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People of the Dark: The Weird Works of Robert E. Howard, Vol. 3 [MultiFormat]
eBook by Robert E. Howard & Joe R. Lansdale

eBook Category: Fantasy/Horror
eBook Description: The third volume of the Weird Works of Robert E. Howard continues reprinting Howard's fantasy from Weird Tales and Strange Tales in order of original publication. All texts have been meticulously restored to their original pulp appearances. Introduction by Joe R. Lansdale. This volume contains: The Black Stone Children of the Night The Dark Man The Footfalls Within Gods of Gal-Sagoth Horror from the Mound Kings of the Night The Last Day People fo the Dark The Song of the Mad Minstrel The Thing on the Roof.

eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, Published: USA, 2005
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2005


13 Reader Ratings:
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HOWARD--THE TEXAS PHOENIX FLAMES IN DARKNESS

by Joe R. Lansdale

It's easy for me to relate to Robert E. Howard. At least in many ways. Because I too grew up in a small Texas town, East instead of West, and in that respect, less bleak, but still, a small town. A town populated by good, solid people, but a small corner of the earth cursed with a kind of raw wound of ignorance, a black hole void of the possibilities of a bigger universe.

In spite of all the bad things said about television, it must be said that it brought to the small back waters of civilization a broader view of the world and opinions and beliefs other than those held by the residents of those stagnant back waters.

But in Howard's time there was more darkness than light, and without interference, these wounds were left to fester in a cultural vacuum that must have sucked the very air out of Howard's lungs.

At least it felt that way if you were born with a creative fire in your belly, a razor-eye, a vision that looked not only at what it saw, but around corners, and saw backwards into the past and dressed it up in a manner that fit no past at all, except that which existed in the head, and was, as all spirited imagineers will tell you, far more real than any past that had been or any future that might be.

I suspect that this kind of thinking is not subject only to Texas, but to any area where culture is thought to be a ornament, or something sissy, and that in such places a fist fight is of more importance than a poem. But whatever the case, Howard's cross to bear, his hole in the world, was a bleak little spot of West Texas dirt that to this day is little more than a hole in the road with a Dairy Queen, a library, and finally, his home, now a museum dedicated to the imaginings of its most prominent and well known citizen, who during his life time was thought, at best, eccentric, and at the extreme, just plain old nuts.

I discovered Howard in 1970. It was my first marriage, and my first year of college. I was going to Tyler Junior College, wanting to write, wondering if it would ever happen, and not thinking my wife understood this at all.

Or maybe I understood her not at all.

But the point was this. I was feeling high and dry and lonely and bleak as Howard must have felt when he sat down to type many of his stories. And during the time this feeling was on me, hanging around my shoulders like some heavy poison-laced cloak, I found a paperback called Wolfshead. It was a collection of stories, and the first thing that struck me was the introduction (and if the introduction was, in fact, part of some other Howard book, don't tell me, let me have my lie of memory). In this introduction he talked about the fact that he had made his living from his wits, from work of his own choosing, and he didn't have some sonofabitch standing over him, telling him what to do.

As a young man who had worked every odd job imaginable so that I could go to college and not end up a permanent ditch digger, or aluminum chair factory worker, or field worker, or handyman who was not so handy, this struck a chord.

Deep down inside of me a string throbbed, and there was a kind of high note hit, and I felt a sudden kinship to this man. I knew of what he spoke.

Then there was the fiction. It was on fire, and full of sparks and smoke, lightning and thunder, primary colors cranked up bright.

I hadn't had this much pure fun as a reader since Edgar Rice Burroughs kicked my ass as a kid.

This man was pulpy and raw and powerful, and it was obvious that, like Burroughs, he believed in what he wrote. In the next couple of years, I discovered Conan, which I still believe to be his best work, and many other stories by Howard, but the thing that sticks with me, Conan aside, are the non-series stories. The ones that thrilled me and made my skin crawl, and yet somehow tied me to the Texas world I grew up in. Because no matter how wild the story, how bizarre the idea, or what location he claimed for it, I assure you, Howard was always writing about Texas and Texans.

These stories are full of Howard's piss and vinegar, Howard's heart and soul.

This collection contains many fine tales. One of my favorites is "The Horror from the Mound." I've read it many times, but when I first read "The Horror from the Mound," I was certain I had never read a horror story quite like it. It wasn't the usual tale of a monster and a hapless protagonist, but that of a Western hero confronted with a problem, and like all true Western heroes, he had to just go out and do what he had to do, which was face off with the thing and try to defeat it.

Self-reliance.

Courage.

Confidence.

These are all hallmarks of Howard's fiction, and of Texans, and they are its main appeal. It's especially powerful to readers below the age of twenty-five, because from adolescence to the mid-twenties, we may feign these feelings, but if we are truthful, it is hard for us to embrace them with the fullness we would like. Therefore, we experience them through others, or through the beautiful lies of fiction.

It's good to have heroes.

Or at least heroics. Howard's characters were not always heroes. Not in the classic sense. Conan was really quite a turd, if you think about it. But, somehow Howard was able to give him such a sheen of power and verisimilitude and energy that, on some level, we all wished to be him.

I know that his introduction, his words, eventually led me to drop out of college and write. Just go for it. Because, I too, like Howard, did not want to end up with some sonofabitch standing over me telling me what to do, and also like Howard, I wanted to make my own way by my wits, doing work of my choosing.

I thank his shade for that.

And readers should thank his shade for all the work that exists. Including the fine hot-pulp stories in this volume. And maybe, just maybe, we should be angry with that same shade for taking himself from us so soon. Killed not, in my view, by his inability to accept his mothers expected death, but, by a series of events.

The loss of a woman he really cared about, Novalyne Price, someone who was an intellectual stimulant, as well as possibly his one true love. Add to this, the soon to be loss of his mother, who never judged him and always encouraged him, and finally add in this certain knowledge: Now he would be sitting alone dangling his feet over the rim of a lonesome abyss.

If he had had the courage to stand up to that, how much more of his fiction would we have seen?

How much greater would his mind have developed, and how much greater would his writer skills have become in time?

As it were, trapped in a sort of permanent adolescence, fueled primarily by his own energies, intelligence, and creativity, he gave us much. And even now, long gone, the echo of his voice, and ultimately of the .38 he used to take his life, resound forever.

Read these stories and enjoy. Dip into the exciting horrors and adventures of Robert E. Howard.

Do not come to them with an academic mind.

Come to them with an eager heart. That way they will give you much. Because they know little of logic, and much of desire--and desire drives us.

Howard knew that. Let him share this knowledge with you.

And finally, if you're someone sitting in some bleak place with nothing but the hungry sounds of the inner gnawings of creative desire chewing at your head, here is something to feed the beast within until you too can rise up Phoenix-like and leave it all behind in your wing-flapping wake, minus the suicidal gun fire, of course.


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