Thursday, January 18, 2018

Fan Mail: Bloch vs. Conan by Bobby Derie

Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian wandered into the pages of Weird Tales with “The Phoenix on the Sword” (Dec 1932), and was followed by “The Scarlet Citadel” (Jan 1933), “The Tower of the Elephant” (Mar), “Black Colossus” (Jun), “The Slithering Shadow” (Sep), “The Pool of the Black One” (Oct), "Rogues in the House" (Jan 1934), "Shadows in the Moonlight" (Apr), "Queen of the Black Coast" (May), "The Haunter of the Ring" (Jun), "The Devil in Iron" (Aug), and the serial "The People of the Black Circle" (Sep-Oct-Nov). Much of the response in “The Eyrie,” the letters-column of Weird Tales, was positive...but in the November 1934 issue that a letter aimed at the popular series character:

A Crack At Conan
Conan is rapidly becoming a stereotyped hero, but I was greatly pleased with Francis Flagg, a real writer, with something to say. I am awfully tired of poor old Conan the Cluck, who for the past fifteen issues has every month slain a new wizard, tackled a new monster, come to a violent sudden end that was averted (incredibly enough!) in just the nick of time, and won a new girlfriend, each of whose penchant for nudism won her a place of honor, either on the cover or on the inner illustration. Such has been Conan’s history, and from the realms of the Kushites to the lands of Aquilonia, from the shores of the Shemites to the palaces of Dyme-Novell-Bolonia, I cry: “Enough of this brute and his iron-thewed sword-thrusts-may he be sent to Valhalla to cut out paper dolls.” I would like to see the above tirade in print—I feel sure that many of your other readers would support me—at least there is good material there for an arguement. [Sharpen your axes, you loyal supporters of the Conan tales, for soon we shall publish a short story by Mr. Bloch, the author of the above letter. It is entitled The Secret in the Tomb.—The Editor.]

Robert Bloch
The writer was Robert Bloch, a teenaged fan who was, by coincidence, just about to make his professional debut in Weird Tales. Bloch had begun corresponding with H. P. Lovecraft in 1933 (LRB 9), and as was quite natural for Lovecraft, he shared his thoughts on Robert E. Howard:

Robert E. Howard is a most unusual character—the son of a physician in the wild & woolly, rip-roaring West Texas country, which is actually much more like the sanguinary West of chap fiction than we commonly realise. Howard is 27, & is probably the greatest living authority on the history & traditions of the Southwest, & the lives of America’s noted outlaws. He is a burly, athletic chap fonder of fighting than of literature, & possessed of the curious belief that primitive barbarism is a more desirable sort of social organisation than civilisation. His letters have a greater literary value than his tales. (LRB 23)

You are also right in assuming that Robert E. Howard has never been to Britain. So far as I know, he has never been east of New Orleans—but his imagination is limitless, & he closely identified himself with his Celtic & Norse ancestors. As for his incessant swordplay—which Clark Ashton Smith calls “monotonous manslaughter”—that is undoubtedly an outgrowth of the same frontier psychology which makes him so fond of barbaric life. It is a part of his personality, & I don’t suppose it could be eradicated without upsetting the whole emotional arrangement which makes him a literary creator. He has a very vivid sense of incredible antiquity, & finely suggests the existence of unhallowed elder worlds & forgotten reaches of time. (LRB 28)

Although Lovecraft credited Smith with describing the Conan tales as “monotonous manslaughter,” the phrase is not apparent in Smith’s published letters and may have arisen from Lovecraft himself. Bloch was generally appreciative of Howard’s fiction, a letter to “The Eyrie” published in the April 1934 issue praised “The Valley of the Worm,” though he derided Conan, writing:

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fan Mail: Prohibition in “The Souk” by Bobby Derie

Then in the early spring of 1403 there came to him, in an inner court of his pleasure-palace at Brusa, where he lolled guzzling the forbidden wine and watching the antics of naked dancing girls, certain of his emirs, bringing a tall Frank whose grim scarred visage was darkened by the suns of far deserts.
—Robert E. Howard, “Lord of Samarcand” in Oriental Stories (Spring 1932)

Farnsworth Wright
In 1930, Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright struck out with a new pulp: Oriental Stories, tales of historical adventure and Orientalist fancy, set in an “Exotic East” of the imagination—of the sort popularized by the likes of Harold Lamb and Sax Rohmer, shades of Yellow Peril and the Crusades. This was a risky venture in many respects, due to the state of the Popular Fiction Company’s finances and the Great Depression, and the decision was made for Weird Tales and Oriental Stories to shift to quarterly publication for a period—to the dismay of many Weird Tales regulars. (For more on which, see Scott Connor’s “Weird Tales and the Great Depression” in The Robert E. Howard Reader). Wright had considerable talent to draw on, including Weird Tales regulars and enthusiasts of the Orient like Otis Adelbert Kline and E. Hoffmann Price.

Robert E. Howard landed a novelette in the first issue, “The Voice of El-Lil” (Nov 1930), and followed it with others: “The Blood of Belshazzar” (Autumn 1931), “Red Blades of Black Cathay” (with Tevis Clyde Smith, Feb-Mar 1931), “Hawks of Outremer” (Apr-May-Jun 1931), and “The Sowers of the Thunder” (Winter 1932). The latter was a story of Baibars the Panther, written at Wright’s own request, inspired by the editor’s reading of Harold Lamb’s The Crusades: The Flame of Islam (1931). Wright followed up the purchase of “The Sowers of Thunder” by “hinting Tamerlane as a fit subject for an Oriental Story story.” (CL2.196, 222) Howard obliged by writing “Lord of Samarcand” which appeared in the Spring 1932 issue.

Oriental Stories was, despite the different subject matter, virtually a clone of Weird Tales in most particulars: Margaret Brundage handled most of the covers, and Joseph Doolin handled much of the interior art, and the layout was basically identical to the weird pulp. Where Weird Tales had “The Eyrie” for its letters page, however, Oriental Stories had “The Souk”—a forum of sorts of readers, who wrote in with their praise and complaints of stories in different issues. “Lord of Samarcand” occasioned one such comment:

Do pious Muhammadans drink? Some of our readers have found fault with Robert E. Howard’s story, Lord of Samarcand, because Howard depicts Timur as indulging in wine to celebrate the defeat of the Turkish sultan, Bayazid. A letter from Francis X. Bell, of Chicago, says: “I like Robert E. Howard’s historical tales very much, and find them fascinating. But he is wrong—dead wrong—in representing Tamerlane and other Moslem lords as drunkards. Baibars the Panther may indeed have drunk to excess, as he was heretical anyway. But Timur (Tamerlane) was an orthodox Moslem, and consequently never drank at all. Mr. Howard should know, if he has studied the history of Islam, that drinking alcoholic liquors is expressly forbidden by the Koran; and certainly neither Timur nor any other important Moslem touched liquor at all. Omar Khayyam was of course a heretic, and his poetry is disapproved by pious Moslems everywhere, who deplore his drunkenness.”
            Mr. Bell is absolute correct when he says that drinking alcoholic liquor is forbidden by the Koran. But Tamerlane did drink to excess, and many other Muhammadan sultans did likewise. Mr. Howard was faithful to historical facts in his delineation of the lord of Samarcand and his bibulous propensities. In the year 1403 the king of Spain sent an embassy to the court of Tamerlane, and one of the ambassadors, named Clavijo, wrote at length of what he saw there. His observations upon the gluttony of the Tatar lords leave no doubt at all that they not only drank heavily, but that drunkenness was expected of them.
            Clavijo writes: “In this garden Timur now ordered another feast to be prepared, in which we ambassadors were forthwith bidden, together with a great concourse of other guests: and here by order of his Highness wine was to be served abundantly and all should drink, since indeed it was to be partaken of by Timur himself on the present occasion. As we were now informed, none would dare ever to drink wine either publicly or in private unless by the especial order and license of Timur.
            “It is the custom with the Tatars to drink their wine before eating, and they are wont to partake of it then so copiously and quaffing it at such frequent intervals that the men soon get very drunk. No feast, we were told, is considered a real festival unless the guests have drunk themselves sot. The attendants who serve them with drink kneel before the guests, and as soon as one cup of wine has been emptied another is presented. The whole of the service is to keep on giving cup after cup of wine to the guests: when one server is weary another taking his place and what he has to see to is to fill and give. And you are not to think that one server can serve many guests, for he can at most serve two for keeping them duly supplied. To any who should not thus drink freely, he would be told that it must be held a despite he thus offers to his HIghness Timur who is honoring him by his invitation. And the custom yet further is for the cups all to be presented brim full, and none may be returned except empty of all the wine. If any should remain, the cup is not received back, but must be taken again and the wine drunk to the dregs. They drink the cupful in one or maybe in two drafts, saying in the latter case it is to the good health of his Highness. But he by whom the wine is freely quaffed will say, ‘By the head of his HIghness,’ and then the whole must be swallowed at a draft with not a drop to be left in the bottom of the up. The man who drinks very freely and can swallow the most wine is by them called Bahadur, which is a title and means one who is a valiant drinker. Further, he who refuses to drink must be made to drink, and this whether he will or no.
            “On the day of which we are now speaking, Timur had sent to us one of his lords in waiting, who brought us as a gift from his HIghness a great jar of wine, and the message was that he would have us drink some of this before coming to him, in order that when we should attend his presence we might be right merry. Hence thus we went to him, and he ordered us to be seated, and thereupon beginning to drink we sat so for a long space of time. … Both the garden and palace were very fine, and Timur appeared to be in excellent humor, drinking much wine and making all those of his guests present to do the same.”
            A noteworthy example of drunkenness by a Muhammadan emperor is that of Baber, the first of the Mogul conquerors of India, and a lineal descendant of Tamerlane. Baber kept himself drunk with wine, hashish and poetry, until after he proclaimed the jihad, or holy war, against the Hindoos. He then gave up his wine-drinking, but continued to keep drunk on hashish and poetry.
            Another interesting glutton in drinking and eating was Mahmud Bigarsha, who ruled over Gujarat for more than fifty years. He ate forty pounds of food every day; and when he went to bed at night he had a heaping plateful of rice on each side of him, so that if he awoke in the night he could eat the rice without turning over. He used to say that it was fortunate for him he was born to be a king, for otherwise whoever could have fed him? Yet he was a pious Moslem.
            The more puritanical sects of Muhammadans, however, would not drink of touching liquor. One of the saints of Islam, in discussing drinking, outdid the most ardent ot our American prohibitionists in his hatred of alcohol. “If one drop of wine fell into a well,” he once said, “I would have the well filled up. And if fifty years thereafter some grass should grow in that spot, and some sheep should graze on that grass, I would have all the sheep killed and their carcasses destroyed as defiled.”
—Farnsworth Wright, Oriental Stories (Summer 1932)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Two Bobs: Robert E. Howard and Robert H. Barlow by Bobby Derie

[...] & I will ask you to pass it along—after as long a reading as you care to give it—to Robert E. Howard, Lock Box 313, Cross Plains, Texas. When many people want to see the same story, it is most convenient to start it circulating in this way.
— H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 17 Sep 1931 (OFF 8)

The two tales safely arrived, & I am glad the “Mts. of Madness” duly reached you. When you are entirely through with the latter, I would appreciate your sending it on to Robert E. Howard, Lock Box 313, Cross Plains, Texas.
— H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 25 Sep 1931 (OFF 10)

R.H. Barlow
By the time Robert Hayward Barlow first wrote to H. P. Lovecraft in June 1931, Lovecraft had already been corresponding with Robert E. Howard for a year. Barlow was 13, the precocious younger son of a retired army lieutenant colonel who lived with his family at Fort Benning, Georgia. A devoted fan of Weird Tales, Barlow had written to Lovecraft looking for an autograph and more of his stories (OFF 3)—a correspondence which soon brought the young fan into contact with Robert E. Howard:

This morning I took out a big registered envelope with a “War Department” letter-head. I had visions of me shouldering a Springfield already, but it was from a gentleman named Barlow, at Fort Benning, Georgia, asking me for my autograph, for which purpose he enclosed a blank sheet of paper and a stamped self-addressed envelope. He also enclosed a 115 page ms. which he said Lovecraft had instructed him to forward me. It’s the Antarctic story which Farnsworth rejected, and which Lovecraft promised to let me read in the original.
— Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith, Oct 1931 (CL2.273)

Which was followed shortly after by the first mention of Barlow in Howard’s letters:

When Mr. Barlow sent me the ms. he did not mention whether it should be returned to him, or to you, so I am sending it to you, as I suppose it was intended that I should.
— Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, Oct 1931 (CL2.274, MF1.231)

No mention is made of the autograph, and this initial contact was not followed up immediately by either party, though, as was common in his letters, Lovecraft would make occasional comments on Howard’s fiction in Weird Tales to his young correspondent. (OFF 29) Around mid-December 1932, Barlow began to write to Lovecraft and Howard’s mutual correspondent and fellow pulpster E. Hoffmann Price (OFF 45, cf. BOD 52-53); where Barlow had initially asked Lovecraft and Howard for autographs, now he was becoming more ambitious in his collecting:

Dear Mr. Barlow:
Price tells me that you are interested in the collection of first drafts of Weird stories. I am sending by express, the first writings — or rather the first typings, since I do all my work on the typewriter — of “The Phoenix on the Sword”, “The Scarlet Citadel”, “Black Colossus”, and “Iron Shadows in the Moon”. Some of the pages seem to be missing from the first named story, but the others are complete. Hoping you will find them of interest, I remain,

[Robert E. Howard.]

P.S. “The Phoenix on the Sword” and “The Scarlet Citadel” have appeared in Weird Tales. “Black Colossus” is scheduled for the June issue, and “Iron Shadows in the Moon” has been accepted, but not scheduled.
— Robert E. Howard to R. H. Barlow, Dec 1932 (CL2.519)

Barlow was appreciative, and asked Howard to sign the title pages of the stories, which the Texan consented to do. (CL2.519) Lovecraft, meanwhile, continued to sing Howard’s occasional praises in his letters to Barlow:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Lost Correspondence: Robert E. Howard and Stuart M. Boland by Bobby Derie

In the the Summer 1945 issue of a fanzine called The Acolyte was published a short memoir called “Interlude with Lovecraft” by Stuart Morton Boland, which began:

In the Spring of 1935 I was making a library survey tour of the European continent. At the quaint little hill town of Orvieto, in Italy, I came upon an amazing mural high on the walls of the local Duomo or Cathedral. The painting represented mighty figures of ebon-hued men (not angels or demons) with great wings, flying through etheric space carrying beauteous pinionless mortals--men and women who were rapturously accompanying them in their voyage through eternity.
I photographed the scene and sent a print to Robert E. Howard, telling him it reminded me of one of his Conan stories. With the print I included a colored reproduction of a rare illuminated manuscript of the 10th Century which I had seen in the Royal Archives at Budapest. Howard, for some reason, sent this facsimile to Lovecraft, asking if he thought his Necronomicon would look anything like the reproduction of the parchment.
Three months later, when I reached my home by the Presidio in San Francisco, I found awaiting me two letters from Howard and an extensive missive from Lovecraft. [...] In my reply to HPL, I stated that I thought his opinion was well-founded, and furthermore that the references of both men to odd ancient gods were ideas they must have borrowed from Mayan, Toltec, and Aztec mythology. (Boland 15)

This presents an interesting example of the consideration of historical evidence, because aside from statements from Boland, there is no direct evidence that Boland and Robert E. Howard ever corresponded. Boland wrote to Glenn Lord in the late 1950s:

I corresponded with Bob for quite some time before his demise—also with his father. I have not located the missives—but if recollections and reminiscences will help, I can give you some rather colorful data concerning the letters we exchanged on European topics, art culture, archeology and anthropology, ecology and the Dark Ages. [...] [Howard] replied via American express ‘poste haste’ and asked about Pompeii, Boscoreale, Herculaneum, Rhodes, Olympus, Palmyra, Orvieto, Palermo, etc. (Roehm 25 Feb 2014)

1931 Boland at Berkley
However, no letters from Robert E. Howard to Stuart M. Boland, or Boland to Howard, are known to still exist. In fact, there are no mentions of Boland in any of Howard’s surviving correspondence published in the Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, nor any mention of Boland or his facsimile 10th-century manuscript in the collected correspondence of Howard and Lovecraft in A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, nor in any of the published letters of Dr. Isaac M. Howard in the Collected Letters of Dr. Isaac M. Howard. Skeptical and critical readers might thus well begin to question whether Boland had corresponded with the Howards at all, or for obscure reasons of his own had fabricated or misremembered his correspondence of 8-10 years earlier.

Absence of evidence, however, is not the same thing as evidence of absence. A close study of Robert E. Howard’s letters shows that he did not, by and large, discuss his correspondence with fans widely: there are no references to Emil Petaja, F. Lee Baldwin, or Charles D. Hornig in Howard’s surviving letters to Lovecraft, for example, though we know Howard corresponded with all three fans. So too, there are gaps in the correspondence during the period of 1935-1936 when Boland and Howard might have written to each other, and the Lovecraft letters are based not on complete manuscripts, but from the abridged Arkham House Transcripts. The case may be, then, that Howard could plausibly have failed to mention his correspondence with Boland to anyone else, and possible that any such mention of Boland or the facsimile that he claims Howard sent to Lovecraft was in a postcard, letter, or section of a letter that is no longer extant.

Without the actual letters or a direct mention by Robert E. Howard, Boland’s claims are unprovable. However, a detailed analysis of his claims can be made with certain circumstantial evidence, which might lend or remove credence from his recollections. To begin with, some background on Boland: according to census data Stuart Morton Boland was born in 1909 in New York City, and by 1920 he was in San Francisco, California. In 1931 he graduated with a BA in Public Speaking from the University of California - San Francisco, and sometime after that was employed at the San Francisco Public Library, as well as being a poet, playwright, and lecturer or guest speaker. According to Boland, his European tour occured Spring 1935, and this is supported by several statements in The Link, the journal of the San Francisco Public Library, where Boland was normally employed:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bootleggers & Gangsters: A Day in the Life of Robert E. Howard By Todd B. Vick

Prior to Robert E. Howard owning an automobile it was his custom when no ride was available, and he wanted to go somewhere, to simply start walking down the road until he could hitch a ride with a willing passerby. This practice is confirmed by his father, Dr. I.M. Howard, in a June 21, 1944 letter to E. Hoffman Price. Dr. Howard told Price, “[I] have known him to start hitchhiking to Ft. Worth or Brownwood to see a fight before he owned a car of his own. And when he was just [a] slender youth.”[1] Going to fights was not the only reason Robert would take off down the road attempting to hitch a ride to his destination. He also hitched when he wanted to go see friends, movies, and on occasions when he just wanted to explore.

East Pecan Street
Coleman, Texas; circa late 1920s
In a September 5, 1928 letter to Harold Preece, Robert describes how he and Tevis Clyde Smith “walked out on the highway, with no program in view, no idea or especial wish.”[2] On this occasion, Smith and Howard simply wanted to see where the road took them. They were out exploring, and agreed to accept a ride from the first car that stopped, no matter who it was. They were eventually picked up by a friend, “a most interesting man, who was in his younger days a rover and a wanderer, a detective, a tramp, and other things better left unmentioned.”[3] This friend was driving around with a young school teacher (neither of whom are named in the letter). The friend and teacher were basically doing the same thing as Smith and Howard: they wanted to see where the road took them. So, Smith and Howard jumped into the car and the four of them drove around the countryside for a spell until they arrived at Coleman, Texas. Coleman is a “town some thirty miles west of Cross Plains.” They “spent some time at a bootleg joint just outside the outskirts of town, both going there and returning thence.”[4]

While at this bootleg joint, Howard ran into an old-timer, who was around 80 years old, whom Howard had known for some time. Howard bought the old-timer a beer and listened to his stories while everyone else did their own thing. The place was probably hopping with a few locals who knew the joint existed. When I initially read Howard’s account it struck me as odd. First, in Central and West Texas in the middle of Prohibition, bootlegging operations were simple and small, located in areas in the sticks away from any town and difficult to reach. Second, these operations typically contained only a small distillery run by one or two people. And they were intentionally located in hard to reach places to keep others away, such as a small hole in the sides of hills, or the walls of creek and/or river beds. This was also to keep the outfit hidden from the Texas Rangers who were busy shutting these small operations down. Moreover, the alcohol that was made at these small operations were bottled on site and distributed away from the operation itself. So, for Howard and his friends to be at a bootleg joint that was large enough to serve people on site was extremely rare. It also probably meant the local police were aware of the place and were paid in cash and alcohol to look the other way. I found this interesting enough to include it in a research road trip I was doing in and around Coleman, Texas. What I managed to dig up is, to say the least, quite intriguing.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Queen by Fire and Steel and Slaughter: Bêlit’s Hymn By Karen Joan Kohoutek

Robert E. Howard’s short story “Queen of the Black Coast” introduced Conan’s first love, Bêlit, a passionate, ruthless pirate queen full of “the urge of creation and the urge of death” (128). Her name comes from the same storehouse of Canaanite/Assyrian legends that brought deities like Ishtar and Derketo into Howard’s Hyborian Age fiction. In real-life legend, Bêlit belonged to the same pantheon, often associated with Ishtar and Derketo, although it’s hard now to know whether the goddesses were popularly connected at the time of their active worship, or whether the association happened when the sources were later compiled out of varied lore.

            In either case, Howard’s Bêlit namechecks two goddesses with whom her namesake was syncretized (Ishtar and Derketo), and also mentions Bel, who was her counterpart’s father in some legends and her husband in others, saying, “Above all are the gods of the Shemites – Ishtar and Ashtoreth and Derketo and Adonis. Bel, too, is Shemitish…” (Howard 247).

            The following tidbits are taken from The Story of Assyria, by Zénaïde  Ragozin, known to have been one of Howard’s sources:

            “As to the female deity of the Canaanites, ASHTORETH (whom the Greeks have called ASTARTE), she is the ISHTAR and MYLITTA and BÊLIT (“BAALATH,” “Lady,”) of the Assyro-Babylonian cycle of gods, scarcely changed either in name or nature; the goddess both of love and war, of incessant production and laborious motherhood, and of voluptuous, idle enjoyment , the greatest difference being that Ashtoreth is identified with the moon and wears the sign of the crescent, while the Babylonian goddess rules he planet Venus, the Morning and Evening Star of the poets” (107 – 108).

            “The planet Venus appearing in the evening, soon after sunset, and then again in the early morning, just before dawn, it was called Ishtar at night and Bêlit at dawn, as a small tablet expressly informs us; a distinction which, apparently confusing, rather tends to confirm the fundamental identity between the two, -- Ishtar, ‘the goddess,’ and Bêlit, ‘the lady’” (19).

            “In ASCALON, where the goddess was worshipped under the name DERKETO, she was represented under the form of a woman ending, from the hips, in the body of a fish” (111). This is of particular interest to Howard readers, since we know that Bêlit’s “fathers were kings of Askalon!” (Howard 243).

            Ragozin also states, “To the Canaanites, the Sun and Moon – the masculine and feminine principles, as represented by the elements of fire and moisture, the great Father and Mother of beings – were husband and wife. … in Ascalon and the other cities of the Philistine confederation they both assumed the peculiarity noted above, together with other names, and became, she, the fish-goddess Derketo, and he, the fish-god Dagon (from dag, fish, in the Semitic languages)” (114).

            Of course, Derketo is mentioned as a goddess in Howard’s stories; Dagon is well-known, especially from the work of H.P. Lovecraft, but also appearing, connected with Derketo, in Howard’s story “The Servants of Bit-Yakin.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Weird Talers: Robert E. Howard and Seabury Quinn by Bobby Derie

Weird Tales Oct. 1925
Seabury Grandin Quinn got his start at Weird Tales with “The Phantom Farmhouse” and an article on Bluebeard, the first in a series of “Weird Crimes” in October 1923. The “Weird Crimes” ran through 1924, and in 1925 he began another article series “Servants of Satan,” regarding the Salem Witch Trials. In October 1925, Weird Tales would publish “The Horror on the Links”—the debut for what would become Quinn’s star character, Jules de Grandin. Over a run of 26 years, de Grandin would star in 93 episodes spread over 100 issues (including the six-part serial “The Devil’s Bride” and reprints), and have the cover 35 times; the character and the author were routinely voted favorites in “The Eyrie,” Weird Tales’ readers page.

Also in 1925, a new writer appeared in the Unique Magazine: Robert E.
Weird Tales July 1925
Howard’s “Spear and Fang” appeared in the July issue, which it shared with one of Quinn’s “Servants of Satan” articles; so did “In the Forest of Villefere” which appeared in the August Weird Tales. The two men never met, nor is there any record of their correspondence, yet it was impossible for them not to have noticed and formed an opinion of one another. Quinn, writing from Brooklyn, and Howard, writing from Cross Plains, were from that moment on in constant, if polite competition—for sales, for the cover spot, and for first place among the affections of Weird Tales readers. Yet Quinn would also, in many ways, be a formative influence on Howard. Lovecraft, who was one of the few to correspond with both men, compared them once:
It is, therefore, piquant & enjoyable to exchange ideas with Two-Gun or to read his stories. He is of about the same intelligence as Seabury Quinn—but Yuggoth, what a difference! (LRB 256-257)
Seabury Quinn was born in Washington, D.C. in 1889, attended Washington National University, and had graduated with a degree in law. He practiced law only for a short time, and joined the army for World War I. After his discharge he returned to practicing law and handled a libel case involving mortuary jurisprudence. He won the case, and they took him on as legal advisor—and so he got his start for The Casket, a trade journal for morticians. Quinn was given progressively more work with The Casket until he became its managing editor; and in 1921 Quinn married his first wife, Mary Helen Molster. In January 1925, The Casket merged with the mortuary journal Sunnyside, and Quinn became editor of the combined magazine The Casket & Sunnyside, which job necessitated moving to New York. (Schwartz & Weisinger 1-2, Ruber 336, Ruber & Wyrzos ix)

Seabury Quinn (1889-1969)
By this point Quinn was already writing the serial character Major Sturdevant, who first appeared in Weird Tales’ sister magazine Real Detective Tales in December 1924, and continued to appear in every issue of that pulp (under editor Edwin Baird) through 1926—and writing two series characters simultaneously (Sturdevant and de Grandin) would be a major challenge for any pulpster, much less one with a day job. Sturdevant’s “Washington Nights’ Entertainment” petered out after a “measly” 27 stories. De Grandin would have a much more substantial run, though a much more modest beginning, in Quinn’s own words:

One evening in the spring of 1925, I was in that state that every writer knows and dreads; a story was due my publisher, and there didn’t seem to be a plot in the world. Accordingly, with nothing particular in mind, I picked up my pen and literally making it up as I went along—wrote the first story [...] As with The Horror on the Links, so with all other adventures of de Grandin. (CA 1.xxi)

Quinn may have been fudging a little; the French occult detective with his more incredulous counterpart Dr. Samuel Trowbridge probably owes something to Agatha Christie and her Belgian investigator Hercule Poirot and companion Arthur Hastings, who first appeared in The Murder on the Links (1923), but both were patently working in the same mold as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Watson & Holmes and Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin. Whatever the case, “The Horror on the Links” was quickly followed by “The Tenants of Broussac” (WT Dec 1925) and “The Isle of Missing Ships” (WT Feb 1926)...and a fan letter in “The Eyrie”: