I became aware of Robert E. Howard through Marvel Comics’ Conan the Barbarian series which led me to a number of book compilations of Howard’s writing. As is often the case, I was not aware of just how prolific Howard was across so many genres until I started this diary. From his wiki:
Robert Ervin Howard (January 22, 1906 – June 11, 1936) was an American author who wrote pulp fiction in a diverse range of genres. He is well known for his character Conan the Barbarian and is regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre.
Howard was born and raised in the state of Texas. He spent most of his life in the town of Cross Plains with some time spent in nearby Brownwood. A bookish and intellectual child, he was also a fan of boxing and spent some time in his late teens bodybuilding, eventually taking up amateur boxing. From the age of nine he dreamed of becoming a writer of adventure fiction but did not have real success until he was 23. Thereafter, until his death at the age of 30 by suicide, Howard’s writings were published in a wide selection of magazines, journals, and newspapers, and he had become successful in several genres. Although a Conan novel was nearly published into a book in 1934, his stories never appeared in book form during his lifetime. The main outlet for his stories was in the pulp magazine Weird Tales.
Thanks to Marvel, I was aware of a number of Howard characters – Conan, Kull the Conqueror, Red Sonja, Solomon Kane, and Bran Mak Morn. In addition to these characters, Howard created at least two sports related (boxing) characters, Sailor Steve Costigan and Kid Allison. Wiki has a page of a complete Howard bibliography listing his stories from all the genres he wrote in (including westerns, horror, detective, historical, comedy, etc.)
After I became aware of Howard, I found a number of compilation books that I read. There were a number of books where sci-fi/fantasy writer L. Sprague de Camp published/edited/added to/or wrote based upon Howard’s original stories, especially within Conan’s “universe.” Goodreads.com shows 24 pages of Howard books (including those from de Camp and other fantasy writers.) I know I read Conan the Conqueror, Conan of Cimmeria, Conan the Freebooter, Conan the Adventurer, Queen of the Black Coast, and Bran Mak Morn.
Howard’s IMDB page shows nineteen writer credits. Of course, most people are probably familiar with the two Conan movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer. Schwarzenegger also appeared in the movie Red Sonja with Brigitte Nielsen in the title role. Kull the Conqueror starred Kevin Sorbo and Tia Carrere. There has been an update to Conan the Barbarian from 2011 that does not appear to have gotten very good reviews. There is also an announced The Legend of Conan once again starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. There was a movie based on Solomon Kane in 2009 that seems to have gotten decent reviews.
Howard and H.P. Lovecraft were frequent correspondents and Howard was considered a member of the Lovecraft Circle of writers. While first “invented’ by Lovecraft, Howard contributed to the “Cthulhu Mythos.”
I had to laugh a bit when I saw this on the wiki page for “John Galt“:
Rand is not the only famous author to invent a character with this name. Pulp fiction author Robert E. Howard, creator of heroes such as Conan the Barbarian, used a villain named John Galt – also a man of mystery missing for a long time and possessed of great wealth, trying to manipulate his world from the background – in the tale “Black Talons” in 1933, more than twenty years before Atlas Shrugged was published.
My bold. Methinks Howard had a far better read on the personality of “John Galt” than Ayn Rand ever did.
Picture from Tom licensed under Creative Commons