrote to Kline and told him they weren’t going to publish the poems and were mailing them back express.
Between then and around the date of this 1940 note it seems Dr. Howard made some sort of offer to them if they would change their minds. Obviously he wants to know their plans regarding the poetry, but Kline must have dropped out of contact with the Druid Trio shortly afterwards.
In April of 1941, Kline is trying to locate them once again, to explain that the good doctor is withdrawing whatever offer he had made.
He writes Dr. Howard that he no longer knows where they could be, but he believes E. Hoffmann Price knows one of them.
(The timeline of the whole Howard-Kline-Druid correspondence remains a bit murky. The doc burned a bunch of Howard’s poems by mistake and then, around 1943, wanted to know if Druid Press had made copies.)
The history of Barlow and the Beck brothers is very interesting.
Barlow went to Lakeport, California, where the Becks lived and he wrote in his short autobiography that he “could not decide which of the Beck boys to fall in love with.”
While Barlow was gay, apparently the Beck brothers were not, although Barlow writes that Claire evidently “had a mania for bathing”, liked to wear “skin-tight drawers” and had a “nice prick, uncircumcised.”
Later Barlow would move in with Groo on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco and they would share a bed. Barlow made advances but Groo, apparently, wasn’t biting.
Barlow wrote that Groo had a “Christ like red beard” which “excited him sexually.” He also noted that the Beck boys were ” big as oxen” which probably got him going a little bit also.
The Groo Beck inscription comes from After Sunset, a book of poems by George Sterling — they had sent a copy along to Kline to show as an example of their work. Published under the eponymous imprint of San Francisco bookseller John Howell, Barlow usually is credited as editor and Groo as the printer. In Barlow’s short autobiography, collected in O Fortunate Floridian, he writes that Beck did 90% of the work from a manuscript the bookseller Howell had. He says the book made expenses.
I would guess that Groo’s signature is pretty uncommon. His inscription is a poetic one, but it’s safe to assume he’s no George Sterling.
Another Autograph Hound Weekend looms before us, this one — like many before — anchored by John Hancocks that have drifted into the mitts of Brian Leno, and will never drift out. Not in this lifetime.
Take it, Brian:
I’ve been hearing about a William S. Burroughs and Robert H. Barlow connection for a bit and just did a little digging. I never knew they were acquainted. Apparently Burroughs studied the Mayan Codices under Barlow at Mexico City College and went on at least one field trip with Barlow in Mexico.
When Barlow killed himself at the beginning of 1951, Burroughs wrote to Allen Ginsberg on January 11 to say: “A queer Professor from K.C., Mo., head of the Anthropology dept. here at M.C.C. where I collect my $75 per month, knocked himself off a few days ago with overdose of goof balls. Vomit all over the bed. I can’t see this suicide kick.”
This quote easily found on Wikipedia, which also mentions that Barlow studied art under Thomas Hart Benton.
He got a lot of living into an abbreviated lifetime of 32 years.
If you already knew this, sorry. But it was new to me.
When I met Burroughs and had him sign my paperback of Naked Lunch I wonder if I had mentioned Barlow to him if he’d have remembered. That would have been cool.
He wrestles with the complexities, and I suppose my fave pull quote would be “Haefele wasn’t looking to get to first base with this Cyclopean tome. He swung for the Lovecraftian fences.”
One of the Amazon reviews for the book by Tom Krabacher also grapples with the scope and scale of the study, but my personal favorite lines come from another Amazon bit from Jeffrey Scott Sims, where he notes: “A pleasure to read, its great length just flies by. I didn’t want it to end.”
And as a footnote to the Deuce review — keeping in mind that any single review couldn’t possibly cover every nuance of the text — the noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook just mentioned to me that “Deuce missed what I consider the seismic revolution in Lovecraft studies, with HPL changing his whole style of writing after reading The King in Yellow — after Joshi has proclaimed for years that Chambers had ‘little’ effect on HPL.”
Yeah, one angle and another and another in those 700-plus pages. Who knows what specific insight will most resonate with any given reader?
The steady flow of autograph materials over the last few days has plunged Autograph Hound Brian Leno even deeper into John Hancockian reveries, but then he’s never quite free of such musings. . . .
“Of course I’ve been reading with enjoyment the autograph stuff on your site. For what it’s worth I’ve seen a lot of Bradbury inscriptions where he uses the exclamation mark. So my feeling is John! has a keeper. (In the same fashion, I have a Clint Eastwood signed photo inscribed to Brian, but not this Brian.)
Not to be left out of the action, Tom remembered an illegible Ray Bradbury in his own collection, his “almost-unintelligible Bradbury signature.”
Yet Tom concedes: “Admittedly not as bad as de Lint’s, since with an exercise of the imagination you can sort of make out the name.”
As I squint at it I’m seeing more of a Ray F(araday) Nelson emerging — longtime local Bay Area science fiction writer who served more or less as the model for Roy Batty in PKD’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? — a.k.a. Bladerunner.
In 1977 Don Herron began leading The Dashiell Hammett Tour, now the longest-running literary tour in the nation. On this site you’ll find information on current walks — dates, where to meet, arranging tours by appointment — plus a hard-boiled blog with news, reviews of books and film, and a dash of noir.