HOWARD DAY IN CROSS PLAINS, TEXAS
Steve "Korak" Allsup
Copyright © 2003
Robert E Howard was the guy back in the thirties who wrote the Conan series in Weird Tales magazine. He was influenced by ERB and owned a pretty nice set of early Burroughs hardback books in his personal library. He also probably owned a number of ERB pulp magazines, but I do not believe that his pulp collection is known precisely.
Every year on the approx. anniversary of REH's death in 1936, they hold a two day festival in his home towm of Cross Plains Texas. This year was three times larger than last year-- over one hundred out of towners.
His house has been renovated, restored and made into a beautiful museum. In the east lawn they have built a pavilion with a kitchenette and bathrooms where we always meet. Inside the house you can look with wonder into his bedroom where he sat at his typewriter and wrote his epic fantasies. Currently the REHupans are trying to restore his library. As I mentioned, he had a good set of ERB books, and so I would like to see if perhaps some of the Burroughs Bibliophiles, of which I am a member, might be able to donate some of his ERB books, in authentic pre-1936 editions, for display in REH's bedroom.
Anyone who has read REH's tales Almuric or Vale of Lost Women will know how highly influenced by Tarzan and John Carter Howard was.
This year was the big REHupan year, partly explaining the large turn-out (no, I am not a REHupan). Noted REH scholar Rusty Burke was present and gave interesting talks; in addition, Glenn Lord, literary agent for REH since around 1960, and legendary editor of many great books by and about Howard, was present. I got him to autograph my first edition of LAST CELT, which is similar to the Heins Biblio of ERB.
Rusty led us on a walk which Howard made on a daily basis, going downtown to check mail and get groceries. In the library on Main Street, they have first editions of Skull-Face and Others from Arkham House, one of Howard's first books from 1946, and the complete Gnome Press Conan books from the fifties.
Driving to Brownwood with my pal Ironhand, we stood at Howard's grave as I read from his poem, "Lines Written in the Realization that I Must Die."
WE had two huge banquets, one Friday night and the other Saturday night, all for a registration fee of about 15.00. (Now you know why I like to go to this.) Saturday night I sat next to guest speaker Mike Myers, the guy who wrote the screenplay for WHOLE WIDE WORLD, the critically acclaimed biographical movie about Howard and his girlfriend Novalyne Price. I asked if, since Howard always put himself into his characters, it would be a cool idea to have Vincent D'Onofrio, who played Howard in WWW, to don a black wig and play Conan himself, to give the eerie illusion that Conan was an extension of Howard's persona. He found the notion amusing.
After the banquet, we drove a little ways out west of town to the biggest hill around, Caddo Peak. The more rugged amongst us climbed to the top to watch the sunset. REH describes Caddo Peak in more than one of his tales. I gave a Tarzan cry from the top, and was eerily answered by a pack of coyotes in the vale below, howling back in their ravenous hunger.
They did have a silent action set up for the Friday night banquet held in the town hall. This was actually on a donation basis to raise money for the Howard project. I found a couple of the hardback versions of the three volume Karl Edward Wagner edition of Conan from the late seventies and spent a bit more than I had expected not knowing there would be an auction. They also had a "barbarian" festival and parade down main street Saturday, and though most of the booths were of local Texan interest, there were some specialty booths such as Wayne's comics booth.
Glenn Lord is so old that I doubt he has any plans for any future editions. When I got my copy signed at the banquet Friday night, I jokingly told him that I could now auction it for twice as much money. He immediately demanded half of the proceeds. I told him I was joking- there was no way I was going to ever part with the volume until such time as he saw fit to come out with an updated edition. But I doubt if he does. They do need a new edition, though-- the old edition is about twenty five years old. It was also reprinted as a Berkley Medallion trade paperback with a Ken Kelly cover painting of a giant Norseman about to split the skull of Robert E Howard. Thus, the last of the Celts, I suppose.