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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