Friday, January 22, 2010

Robert E. Howard's Birthday

Next to J.R.R.Tolkien, Robert E. Howard is my biggest inspiration as a writer. Today is his birthday so I wanted to raise a leather drinking jack to him and post a short yarn of his.

MIDNIGHT
Red leaned his elbows upon the table and cursed. The candle guttered low. The bottle was empty, and a slow fire coiled in our brains--the fire which devours and consumes and destroys but never leaps into full wild flame.

I looked at Red with bleared eyes. He hid his face in his hands. He was thinking of a woman he knew. The cards, greasy with handling and stained with whiskey and candle tallow, lay scattered between us. The desire for gambling was gone, and there was no more whiskey.

"Cheer up, Red," I said. "Listen--I'll tell you: Somewhere in the world the sun is coming up like a red dragon to shine on a gilded pagoda; somewhere the bleak stars are gleaming on the white sands where a magic caravan is sleeping out the ages. Somewhere the night wind is blowing through the grass of a mysterious grave. Somewhere there is a gossamer sailed ship carving a wake of silver foam across the dark blue of the Mediterranean. This isn't all, Red."

"Oh, Christ," he groaned, reaching for the empty bottle, "I wish I had a drink."

23 comments:

TerryLynnJohnson said...

"carving a wake of silver foam"
NICE!

David J. West said...

Thanks Terry, this isnt even one of his famous creations but I still like it a lot.

L.A. DeVaul said...

This is good. And I have never heard of him. Judging from his picture I would assume he was a mobster, not a writer. Thanks for the introduction.

Krista said...

Fantastic imagery. Thanks for sharing.

David J. West said...

L.A. I think this was his respectable picture that girlfriend Novalyne Price probably had taken of him. Most of the others are a little more casual.
Snippets like the one above are why he is such a favorite of mine.

Krista, thanks-the powerful imagery in his writing is a prime appeal, I believe.

Stephen King said "Howard's writing seems so highly charged with energy it nearly gives off sparks."

Th. said...

.

Is that a whole piece? Where in the world did one publish flash fiction in his day?

David J. West said...

I had to go looking because I did not know, but I found it.

Pulp magazine called THE JUNTO, September 1929. He apparently sold them about 23 poems and short stories between Sept 1928 and Feb 1930.

Of course his most famous stuff typically went to Weird Tales.

Karlene said...

Hi there. Gave you a totally girlie looking award over on my blog. Also talked about your new book.

David J. West said...

Sweet, Karlene, you're my best iron deficient friend.

Mary Campbell said...

I've never heard of this author, but his writing is full of rich imagery. Maybe I'll have to check him out.
I like his use of adjectives. I've been told I use too many adjectives.

David J. West said...

Hey Mary
Some people say REH is a bit of purple prose writer but I have to say, I love what I read of his, so the theoretical No-No's just don't matter to me.

Voidwalker said...

I'm the kind of guy that can barely remember names of songs, or the groups/singers who write them. I'm the same way with books. If I browse my bookshelf, I can say "That was a good one," by looking at the cover or side, but sometimes, I can't even remember the title lol.

David J. West said...

I get pretty hung up on whoever or whatever I like-music, books, movies, etc. So whomever the creator is I remember and seek out more of their stuff. For action-oriented fantasy short stories there's no topping Robert E. Howard in my book.

Morgan Ives said...

Fabulous imagery in this story. Someday I'll figure out how to walk that fine line between imagery and purple prose. Until then, I'll just be jealous when I read stories like this.

David J. West said...

Thanks for dropping by Morgan. Its a line I'm working on myself.

Kasie West said...

Very fun. Happy birthday Mr. Howard. Thanks for the entertaining short. :)

elizabeth mueller said...

Hey, I love purple prose with all of my heart! That's all my works was composed of but it's been beaten out of me by all those rules. Grrr. But I think old habits die hard and I still utilize that favorite writing of mine!

Happy Birthday Mr. Howard!
:)

(Karlene girlied you, David? LOL, I'm checking it out!)

David J. West said...

Thanks Kasie, your pics were great.

Elizabeth, I bet Howard would want to read your Viking story too-anymore progress on that?

Yeah-I'm grateful that people have thought I was worth the awards several times over now-but I just can't bring myself to post them-BUT I DO SINCERELY APPRECIATE THE THOUGHT.

Voidwalker said...

Any particular title that turned you toward his works?

David J. West said...

Voidwalker
LOL-just cuz I thought it might have been obvious.

His CONAN stuff.(he's the creator-most recent stuff is crap)

But look for any of the Del Rey editions. Theers also collectiosn for his Kull stories, Bran Mak Morn stories, Solomon Kane tales, 2 general collections (little bit of everything) and a Horror Stories collection-mostly supernatural ghostly monster stuff-but I like them all.

Voidwalker said...

My density sometimes is beyond understanding. :)

Thanks though for putting some specifics out there for me.

Bruce said...

That's a great passage you selected, Dave. It captures Howard's style to a 'T'. This anti-purple-prose movement amazes me in the sense that a well-turned adjective fires the imagination, whereas a non descriptive sentence is just plain boring. But I guess that's the trend these days. I'll stick to 'firing the imagination'. And when it comes to that, no one beats REH.

David J. West said...

Hey Bruce
I'm all about firing the imagination and it doesn't happen without some spark of description.