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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Rediscovered: The Death of Kafka and the Triumph of Brod

Brian Leno returns with an autograph to memorialize another anniversary — “an autograph from 1932 with a quotation from a certain Rabbi Tarfon, a saintly man who lived around 100 A.D. The translation is beyond my attempts.”

Here’s Brian:

On June 3rd, 1924, Franz Kafka, one of the most influential, and greatest, writers of the twentieth century died.

Dying of a medical condition that made it extremely painful to either eat or drink, he continued to edit a story he was working on at the time.

Because of this illness he was actually starving to death and in a bit of twisted irony the story he was revising was “A Hunger Artist.”

He was not quite 41.

He had given instructions to Max Brod, one of his closest friends, to destroy everything he was leaving behind. 

All journals, letters, stories and unfinished novels were to be erased as if they’d never been, and while I usually believe a person’s last wishes should be respected I’m certainly glad Max Brod didn’t feel likewise.

Instead Brod embarked upon a heroic journey and published his friend’s stories and novels, and in some cases contributed to the writing.

I don’t think it’s out of line to say that without Brod there would be no Kafka. 

Even though Kafka’s masterpiece, “Metamorphosis,” was published during the writer’s lifetime it probably would have been forgotten years ago if Brod hadn’t brought the rest of the Kafkian treasure trove to light.

And I know my life would have been a poorer one if I’d never read of poor Gregor Samsa and his unearthly plight.

Admiring Kafka, and Brod, as much as I do I couldn’t pass up the chance to snap up Brod’s autograph when it appeared.

Obviously Kafka runs a little higher than my wallet will allow. I recently saw a Kafka signature on an envelope to, I believe, his girlfriend Dora Diamant, which was in the $8,000 price range.

I’m not positive the envelope was addressed to Diamant, but I do know she also had some literary papers given to her by Kafka with the same request that, upon his death, they were to be destroyed.

Like Brod she didn’t listen either, but unfortunately for the world of literature the Nazis confiscated the papers. No one knows what became of them.

So have a glass of something and remember Kafka today. Go outside, and find some poor bug crawling on the sidewalk — but don’t step on it. Have a little respect for the Gregor Samsas of the world.

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Hammett: More Hawkman

Remember back in 2016 when the DC comics show Legends of Tomorrow debuted on the CW? Seems like only yesterday, and now it has been canceled, the last sad dregs streaming off into oblivion. . . .

But hey, I liked it well enough for quite awhile — Dominic Purcell had some of the best lines. (Any time a CW show made a sly wink to Prison Break, it was gold.)

And my favorite in-joke or Easter Egg was when the statue of the Maltese falcon from the 1941 Bogie movie pulled a cameo. I covered it here. You can take a gander at the image above.

Now Brian Wallace digs up an article that explains that the falcon statue wasn’t just a clever one-off, it references a story line from the comics. One where Hawkman was partnered in the P.I. biz with — could it be? — Sam Spade.

A continuity implant. A bit of retcon.

My Hawkman era was back in the days of Joe Kubert and Murphy Anderson on the drawing board, when the winged hero was a cop from an alien world. But if you want to haul Ancient Ægypt into it all, knock yourself out.

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Rediscovered: The Death of Sax

Arch-Autograph Hound Brian Leno hauls out a couple of John Hancocks to mark an anniversary, including one from the iconic Anna May Wong, who just got her own American quarterpiece, if you prefer to collect coins.

Here’s Brian:

Sixty-three years ago, on June 1st, 1959, Sax Rohmer passed away, so he’s due for a little recognition today.

He had plenty of fame in his lifetime, no doubt about it.

Robert E. Howard had quite a few books by Rohmer in his library, and any reader of “Skull-Face” knows that the Texas author was an admirer of Fu Manchu and his epic battles with Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie.

Of course many movies were made during Rohmer’s lifetime. One of the more interesting is The Daughter of the Dragon from 1931.

Beautiful Anna May Wong portrayed the evil genius’ daughter, and Warner Oland (better known as Charlie Chan) essayed Fu.

The autograph of Anna May Wong is a recent acquisition. Inscribed to Joan Bradshaw, who was a bit of a beauty herself as an actress and producer.

The Rohmer has been in my collection many years. I’ve framed it with a picture of Joseph Clement Coll’s rendition of Fu Manchu striking fear into the heart of Dr. Petrie. No one else does the evil mastermind as well as Coll.

I haven’t read all the Fu Manchu books, but I’ve read a few. I’ve enjoyed them but I’ve noticed that our two heroes, Smith and Petrie, have their share of arriving on every crime scene just a little late.

Discovering that Fu Manchu is in the city and that somebody’s life is in jeopardy, Smith yells “Quick Petrie! Get off your butt! Mr. So-and-So is in danger, we have to hurry!”

They never seem to make it in time. To their credit, however, the corpse is usually still a bit warm.

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Hammett: The Noir Croissant

Brian Wallace updates the news regarding Clive Owen playing Sam Spade, after Sam has moved to France, it’s circa 1963, and a plot is brewing.

First, The Ronin blurbs the project and speculates who might pick it up — they lean toward Netflix since Scott Frank, floating the project, scored there with The Queen’s Gambit.

But in a shocking upset — or a mysterious twist — or what-have-you — Brian then forwards a bit about rights going to AMC.

I remain curious to see if any influence from Jean-Patrick Manchette will seep in. That period in France was his turf, but then you have the problem that Sam Spade didn’t carry guns in The Maltese Falcon, and Manchette was gun-heavy. The heaviest.

(But for the amusing and ironic twist, in his own solo detective novel, Manchette featured a P.I. who wasn’t much with firearms — kind of like Steve McQueen playing a guy who was a lousy driver in his final film, The Hunter.)

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Rediscovered: Primeval Arkham House Ephemera

John D. Haefele and I, marching deeper into the thick of the Arkham ephemera jungle, plug away on a book intended to cover each and every Item from the Classic Years when August Derleth and Donald Wandrei were in the House.

Recently, ephemera collector Julie Matthews checked in to see if she might help. Aside from the obvious benefits of comparing Want Lists and learning who had dupes of what — Julie got a few Items from me and JDH she needed, in trade for some she had that we haven’t been lucky enough to find in decades of searching — inevitably new Items come to light.

She popped me the image of the 1942 booklet on Wisconsin literature (noting, “and as you would expect, Derleth does list his books as being amongst ‘the best’ from his home state”). As far as I can recall, I hadn’t seen this one at any point. I did a quick check of Alison Wilson’s 1983 bibliography of Derleth. On page 198 I found a cite for an article titled “American Regional Literature,” published in the March 1942 Phi Kappa Phi Journal. Close, I guess, but no Cohiba.

And then I thought, wait a minute. . . .

I dove into my ephemera holdings and pulled out August Derleth: Twenty Years of Writing 1926-1946. A list of his work compiled by Derleth himself.

And what the hell, it is a reference work, right?

Page 8, at the top, Wisconsin Regional Literature — “a booklet. Sauk City, Wisconsin, 1941” — 1941? — “Revised edition, 1942. $.05.”

Julie had a second printing.

Now, I can see some people dismissing it as belonging in any way with Arkham House ephemera. It doesn’t mention Arkham House, just Sauk City. It costs a nominal nickel, and ephemera serves as advertising giveaways.

But in the history of Arkham House, it strikes me as very intriguing — perhaps even important. Obviously self-published. Later in 1941 Derleth would self-publish the second Arkham, his own collection Someone in the Dark. Everyone knows about that title serving as a placeholder until more Lovecraft could be readied — and then Derleth released as his third title Out of Space and Time by Clark Ashton Smith. What would become Arkham House as we know it was underway.

Yet clearly Derleth had it in his mind to self-publish some rogue material. He barely had the name Arkham House (coined by Wandrei) in play. And in this same time frame he did another booklet that for me indicates Arkham’s future was sealed — at least as long as Derleth could keep it going.

The other booklet I’m saving to blurb in the book — got to have some new stuff to excite the populace. Haefele and I both have copies, so we’re covered. And no one will argue it doesn’t go with the ephemera.

If you think Wisconsin Regional Literature fits in, too, you now have two additional Items for your Want List, from 1941 and 1942, just as Arkham began the climb out of the primordial mire.

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Hammett: Birthday 128

Samuel Dashiell Hammett was born on this date in 1894.

As a little token for the anniversary, Terry Zobeck popped in the cover of Brief Stories you see above. “This weekend,” Terry reports, “I bought a copy of the June 1923 issue of Brief Stories with ‘The Joke on Eloise Morey.’ Incredibly rare.”

In with Hammett’s earliest publications. As Terry did his coverage of the changes Frederic Dannay — a.k.a. “Ellery Queen” —made to the tale when he reprinted it, he couldn’t find any kind of image to add some color to that post. I’ve gone back and plugged this cover in. Now that Terry has brought it forth, I suppose it’ll be all over the Internet within hours.

Thanks to Terry shelling out the hard cash.

He adds, “I bought it along with the October 1934 issue of Black Mask with Chandler’s ‘Fingerman.'”

In his quest to land all the original print appearances of Hammett and Chandler, the two giants of Black Mask, Terry racks them up.

“I only need ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’ and ‘Spanish Blood’ to have all of Chandler’s stories. Given the rarity and priceyness of ‘Blackmailers,’ it is highly unlikely I’ll get the complete set, but you never know.”

And as Terry continues his pulp hunt, I imagine he’s raising some appropriate birthday toast, wondering if he can get as close on Hammett. . . .

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