Two-Gun Bob: The “Great Extinction” Clock

Okay. I’m calling it.

Time to set the clock on the Great Extinction Event.

I was thinking about what little note to post today in acknowledgment of the birth of Robert E. Howard one hundred and thirteen years ago, when Brian Leno — a.k.a. The Haunter of eBay — sent me a link to the sale of mailing 187 of REHupa for June 2004. Brian observed that the seller had “a few of these” — meaning various REHupa mailings — “from the estate of Carl Osman, whoever he was”.

REHupa — in full, the Robert E. Howard United Press Association — itself has been around for forty-seven years. I’ve pulled a couple of stints, first in the early days from mlg 11 to mlg 16, I think it was, then later from circa mlg 93 or 94 till mlg 103 or 104, in there. The most recent mailing at this writing was numbered 274 for December 2018.

The seller clearly was unfamiliar with apas, thought it might be only a copy, because the individual members send in bizarrely variegated zines to be stapled together — they can come in as mere photocopies or the best desktop publishing has to offer. Even — more so in the old days — done on mimeograph. But he suspected (rightly) he probably had “an original issue” because “it came from the estate auction of Carl Osman who is listed as one of the 30 names in the Roster of REHUPA.”

At any given point over all these years, REHupa could have up to thirty members (a nod to REH’s lifespan, 1906-1936). And while some people hold down roster slots year after year, many come and go within months.

The seller notes that he isn’t a professional book seller, and that “most of the things I sell, came from an auction, flea market, estate sale or rummage sale.”

To recap: the news doesn’t sound good for Carl Osman.

I asked current REHupan Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes — one of those guys who has been on the Roster for year after year, even once serving as the Official Editor — about Osman.

Morgan said, “Carl was a school librarian from Texas back in the early 00’s. He was older. Not surprised he is gone. Had not heard of him in a while. I think he was from Wisconsin originally. I remember talking to him at Pulp Con about Wisconsin German serial killers. He sent me a VHS tape of a movie about Ed Gein.”

Another current REHupan, Leo Grin — veteran of a couple of stints, better known for the Howardian zine The Cimmerian and currently The Cimmerian Press — recalled his fellow apahack: “Good old Carl Osman. Met him at Howard Days in 2000. Retired librarian from Oklahoma, looked like a hobbit, was in the apa circa 1999-2001 or so, when I started the first time. Famous for his hilariously bad fiction series titled ‘Tales of Taul,’ with Taul being a Thongor-style Conan clone. Tompk used to get a lot of mileage from his Osman/Taul jokes to me in private email. As I recall he left the apa because things were getting too nasty, he was one of the ‘can’t we all just be nice’ types.”

REHupa of course is a hotbed of controversy, members constantly arguing about stuff, trying to get other members expulsed, the works. Decades of the works.

Tompk of course was, in full, Steve Tompkins, another REHupan and Howardian essayist and wag. I’ve mentioned before that we credit Tompk with the concept of The Great Extinction Event in Howard Fandom, which is to say that there must come a year when the fan base of scholars and mag publishers and even REHupa members who arrived on the scene from, say, the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, begin dropping like flies.

And to be an Event, you need a lot of folk to tumble by the wayside, not just one guy here and another guy three years later.

Last year looked ripe for the kickoff. I came close, with triple-bypass surgery in April (and man, would I have made one hell of a boom for the starter pistol). Another guy was rumored to be near the end, another had a heart attack with one artery 100% blocked (weenie — I had two arteries 100% blocked and another 80% blocked — have to say it slowed me down). Morgan had some kind of episode that made him worried for a couple of minutes.

(Now, Morgan technically is too young to fit into the control group envisioned by Tompk, but as the only Howard scholar nominated for a Hugo Award I think he’s prominent enough so that if he kicked off, we’d have to count him.)

Any or all of us could have been gone, but medical science put the brakes on it.

You’d think someone could at least step in front of a car or something. . . .

Since I’m tired of waiting, I call Carl Osman, late of REHupa, as the starting point. Don’t know exactly when he died — jeez, for that matter, I don’t know he’s dead, but that usually happens before an estate gets dispersed.

If nothing much follows on the extinction front, I’ll apologize later. If Carl is still alive, ditto.

And for Morgan’s consideration: are we going to see a paragraph or two about The Tales of Taul in the massive history of Sword-and-Sorcery fiction The Morgman is now slaving over?

Morgan is in the trenches this month with the section about Robert E. Howard. He’ll cover all the paperback originals of the S&S boom of the seventies and after. Leiber. Moorcock. Lots of S&S paperbacks to put under the microscope.

But will Morgan mention all the people who joined REHupa seemingly just to have an outlet for their endless amateur barbarian fantasies? Aside from the constant fights, the wretched fanfic is one of my strongest memories of REHupa.

Should Taul and his REHupan ilk get a cite in the official record?

Or just show up on occasion as part of old mailings on the block at eBay?

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Frisco Beat: Omega to Alpha

Today marks the anniversary of Hammett’s death on January 10, 1961, and in one of the weirder coincidences of all time, also the death of Hammett devotee Joe Gores, same date in 2011 — exactly fifty years to the day after Hammett died.

Now I try to keep my head down on this date, and I’m thinking maybe I won’t even leave the lair — but I’ll admit that if I kicked off on the 10th, it’d be something to talk about. Better if I bite the dust on some even number, perhaps, exactly sixty or seventy after Hammett.

Gives me some leeway. Eighty years? Break out the calculator. . . .

By chance I happened across a post on the Pulp Flakes blog commemorating Gores’ birth — poor guy was born on Xmas Day.

Screwed. Half the loot you might reasonably expect.

(Another writer and Hammett fan I know — both he and Gores did articles seeking out Hammett locales in San Francisco — was Fritz Leiber, in the same boat: born December 24, 1910. I always felt sorry for Fritz — with Gores now added to the list.)

Surf over and check out the birthday notice, which incorporates a 1975 local article on Gores’ career as a private eye in Frisco before doing his crime fiction, most of it set in Frisco.

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Rediscovered: The Willeford Centennial

One hundred years ago today Charles Willeford was born in Little Rock, Arkansas.

January 2, 1919-March 27, 1988 — and that March 27th happened to be Palm Sunday, that year.

One of the absolute greats.

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Rediscovered: Despite Westlake Owing Me a Beer. . .

Somewhere around here I have a postcard from Donald Westlake saying something like, “Beer? Beer? Surely we can settle this in a civilized fashion.”

Years ago I went to a big writers deal in Fort Lauderdale, and Westlake was there, and George Plimpton and many more. Honest, it was an impressive, and big, deal.

I got to buy what turned out to be the last round one evening, when Westlake really wanted to get it. I told him if I ever got to Manhattan and it was convenient, he could return the favor, but that didn’t happen. And too bad.

Anyway, despite the fact that Westlake died owing me a beer, I didn’t hold it against him when one of his old novels got repackaged recently.

Per my usual standards of linking to reviews when they squeak through editorial at least 90-95% intact — which is to say the wording I sent in — this one qualifies, and may amuse you for a moment as a New Year jumps into the scene.

About the only thing that got chopped was my mention of Westlake naming one of his besieged monks Brother Hilarious. But you can’t squeeze everything in.

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Rediscovered: The Lure of Arkham House Ephemerae

The last few days have been devoted to the glory and the grandeur — and the morass — of that old hobby, collecting Arkham House ephemera items.

Paul Dobish, the book dealer who helped with some dope for my article on the subject in Firsts magazine back in 2002, popped up, checking to see if I had any dupes to put against his Want List.

So, I dove in. You have to go through, step by step, item by item. Brutal.

But I discovered that I had in hand an item that wasn’t even on the list in Firsts, and I had not even noticed. I was thinking it was Item 92, because the title was the same, the first line was identical — but no.

Best I can figure at this moment, it comes after Item 93 — a.k.a. the Wandrei catalog — and before Item 96. Where exactly, that may never be determined.

Such is the life of an ephemera collector.

To get an insight into the hobby, see if the link below works for you — but if it does, be warned: you too might be drawn irrevocably into this collecting game:

Unknown Arkham Eph

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Death Lit: Gbontwi’s Gumshoe

While I’m knocking out fast, easy blog posts, I noticed that my most recent review for PW made it through edit 90-95% intact.

Whoa.

Guess I can link to that one. Crime novel, London neo-noir sort of thing. Surf over if interested.

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Rediscovered: NYT Flogs Cockfighter

Chad Calkins just tipped me to a feature in the New York Times where their in-house book critics do a year’s end roundup, of interest here because they are asked about older titles they may have read in 2018. Dwight Garner writes:

There were two novels I did pick up and admire. . . . The other, better, one was Charles Willeford’s 1962 novel “Cockfighter.” Willeford is best known, when known at all, as a hard-boiled cult writer. But his observant books had unusual emotional registers, a sideways view of life and an indefinable comic air. This book, set in Florida and Georgia, is about a man for whom training fighting birds is an abiding passion. To admire this colorful novel is not to wish a return of that blood sport. The film of “Cockfighter,” released in 1974 and starring the amazing Warren Oates, is a keeper, too.

Suddenly, everybody is an expert.

And what the hell, cockfighting has vanished??? Hey, if you read it in the Times. . . .

Still, as Chad notes, “Pretty cool to have someone at the Times praising Willeford.”

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Two-Gun Bob: The de Camp Bio

Hey, some books may deserve to be forgotten.

Inspired by reading my little biographical eBook on Robert E. Howard, Famous Someday — at this moment no.2 on the Kindle Horror Litcrit Bestseller list, for what that’s worth —

(And my REH Litcrit MegaPack sits at no.6, and Howardian buddies Brian Leno’s eBook is no.5 and Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes’ Enter the Barbarian is no.7 — we really muscled our way into the Top Ten this morning. . . . Yeehah!)

Wait a minute. . . . Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Evan Lewis just read the first full-scale bio of REH, Dark Valley Destiny by L. Sprague de Camp and cohorts, and covered it in the most recent Friday Forgotten Books roundup (or whatever they call it).

Excellent review. The bio is noteworthy for the actual history de Camp unearths, crippled by his bizarre fixation on psychobabble theorizing. Evan nails it.

What Evan doesn’t seem to know is that de Camp spent five years working on the book (along with other things) because he thought it would sell a lot better than it did. Previously de Camp had done his bio of H. P. Lovecraft for Doubleday, first full-scale bio of The Old Gent — that one sold very well. De Camp had this talking point where he would refer to HPL, REH and Clark Ashton Smith as the “Three Musketeers” of Weird Tales magazine, and had planned bios of all three, to form something of a set.

But when the bio of REH bombed, he shelved the idea of doing the CAS bio (Smith, incidentally, was the only one of the Three that de Camp actually met in person). He gave me some of the initial research he’d compiled, when he heard that I was thinking of doing a CAS bio.

My plans were probably more tentative than de Camp’s, basically to take a bunch of the work Donald Sidney-Fryer already had done, fill in stuff — I do have a banker’s box with mockups of possible chapters and other notes.

Forgotten Books. How about “Lost” Books, such as the CAS bio which would have been bylined “by Donald Sidney-Fryer and Don Herron”?

I stepped aside when Scott Connors returned to the weird fiction scene and wanted to do a CAS bio. He’s been working on it for years now. Don’t know if he’ll actually finish it up.  But I guess I can stand ready to step in if there is a disaster, for awhile, anyway.

You still can’t do a CAS bio with the thought of making money. You’d do it just to honor one of the greats. Probably the best reason.

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Rediscovered: McNaughton v. Vance

What was I thinking?

In the post a month plus back where I kind of talked myself into rereading Brian McNaughton’s The Throne of Bones for Halloween, I realized that somehow I managed to put forth this opinion:

McNaughton bears the distinction of later writing the finest set of stories ever in the CAS mold, inspired by the Klarkash-Ton cycles set in such fantastic realms as Hyperborea and Zothique.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. I must have been in a hurry, not doing the Deep Thinking needed for such a judgment.

Yes, I think McNaughton is one of the best imitators of Clark Ashton Smith. I got about halfway through the Bones yarns before other things pulled me away. Had a PW to do, now have a PW proof at over 600 pages winging my way (it looks as if I managed to do around ten reviews this year, despite triple bypass surgery and subsequent droopdom — usually I might do six, or seven).

So. Allow me to correct myself.

The story cycle The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, riffing off Klarkash-Ton’s saga of the doomed last continent of Zothique, is the best with a commanding influence from the writings of CAS.

If I did any Deep Thinking on the subject, it was all subconscious. Suddenly the thought hit me: Come on! What were you thinking?!

I think I know what I was thinking. I was ranking McNaughton in with a less talented group, from Lin Carter on down, who would try a Smith imitation from time to time — and of that group, he was the high point.

Whereas Jack Vance I consider a Real Writer. The Dying Earth was his first book, but he did lots more, and far surpassed any idea that he was only a CAS clone.

McNaughton just didn’t do enough writing to get into that league. (Lin Carter perhaps wrote almost as much as Vance, but the deal is, the writings have to be good.)

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Rediscovered: Et Tu, Erle? — or, Another Lost Atlantis

When Tom Krabacher came to town the other day to hang on a feedbag filled with gooey duck, he brought along a copy of a book he helped assemble, Woodland, in Acadia Publishing’s sprawling Images of America series. I was interested, since that burg has a lot of knockout Victorians — I’ve even been to the tractor museum there, long before I encountered Tom.

Holding the book, I wondered aloud, Have they done a volume on Paradise?

If they did, it’d be like a little guidebook to lost Atlantis, since almost the whole town went up in the fire.

As reported here, Hammett fan Mike Humbert barely made it out alive.

Since the town as-it-was is flat-out gone, would such a book become a sudden collectable?

Tom said he’d been curious enough to order a copy of Paradise, by Robert Colby. The package finally rolled in, and he says, “I haven’t looked through that many in the series but it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen so far. (The worst I’ve come across so far, btw, is the one for Isleton). It’s nicely organized chronologically, the photos are clearly reproduced (some of them delightfully off-beat), and are nicely captioned.  Not a necessary ‘must have’ but worth glancing through next time you’re in a bookstore, if only to see what’s no longer there as a result of the blaze.”

I don’t know, I think the disaster gives Paradise a distinct edge in the interest department.

And reading through Tom came across a nice Mean Streets sort of tidbit on page 119, where it is noted that Erle Stanley Gardner bought 20 acres of land in Paradise around 1952, and then in his Perry Mason novel The Case of the Runaway Corpse from 1954 gave specific instructions on how to get to his place — only who among the millions of his readers would have thought the directions led to Erle’s hideaway, usually blurbed generically as “somewhere in the mountains of Northern California”?

The directions read: “The address in Paradise is on Crestview Drive. . . . Take the main street through town, then turn left on Oliver Road. At the foot of the grade, make a sharp left onto Valley View for a very short distance, then turn left again onto Crestview Drive, and it’s the last place on the right-hand side.”

If Erle’s original layout was still standing after all these years, I wonder if it got burned out like Mike?

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