Rediscovered: Chandler and the Great War

Brian Wallace lets me know about news popping in scattered corners of the noir universe. I suspect he thinks I’m too lazy to look for the stuff myself, and if so, he isn’t wrong. For many long years I have operated under the motto The Mountain Comes to Mohammed, with me being Mohammed, waiting around to see what news might drift in.

Just a couple of days ago some digital archives were opened up, with 80 pages covering the pre-Marlowe Raymond Chandler enlisting to fight in World War I.

Surf over and check it out. Mentions Chandler coming into San Francisco, plus the fact that he has one of those blue enamel plaques on a house in London to commemorate his time there.

Posted in Frisco, Lit, News | Tagged , , , , |

Mort: Gus Konstin

And Brian Wallace just popped me the sad news from the San Francisco Chronicle that Gus Konstin — owner of John’s Grill — has died. Under Gus’s tenure, the grill set up the various tributes to Hammett, in celebration of Sam Spade eating a meal there in the novel The Maltese Falcon.

You might recall the last big meeting I had with Gus, when I took the Greek writer Fondas Ladis to his house to interview Gus about legendary Frisco businessman and strikebreaker Blackjack Jerome. Too bad Gus didn’t live to see his interview translated over into that book.

The Blackjack book isn’t out yet, but Fondas is plugging away on it and has many chapters written. I need to sit down and dig out some nuggets of info he needs to wrap his Hammett chapter.

A year or two after the interview, I happened to meet Gus as he was entering John’s Grill and I was exiting, and we talked for a few minutes on the sidewalk. Last time I saw him.

I always liked Gus. He was authentic.

Posted in Dash, Frisco, News | Tagged , , , , , |

Two-Gun Bob: Rob Roehm on Previous Discovery of “Racial Standpoint”

Just got in a note from Rob Roehm, a Big Name Fan in Robert E. Howard circles in recent years, tireless tracker of any mention of the Howard family in courthouses and county records across Texas. My favorite of his discoveries was finding the spot in the ruins of Fort McKavett where REH had a picture snapped — quite a job of detective work. And one year Rob and I drove cross country from his lair in the Mojave Desert to the annual Howard Days celebration in Cross Plains, Texas.

Rob says, “Just FYI, the bit from the Palouse Republican and the June 11, 1936 item from the Brownwood Bulletin (the one where Howard is expected “to live only a short time”) both appeared in The Collected Letters of Isaac M. Howard. The bit from the Republican was also in The Howard Collector #2.”

And herewith those previous appearances are duly noted — however, as I replied to Rob: “But the Kansas City and all the other discoveries are cool, right?”

Right?

Rob said, “Yeah, those are the only bits in this latest batch of articles that have been republished (to the best of my knowledge). The Portal to Texas History, newspaperarchive.com, and Texas Tech’s archive of papers (including the Cross Plains Review), have all been pillaged over the last 3-5 years, though they are constantly adding new papers to the mix. And there are several other websites, too.

“Nice to see others are looking through newspaper archives.”

Indeed, you want as many eyes involved as possible. Brian Leno only got into it as part of his boxing research, and Scott Connors has been looking for Clark Ashton Smith bits for the bio he’s writing — but of course if Scott sees a ref to another Weird Tales writer, such as Robert Barbour Johnson, he takes a look.

In any event, with new fans coming in every day, I suspect it is easier for them to surf in at random and get tipped to the dope than be expected to buy all the books and zines. I remember various academics over the years whining about how expensive it was to be expected to keep up with all the print material, but keeping up is part of their job description — if they’re pretending to some expertise in things Howardian.

I actually have a copy of the Doc Howard letters, leafed through it once and put it back on the shelf for a rainy day. Rob slapped that one together, but I played a crucial role in getting some of the more interesting content — if the content was to be all legal and above board. I went up to get J. Dan Price to sign the okays to use letters from his dad, pulp fictioneer E. Hoffmann Price. And that involved a typical mighty session of drinking Jack Daniels.

At some point in the revels Dan said to me, You know what’d I say to this request if you weren’t the one making it?

I said, You’d say No.

Dan said, That’s right.

I think they give me a small credit line in the book, which in no way suggests the oceans of Jack Daniels that were sailed.

Posted in REH | Tagged , , , , |

Hammett: Jesse Sublett on Big Book of the Op

Brian Wallace just sent along a link to a new review of The Big Book of the Continental Op from The Austin Chronicle — worth checking out since it comes from Jesse Sublett, a guy who served in Posse McMillan in days past (with the scattered members now lone outposts, just waiting for Dennis McMillan to show up in town and get the party started all over again).

You’ll find that Jesse Sublett was on hand for one of the cooler moments of the Posse’s Ride  — the Bouchercon in Austin back in 2002 where no less than eleven contributors to Dennis’ huge noir anthology Measures of Poison were on hand to sign the book for its premiere. Michael Connelly and Pelecanos with scratchy John Hancocks. Me and Sublett legible. The other guys, somewhere in between.

Posted in Dash, DMac | Tagged , , , , , , |

Two-Gun Bob: Front Page in Abilene

On the heels of popping in the tidbit from the Kansas City Star, Scott Connors turns up another same-day report on Robert E. Howard shooting himself (!!!).

“I swear to Gawd,” Scott maintains, “that I am not trying to compete with Brian, but I keep turning over rocks and lo! — there is another news clipping about REH. This one is quite long and detailed, and may be the Ur-notice.”

Brian Leno kicked off this rush to find the same-day news coverage of Howard shooting himself but holding onto life, but I don’t think he’ll mind all the work Scott is tossing at the subject. Brian enjoys each new find as much as anyone.

Posted in REH | Tagged , , , , |

Two-Gun Bob: News in Kansas City

Now I’m almost expecting another news clipping each and every day about Robert E. Howard shooting himself, and as today breaks Scott Connors does not disappoint:

“Would you believe I found another?” Scott asks. “This time it was in the Kansas City Star, and the text is a bit different.

“I have to wonder how much more is out there. A lot of small town newspapers haven’t been digitalized, but as genealogy becomes more and more popular the more resources we have access to documents just how much of a contemporary footprint Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, H. P. Lovecraft, Henry S. Whitehead — and even Robert Barbour Johnson — had out there.”

Yeah, I guess the search is on.

Posted in REH | Tagged , , , |

Two-Gun Bob: Earl Baker Ruminations

The furious round of discoveries about Robert E. Howard that Brian Leno — with Scott Connors close on his heels — turned up over the last couple of weeks got the attention of Leo Grin, editor and publisher of the excellent Howardian zine of yesteryear The Cimmerian and currently The Cimmerian Press (which has the distinction of releasing The Dark Barbarian That Towers Over All, at over 600 pages by far the largest litcrit volume on REH ever done — plus smaller bullet-like TriplePunchPacks by Brian Leno and Morgan Holmes).

Leo writes, “A few items below the REH coverage in that column Brian found, it mentions Dr. Howard and Earl Baker a few times”:

Dr. I. M. Howard of Cross Plains was a business visitor here Tuesday.

Dr. and Mrs. W. L. Hester of Loraine were Friday night guests of the C. D. Baker family while here for a visit with Dr. Howard.

Mr. and Mrs. Earl Baker of Ballinger were guests of home folks here Thursday and Sunday, following visits to the bedside and funeral of Robert Howard and mother.

“So,” Leo continues, “did Earl Baker make it to the Howard home before REH died on Thursday?

“Sounds like it. Too bad Glenn didn’t ferret out more info when he interviewed him decades later. De Camp talked to him as well.”

Glenn of course is Glenn Lord, and L. Sprague de Camp, among other things, did the first full-length bio of REH. Both got some nuggets of info on Howard’s life from his neighbors, but how much more might have been coaxed out?

Leo and I got to do interviews with Bob Baker and his sister, but as Bob told us (quoting myself from an article in TCV1n3 for August 2004) “his older brother would have been the one to get more personal details about Howard from, since he knew him much better, but of course Earl Baker is no longer among the living.”

I’m thinking it might be time to pull all that on-site dope we learned about REH in Texas into a new TriplePunchPack, for easier access for the new fans constantly coming in. . . .

(By the way, I usually don’t hold it against anyone if they can’t get the best details out of an interview, because some people don’t remember much and some just won’t spill.)

And while looking for specific historical info is the reason most people prowl through old newspaper morgues, you can have some fun along the way. Leo asked, “Did you see the joke at the end of the column?”

The tidbit that amused Leo was:

An official hangman in Europe tried to hang himself. Probably figured it was time to have one on the house.

Posted in REH | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Two-Gun Bob: And Race

“Mr. Howard usually approaches his stories from the racial standpoint, if you may call it that. That is, human races, and especially those of long ago.”

Yeah, the great tribal drifts, the sort of thing I got into in my essay “The Dark Barbarian” back in 1984 — but the quote is attributed to the column Under the Reading Lamp from The Republican of Palouse, Washington for April 8, 1935. Which I know about this morning because Brian Leno found it all quoted in The Democrat-Voice of Coleman, Texas for April 25, 1935.

Really sharp spot appraisal of Robert E. Howard — only too bad the Lamp writer wasn’t around to contribute to my Howard anthologies.

And as you may surmise, Brian Leno continues to dig around in newsprint archives as he researches his book on the boxing world of REH. He’s keeping most of the cool boxing info reserved for his own pages, but other tidbits he’s tossing toward the Mean Streets, making it the most happening Robert E. Howard site of the moment.

I’m sure Brian’s revelations won’t get any mention in next year’s REH Foundation Awards (a jealous, petty lot), but once his boxing book appears I don’t see how they can possibly manage to ignore it.

Plus Brian popped in a link to The Democrat-Voice for Thursday June  18, 1936 — a week after REH’s suicide — which is worth looking over. Nuggets of info such as that news of the former Burkett resident’s final act spread, relayed by telephone message. I guess if it wasn’t news, no one would have been on the horn, and the newspapers wouldn’t have picked it up across the state.

Another line reports the info that REH “lingered eight hours” — the commonly understood time frame — and that “a British publisher recently sought to purchase his entire output.”

Who knows if the British reportage may have been as strong as hinted, or if it was just based on REH’s appearances in British anthologies and the fact that he wrote his only Conan novel, The Hour of the Dragon, for an English publisher (who went bankrupt) — or that Herbert Jenkins of London had what would be Howard’s first book, A Gent from Bear Creek, in their sites.

Someone could have made too much of too little, but you have to think, if one publisher had gone for the whole enchilada, how that might have blown REH up — and all things being equal, what the publisher might have raked in.

One might even think that such a deal could have derailed Howard from putting the gun to his head — but as I’ve said elsewhere, when he killed himself he had a sympathetic publisher at Action Stories who would have taken most of what he could write, plus three comedy-western series going simultaneously, and more, and all that didn’t stop him.

Some commentators suggest that my critical stance of seeing “the dark barbarian” in Howard’s writings is somehow wrong, that “dark” is just, well, too dark, when you can find glimmers of the happy and bright. (Gee, guys, Conan wore a bright neckerchief in that pirate story! — man, Pollyanna-ish inbreeding run amuck.)

To which I say, sure, ignore the bulk of his writings and the fact that he killed himself at age 30.

Posted in REH | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Two-Gun Bob: “Found Wounded” in Corpus Christi

I was sitting around, minding my own business, thinking about the closest brushes with death I had back in the days of The San Francisco Suicide Club (1977-1982).

When suddenly into the Inbox hops Scott Connors, exclaiming: “Found another one!”

You may recall that Scott tumbled to a breaking news release about the suicide of Robert E. Howard — in the Brownsville Herald.

Scott notes, “Actually same as the one in the Brownsville Herald, but in the Corpus Christi Times, same day.”

Looks as if the news may have spread via A.P. And while the text block is the same, the headline writers for the two papers worked their personal magic.

“REH’s shuffling off this mortal coil,” Scott says, “got a lot more publicity than we thought.”

Plus Brian Leno, who kicked off this quest for same day breaking news, agrees:

“Pretty cool that Scott found it in another paper. I’ve done a ton of research lately and have seen a few suicide notices on the front pages of various tribs, but I’ll willing to bet, unless the guy or gal was special, that those suicide ads pretty much stuck to the home area.

“Howard was known, despite what de Camp says.”

Posted in REH, SFSC | Tagged , , , , , |

Sinister Cinema: Two-Gun Bob and Kong

Brian Leno is going nuts with this Robert E. Howard stuff — and more power to him.

He just sent me this postscript to one of his groundbreaking essays in The Cimmerian. If you don’t have a solid collection of that magazine, you can find the essay and a couple more in Brian’s TriplePunchPack Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation — an eBook, instantly accessible if you’ve got a few bucks.

Brian also found an apt ape image in his holdings, from an original by famed Howard artist Ken Kelly — at top.

And now, here’s Brian:

 

In October 2008 The Cimmerian (V5N5) published my essay “When Yaller Rock County Came to Chawed Ear: Howard, Tuttle — and Kong.” By looking at the text of the Texan’s “The Peaceful Pilgrim” where Breckinridge Elkins lifts a huge log-bridge with horses and men on it and then tosses it over the ledge into the abyss below, I believe I proved that Robert E. Howard had seen King Kong.

I’m sure we all remember the scene in King Kong where the huge ape, being followed by Bruce Cabot and some seamen, picks up the log they are upon, shakes a few off and then pitches the log-bridge, with the remaining sailors yelling bloody murder, into the canyon to their death.

Scenes so similar it’s impossible not to notice (although I believe I’m the first Howard fan ever to notice — or at least comment on it in print).

While I knew Howard had seen this classic, I wanted to know when.

The Yellow Jacket  the newspaper of Howard Payne College, where REH took some classesfor Thursday May 18, 1933 gives the answer.

King Kong will be playing at the Lyric Theatre in Brownwood, May 22-24th. Kong’s release date was March 7 in New York, so it took a couple of months to get close to the Texas fictioneer.

Of course we all know Howard went from Cross Plains to Brownwood quite often, and even mentions in his letters catching a flick or two at the Lyric.

It’s a neat ad, one I’m sure would have caught Howard’s attention, and it would have been very cool to have seen the pulp writer’s reaction when he first saw Kong crashing through the trees and casting bloodshot eyes on squirming Fay Wray.

He must have felt that he had fallen right into one of his stories.

Posted in Film, REH | Tagged , , , , , , , |