One of pulp fiction’s most famous spots resides in the heart of Texas. I and fellow New Pulp Tales writer, Eric Skowronski, took a pilgrimage there on Thursday, July 8th. For me, I flew from
One of pulp fiction’s most famous spots resides in the heart of Texas. I and fellow New Pulp Tales writer, Eric Skowronski, took a pilgrimage there on Thursday, July 8th. For me, I flew from Pennsylvania to Texas, and then drove the rest of the way from Houston. In total, my journey was about 3,566 miles roundtrip. Thankfully, I can wholeheartedly say that seeing Robert E. Howard’s home and grave was well worth the long trek.
Howard was one of the titans of the pulp magazine era of storytelling. His most famous creation, Conan, made the transition to film in the 1980s, in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first major role. There were subsequent Conan movies, and two of Howard’s other creations, Kull and Soloman Kane, have also been adapted to screen. In addition, parts of Howard’s life were portrayed in the excellent biographic film The Whole Wide World, starring Vincent D’Onofrio and Renee Zellweger. Howard’s work still sells today, and his characters are frequent subjects for video, tabletop, and roleplaying games. Sadly, Howard took his own life at the age of 30, cutting short what could have been an even greater career.
If you do any research on Howard, you immediately realize how important his surroundings were for the creation of his fiction. He’d seen an oil boom negatively impact his hometown of Cross Plains, and he’d determined that civilization was decadent and corrupt. Living in a rural, isolated area must’ve also contributed to his famous loner protagonists. Conan and Kane primarily exist on the edges of society, living by their own moral codes while spurning community for individualistic freedom. Driving through the Texas countryside to reach Howard’s abode nails home how much his environment must’ve impacted his work.
Of course, our visit would not have been possible without the wonderful help of Project Pride, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Cross Plains and Howard’s home. Eric and I were given a tour of The Robert E. Howard Museum by the current President of Project Pride, Arlene Stephenson. Aside from being a delightful person, she was a wonderful source of knowledge on Howard and his home. Eric and I had assumed we’d be in Howard’s residence for a relatively short time, but we ended up there for over two hours as we wandered the halls, marveled at the history, and trod the same ground as one of our favorite pulp writers. After the museum, we journeyed south to pay our respects to Howard himself in Greenleaf Cemetery in Brownwood.
If you’d like to follow in our footsteps to visit Howard’s home, you can setup a visit by calling or emailing the museum. You can find more details on the Robert E. Howard Museum website. If you want to go a step beyond Eric and I, you should absolutely visit during Robert E. Howard Days, a two-day celebration of the author and his works. This past year’s guest of honor was Roy Thomas, who famously wrote the original run of Conan comics at Marvel. On the subject of Roy Thomas, I can’t miss an opportunity to mention that I drew on his life and works as inspiration for the protagonist of my horror story “The Blood-Inked Comic Book,” published in Castle of Horror Anthology Volume 5: Thinly Veiled. Why not support some modern pulp by picking up a copy? You can also get your pulp fill for free by reading any of our tales on this site. For Conan, Kull, and Soloman Kane enthusiasts, we’ve got four Sword and Sorcery tales, and if you’d like to read more about Conan specifically, we’ve got an article discussing the original Conan stories and the current Marvel comics for your reading pleasure.
Thanks for your time.