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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