Author. Pulp age writer, creator of 'Conan the Barbarian'. Robert E. Howard was an only child, and during his youth his mother instilled in her son a deep love of poetry, literature, and writing. As the son of a doctor, he had exposure to injury and violence; tales of gunfights, feuds, and the like developed his hardboiled outlook on the world. A talent for writing made him interested in becoming a professional writer. In 1924, he sold his first short stories to Weird Tales, and published poems in Weird Tales and poetry journals. After 1930 he wrote little verse, instead writing short stories for higher-paying markets. He soon was a regular in Weird Tales; his first cover story was for a werewolf story published when he was only twenty. While at college, he wrote for their newspaper. One of the short stories printed in this newspaper was a comedy called "Cupid vs. Pollux," his earliest surviving boxing story known to exist. In March 1928, he submitted to Weird Tales a story called "Red Shadows", the first of many stories featuring the vengeful Puritan swashbuckler Solomon Kane. Appearing in the August 1928 issue, the character was a big hit with readers and this was the first of his characters to sustain a long series in print. He submitted "The Shadow Kingdom" to Weird Tales; the story mixed fantasy, horror and mythology with historical romance, action and swordplay, a style of tale which became known as "sword and sorcery". Featuring Kull, a barbarian, the tale hit Weird Tales in August 1929. He was paid $100 for it, the most he had earned for a story, and several more Kull stories followed. That year he also broke out into other pulp markets. The first story he sold to another magazine was a boxing-related ghost story published in Ghost Stories. July 1929 saw the debut of Sailor Steve Costigan in the pages of Fight Stories, who became so popular that the same editors began using additional Costigan episodes in their sister magazine, Action Stories. With markets now all buying up his stories regularly, he quit taking college classes, and would never again work a regular job. At twenty-three years old he had become a full-time writer. In1930 he became fascinated by Celtic themes and began writing about Irish characters Turlogh Dubh O'Brien and Cormac Mac Art. He sold stories depicting periods from the fall of Rome to the fifteenth century to Oriental Stories from 1930 to 1934. In 1930 he wrote a letter to Weird Tales about an H. P. Lovecraft story, and the two began a correspondence that would last for the rest of his life. He became a member of the "Lovecraft Circle", a group of writers and friends all linked via H.P. Lovecraft. He contributed to Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos of horror stories through four published stories. In 1930 he applied his new sword-and-sorcery and horror experience to the Picts. His story "Kings of the Night" depicted King Kull in pre-Christian Britain, and introduced readers to his king of the Picts, Bran Mak Morn. In 1932 he conceived of the fantasy land of Cimmeria, a bitter hard northern region home to fearsome barbarians, and the character of Conan. He developed the idea, fleshing out a new invented world - his Hyborian Age - and populated it with countries, peoples, monsters, and magic. His first Conan story was "The Phoenix on the Sword". Conan first appeared in Weird Tales in December 1932 and was such a hit that he placed seventeen Conan stories in the magazine between 1933 and 1936. Also in this period, he wrote the first of the James Allison stories, "Marchers of Valhalla." Allison is a disabled Texan who begins to recall his past lives, the first of which is in the later part of his Hyborian age. In 1933, he wrote the only Conan novel, The Hour of the Dragon, which was printed in Weird Tales as a serial. He wrote one of the first "Weird Western" stories ever created, "The Horror from the Mound," published in the May 1932 issue of Weird Tales. This genre acted as a bridge between his early horror tales and his later straight western tales. In late 1933 he wrote tales of World War I-era Middle Eastern adventure published in Top Notch, Complete Stories, and Thrilling Adventures. The first of his most commercially successful series (within his own lifetime) was “Mountain Man", the first of the Breckinridge Elkins humorous westerns stories. Action Stories published a new Elkins story every issue until well after his death. In the spring of 1936, he sold a series of stories to Spicy-Adventure Stories. These stories featured the character Wild Bill Clanton and were published under the pseudonym Sam Walser. By 1936, almost all of his fiction writing was being devoted to westerns. The novel “A Gent from Bear Creek” was due to be published, and it looked as if he was breaking out of the pulps and into the more prestigious book market. Life was, however, becoming difficult; his most reliable market, Weird Tales, had grown far behind on its payments, and his home life was falling apart. His mother’s decades-long bout with tuberculosis had her near death, requiring him to spend much of his time with her, and making it very difficult for him to find time to write. In June 1936, as his mother slipped into a coma, he stayed with her as her condition worsened. On a morning when his mother’s nurse said she would not regain consciousness, he walked out to his car and shot himself in the head. He died a few hours later; his mother died the following day. The story occupied that week's edition of the Cross Plains Review, along with the publication of Howard's "A Man-Eating Leopard". On June 14, 1936 a double funeral service was held at Cross Plains First Baptist Church.
Bio by: Pete Mohney