The tragic death of Robert E. Howard has called forth a chorus of praise from discerning critics who have appreciated the genuine literary value of his work. H. P. Lovecraft, one of the acknowledged masters of weird fiction, whose keenly analytical mind has started many young writers on literary careers, makes the following comment on Howard's work: "Howard's death forms weird fiction's worst blow since the passing of good old Canevin [Henry S. Whitehead] in 1932. Scarcely anybody else in the pulp field had quite the driving zest and spontaneity of Robert E. Howard. He put himself into everything he wrote—and even when he made outward concessions to pulp standards he had a wholly unique inner force and sincerity which broke through the surface and placed the stamp of his personality on the ultimate product. How he could surround primal megalithic cities with an aura of seon-old fear and necromancy! And his recent Black Canaan (WT's best story in the last three or so issues) is likewise magnificent in a more realistic way—reflecting a genuine regional background and giving a clutchingly powerful picture of the horror that stalks through the moss-hung, shadowcursed, serpent-ridden swamps of the farther South. Others' efforts seem pallid by contrast. Weird fiction certainly has occasion to mourn."
To which E Hoffmann Price, the only Weird Tales author who knew Howard personally, adds: "I know of few people whose sudden death would be such a savage luck on the chin. Lovecraft says it is the saddest blow to writers since the death of Henry S. Whitehead—and I answer, saying, 'Be damned to writing—it's a lot worse blow to anyone who knew Bob and his parents.' Bob Howard was as complex and likable a character as one would meet in many a long day's march. There is going to be much wailing among the fantasy fans, and just as much among those who read only Howard's vivid action stories in other books—but the heaviest of it is coming from those who met him in his native territory."
Howard wrote his own epitaph shortly before his death, when he typed the following couplet, the second line of which is taken from the well-known poem by Ernest Dowson:
All fled—all done, so lift me on the pyre;
The Feast is over and the lamps expire.
Conan's Strange Lands
Irvin T. Gould, of Philadelphia, writes: "It may be rather late to mention it, but your May issue of Weird Tales is the best collection of stories I have ever seen between your front and back covers. Child of the Winds and The Room of Shadows top a splendid collection of weird tales.... Glad to hear that Robert E. Howard is coming to the fore with another Conan story. I was afraid the rascally old barbarian was going to sink down in slothful ease upon the Aquilonian throne and not furnish R. E. H. with any more weird adventure material, but I guess you can't keep that wild Cimmerian blood quiet; so more power to him. I can't take enough space to give bouquets to all that rate it, so I have just mentioned those that have particularly impressed me. Bring on that Conan story. I'm all agog. Couldn't you prevail upon Mr. Howard to furnish us a map of all those strange lands that have felt the swish of that Cimmerian sword? Or would that be in keeping with a weird tale? I leave it to you." [Mr. Howard prepared a map showing the strange lands visited by Conan, when he wrote that superb weird novel, The Hour of the Dragon.—The Editor.
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The Falling Method
Corwin Stickney, Jr., of Belleville, New Jersey, writes: "The July issue is excellent. I rank it second only to the April issue when rating the seven published so far this year. Lost Paradise and Necromancy in Naat are in a virtual tie for this month's honors. Moore is practically unbeatable, while Clark Ashton Smith's work is always of the finest quality. Since each of these two stories is so different from the other, both in theme and in the style in which it was written, I do not undertake to evaluate one above the other. Let it suffice to say that I enjoyed both hugely, and would appreciate nothing more than a story by each of them in each issue. Ronal Kayser constructed a vivid, stirring story in The Unborn. Seldom have I read one more fascinating. Edmond Hamilton disappointed me with When the World Slept. It was entirely too obvious; I hadn't read two pages before I had guessed the story's outcome. I cannot at all understand how this yarn can possibly be called weird. It might pass—on a datk night—as science-fiction. But weird fiction—never! The other tales are good, especially Loot of the Vampire and The Return of Sarah Purcell. I haven't yet read the new serial or the reprint.... Peculiar thing: three of the victims in this month's stories—in The Return of Sarah Purcell, The Unborn, and Kharu Knows All, to be exact—'got theirs' by way of the falling method—either by jumping out a window or by falling down a flight of stairs, as in the case of Emma in The Return of Sarah Purcell. I wonder how many discerning readers will notice that Tim Cirewe (in Kharu Knows All) chose Kharu as his new name because it and his real name, Carewe, are phonetically alike."
Gertrude Hemken, of Chicago, contributes the following comments: "Now I'm gonna unload something from my mind that's been rankling me for yars 'n' yars. So often in stories one runs across French phrases, and it is taken for granted the reader knows what they mean, so no explanation is offered. All well and good. However, when one uses a sprinkling of other foreign phrases, unless the author offers translations immediately after, a great hue and cry arises, a clamorous howl of derision is sent up by the readers, telling the writer to remember this is America and to speak United States. (I've had experience in the above matter after introducing German into a manuscript during high schooldays.) So!!! Now for the benefit of the readers who are ignorant of Français, either by choice or otherwise (or am I the only one who does not know the language?), is it too much to ask the writers to pen a few words extra of translation? For instance—'Wie gehts— How goes it?' 'Taint so much work now—is it? And if I see much more of that French rubbish, I'm gonna hie me down to your editorial offices and rub those writers' noses in a few German verbs and tenses! And now for a placid comment on the bizarre and unusual: I am getting to like Clark Ashton Smith better 'n' better—his stories are acquiring a strangeness new to his former tales; e. g.—Necromancy in Naat. A new land, a new fate to befall victims of the wizards, braving a similarity to Zombie—but so utterly different—more repellent. And the ending pleased me—the hero didn't vanquish the villain, nor did he escape his doom and save his fair lady. Yessir, Mr. Smith, you are pleasing me mightily of late. The verse, Hagar, by Edgar Daniel Kramer, wasn't half bad. He completes in a few breathless lines a story that is deeply imbedded within us all—fear of dark forests—fear of lurking, nameless unknown horrors, fear of natural phenomena that assume the grotesqueness of fearsome legendary spawns of other worlds. Ah me—I am so happy! Conan is grand, recalling former tales of men and dragons—Siegfried of the Nibelungenlied (now I s'pose someone wants to know what that means!)—St. George and his dragon—countless others—every nation has such a hero. I dunno as yet where the Red Nails come in, but my! it's exciting already; strange, possibly unexplored places. Goody—I'm just so-o-o happy, I could gurgle! Robert E. Howard gave the readers of WT one of the finest, most lovable brutes of a hero anyone could want. Conan is the embodiment of the kind of man everyone admires: strength and nerve to please the men; physique—wunderbar! to please the ladies. Enough rawness to be yet a barbarian and still experience enough to be better educated than the majority of those he encounters. He has a mind strong enough to throw off the spells of wizards. He is a fighter, adventurer, explorer and lover—a real he-man. Mr. Howard is indeed a clever man!... Loot of the Vampire certainly put a new angle on vampires. I was well-satisfied with the whole story.... I note you stated my letter in the July issue was entertaining. I am complimented and trust that all my letters may be even more so. Auf wiederschreiben."
John V. Baltadonis, of Philadelphia, writes: "Well—I wasn't disappointed in the least bit; Loot of the Vampire certainly had a swell ending. That was a peach of a yarn. However, it didn't quite take the cake, so to speak, Ronal Kayser's story, The Unborn, nosing it out. The Unborn certainly had a new idea. For that reason and because it was well written, I give it first place in the July issue. This story is certainly a great step from The Albino Deaths. Clark Ashton Smith's yarn, Necromancy in Naat, took third place, with Hamilton's and Moore's tales following. Virgil Finlay's art work is without a doubt superb. I often find myself wondering how he would be on the cover, De Lay's illustration for Hamilton's yarn, When the World Slept, is certainly a humdinger. I'll close with an appeal for that plucky, inimitable Frenchman, Jules de Grandin."
Keep It Weird
Arel Rusl, of Mount Vernon, Illinois, writes: "Here goes the first letter that I have written to this department in ten years of reading your most excellent magazine. I think it's about time one of your old fans got into the swing of things by telling what he thinks of old WT in general and the July issue in particular. Vampires are my particular dish and I like short shorts; so two of your fairly recent yarns stick in my mind, namely, The Horror Undying and The Amulet of Hell. Both were swell and I think we should see more from those authors. The best tale in the July issue seemed to me to be The Kelpie. For sheer horror and originality it has few peers. The Unborn and When tha World Slept tie for second place, but all the stories were up to standard, which is tantamount to the highest raise.... Well, I suppose this is enough for the first letter. And are you surprized to note the lack of brick-bats? You see, Weird Tales suits me just fine. No complaints, just keep up the good work and, to repeat a pæan as old as my acquaintance with WT, Keep Weird Tales weird."
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Again and Again
Charles Donnelly, of Johnson Gry, Tennessee, writes: "I've always enjoyed Weird Tales a lot and I think I have proved it by my consistent reading of it. The tale that I've enjoyed best lately was Child of the Winds by that superb writer . It fascinated me so that I read it again and again. Mr. Hamilton's style of writing is one that keeps me fascinatea until the end of the story. And that is some praise, because there are so few writers that can do that. I think that this story calls for a sequel because I don't believe Lora will be happy until she is back on the plateau with her friends.... I sincerely thank Weird Tales for so many enjoyable hours. It takes one out of this humdrum world into a place of dreams. The only fault I ever found with it was when it just printed every other month. I hope that won't happen again, because a month is too long to wait for Weird Tales, and two months is eons."
Then and Now
Joseph Allan Ryan, of Cambridge, Maryland, writes: "Do WT readers ever stop to observe how far Weird Tales has traveled since its inception? Let's take an early issue of WT—the October 1925 one, for instance—and compare it with the latest one. First of all we have 's humorous pseudo-scientific tale, The Wicked Flea—a highly illogical story of a flea that grew to a gigantic size and went chasing big dogs all over the country; it relied on silly names and one solitary pun to give it humor(?). Then there was 's The Horror on the Links, the first de Grandin story. Although this tale showed Quinn's superiority in the field of weird story writing, it was not so interesting as are his present de Grandin tales, for it gave a scientific explanation to each phenomenon, whereas today we find only indications of the occult in Quinn's masterpieces. The Prophet's Grandchildren, by , was, though interesting, not weird, for it merely retold a legend of the Moslems.... The Fading Ghost, by , started as though it was going to be a real WT short-story classic, but ended up with a surprize ending which explained everything as a mistake which couid never be incurred. Tom Freeman's The Death Shower was only a cleverly constructed detective story, not weird; while A Mind in Shadow, by Tessida Swinges, was a simple child's story, related in baby-talk, which could not have been even remotely connected with Weird Tales—it should have been rejected, instead, by Child Life Magazine. The Weird Story Reprint, Wilheim Hauff's The Severed Hand, had a touch of weirdness to it, but was ruined by a weak ending; moteover, the title bore little relation to the story. There were other stories by authors who were, no doubt, prominent and popular at die time, but most of whom have dropped into the background. The illustrations, both inside and on the cover, were all done, very crudely, by a sole illustrator, Andrew Brosnatch. Compare his efforts with the present exquisite work of Virgil Finlay and Mrs. Brundage, with the detailed, clear-cut drawings of Harold De Lay, the shadowy, mysterious grease-pencilings of Hugh Rankin. Notice, too, the wide variety of artists—the early WTs had but one. The July, 1936, issue was almost a direct contrast to the early issue of 1925 which I reviewed. Clark Ashton Smith's sdntillant gem—Robert E. Howard's tale of the barbarian, Conan—Edmond Hamilton's fascinating weird-scientific tale of the near future—Thorp McClusky's different vampire thriller—August W. Derleth's narrative of spirit return, proof of his never-failing mastery—the handsome Manly Wade Wellman's short tale of stark horror, nearly approaching the point reached by Kuttner's The Graveyard Rats—the beautiful inside illustrations and the excellent cover—the usual array of interesting letters in the Eyrie—all these rounded up aa issue which was as nearly perfect as an issue can be, and which was yet typical of the standard maintained in the last five years. And still some readers yearn for the 'good old days'!"
Another de Grandin Tale
Robert A. Madle, of Philadelphia, writes: "Necromancy in Naat was a good story, beautifully illustrated by Virgil Finlay. His fantastic drawings are in fitting with the magazine—they are weird. Without a shadow of a doubt Virgil Finlay is your best interior artist. De Lay, your recent addition, is also good. Robert E. Howard's latest Conan adventure takes first place. I have yet to be displeased by Howard, and I hope he never stops writing for Weird Tales. Second place goes to that unusual yarn, The Unborn. This story presents a decidedly weird plot excellently written. It is a great improvement over Ronal Kayser's previous contributions. The other tales were very good, especially Lost Paradise by C L. Moore. Moore never fails to please me with those beautiful tales of Northwest Smith. Do you realize that there hasn't been a Jules de Grandin story in the last six issues and next month's forecast doesn't boast of one either? You had better rectify die situation and secure one soon." [Cheer up, Mr. Madle, for two new tales of Jules de Grandin will appear soon, with cover designs by Margaret Brundage.—The Editor.]
Paul N. Nicholaioff, of Chicago, writes: "I find real treat when I read Seabury Quinn and Carl Jacobi. The former's A Rival from the Grave and the latter's Face in the Wind were excellent. McClusky's Loot of the Vampire is very entertaining. The House of the Evil Eye I did not like so well. Its conclusion was mechanically constructed. It went off at a fair start, but something else finished the race. Ballad of the Wolf was an excellent poem by Henry Kuttner. I hope to see more of his poems in future issues."
Unique Among Magazines
Herberte Jordan, of Wellingborough, England, writes: "I have been a deeply appreciative reader of Weird Tales for many years, and would like to express my sincere admiration for the high literary quality of the stories published. Year in and out this quality is maintained, and the success of weird Tales is undoubtedly due to this fact. The brilliant writers regularly contributing to the magazine are past masters in the art of inducing those delicious shudders which run up the spine and set the scalp tingling with suspense and horror. I would also mention the work of the artists illustrating Weird Tales. The Brundage covers are beautifully done, and the recent work by Virgil Finlay is superb. The Eyrie is a good feature and should, as Louis C. Smith stated in a recent issue, be used solely for constructive criticism, not silly haggling. Whatever adverse criticism is made against Weird Tales, it is indisputable that it has reached, and is maintaining, a very high standard of weird literature. Weird Tales stands alone. It is indeed unique in every respect. From the first page to the last, one is transported into a world of eery fantasy where whispering voices hint unutterable horrors."
In this story the little Frenchman attacks a dangerous and baffling situation involving a beautiful American girl in desperate peril of her life and a menace to those whom she loves—attacks it heroically, with all the courage and resourcefulness at his command. This superb novelette, one of the most intriguing of all the stories about Jules de Grandin, will be published complete
in the November issue of
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Enclosed find $1.00, for which send me the next five issues of WEIRD TALES, to begin with the November Issue. (Special offer void unless remittance is accompanied by coupon.)
More Stories by Lovecraft
B. M. Reynolds, of North Adams, Massachusetts, writes: "Congratulations on the July Weird Tales, the best job you've turned out in many a moon. That issue came close to perfection. All of the stories were fine, in fact, with one exception. Loot of the Vampire was by far the most poorly written, atrocious and terrible piece of work that I have ever had the displeasure of reading in your fine magazine. The plot was weak, the characters unconvincing and the sequence of events very 'spotty' in places. A child of twelve could scarce find entertainment in that one. The other tales, however, were all of such a fine quality that it is hard to pick the best ones. Lost Paradise, Necromancy in Naat and Red Nails are tales that transport the reader out of the 'everyday' and carry him over countless dream-worlds and realms of enchantment. Tales of this type are all too scarce these days. The Unborn was a strong and appealing little story, undoubtedly 's best to date. When the World Slept, by , was thought-provoking and perhaps not too impossible in these days of scientific progress. And speaking of Hamilton, his Child of the Winds, in May, was one of the finest tales you have ever given us. The short-shorts were the best in months, The Kelpie by and The Snakeskin Cigar-Case being the best of these. The latter was, decidedly, an 'off the trail' story, which might have taken first place had it been longer. At any rate, it was a damn good yarn and if has any more as good, send them along. 's reprint, The Ring of Thoth, was the best tale of ancient Egyptian mummies that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. By the way, Mr. Editor, when, if ever, are we going to have any more tales by ? Apparently, has been trying to pinch-hit for Lovecraft for you, but he is an easy out. I'm sure no one can fill Lovecraft's shoes with most of us readers. We miss his Elder Gods, and how!" [Two fine new stories by H. P. Lovecraft, The Haunter of the Dark and The Thing on the Door-Step, are scheduled for early publication.—The Editor.]
Donald A. Wollheim, of New York City, writes: "Am always pleased to see Robert Bloch's stories. That young man has certainly qualified himself for a permanent place on your list of outstanding authors. He carries on the Lovecraft tradition. And, by the way, where is the grand master HPL himself, these days?"
James P. Harrill, of Charlotte, North Carolina, writes: "I still enjoy reading your magazine as much as always and still want you to continue the nudes on the front of the magazine, although I am now a settled married man. Also I do not think that it hurts the prestige of your magazine to have an occasional detective or science-fiction story; in fact, I do not like the absolutely weird tales that have awesome sliminess oozing from the putrid bodies of something-or-other. Let's not make the stories too nasty; although I have as good a stomach as any man's, I do not like to read stories like that."
R. M. Tomlinson, of Ventura, California, writes: "In the June issue, I was much pleased with the drawing signed by H. S. DeLay. Don't know when I have seen such real skill in this sort of magazine."
Robert Bloch, of Milwaukee, writes: "Robert E. Howard's death is quite a shock—and a severe blow to WT. Despite my standing opinion on Conan, the fact always remains that Howard was one of WT's finest contributors, and his King Kull series were among the most outstanding works you ever printed."
Seabury Quinn writes from Brooklyn: "The field of fantastic fiction has lost one of its outstanding and recognized masters in Robert E. Howard. His Solomon Kane stories, his tales of Kull, and latterly his Conan sagas, all of them were superb in their own way. He was a quantity producer, but always managed to keep his stuff fresh and vigorous. There are few who can do this."
Jack Snow, of Dayton, Ohio, writes; "I have just finished reading the July Weird Tales and have laid it aside with mingled feelings. The story I liked best was Manly Wade Wellman's The Kelpie. It was an out and our weird tale, not an adventure or thrill story masking behind a weird jargon."
Most Popular Story
Readers, what is your favorite story in this issue? Write a letter, or fill out the coupon on this page, and send it to the Eyrie, Weird Tales. Your favorite stories in the July issue, as shown by your votes and letters, were the first part of the late Robert E. Howard's story, Red Nails, and Clark Ashton Smith's fantasy, Necromancy in Naat.
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