The Breckenridge Elkins Stories:19 Western Short Stories by Robert E. Howard
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Howard in a collection of Western short stories, came on the heels of Steve Costigan, and he is initially cut from the same cloth as the good-hearted sailor. This series are located in the Southwest, in Bear Creek, Nevada. Elkins is a strong but simple mountain man. This collection of Western Short Stories contains: 1.
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One was the creation of a character who would keep readers coming back for more and thus keep editors happy. The second was versatility; a writer who could handle a variety of story types could sell to more magazines in an age of specialization. Fortunately, Robert E. Howard was both versatile and had the knack of creating popular characters. However, unlike many of his contemporaries, who could continue cranking out stories about their characters long after inspiration had abandoned them, Howard found he could not keep a series going indefinitely.
This has happened in the past with nearly all my numerous characters; suddenly I would find myself out of contact with the conception, as if the man himself had been standing at my shoulder directing my efforts, and had suddenly turned and gone away, leaving me to search for another character. As a person matures, his basic nature or personality does not change dramatically thus the similarities among the characters , but many of his ideas and his emotional responses to the world do change and thus the contemplative and sometimes tentative Kull comes to be replaced by the more carefree and decisive Conan, to use one example.
Howard sometimes lost touch with his characters, then, because he had psychologically outgrown them, and could therefore no longer write convincingly from their point of view. A very interesting character, from this psychological standpoint, is Francis Xavier Gordon, a. According to Howard, Gordon was first created when he was only ten, though it was some time before his exploits were committed to paper. In the earliest surviving stories, written by a teenage Howard, Gordon is a world traveler and adventurer, a man known to and respected by the British Secret Service.
As they exist today, none of these early stories is complete. Just why this character should have languished for at least ten years, even after Howard began writing for Oriental Stories in , remains something of a mystery, but it is interesting to compare the sophisticated world traveler of the earliest stories with the hardened frontier fighter of the later tales.
When Robert was 13, his father took the family to New Orleans, where the doctor enrolled in a post-graduate medical course. While there, Robert sought out a public library and discovered a book on British history in which he learned of a small, dark race of Mediterraneans who settled in the British Isles before the arrival of the Celts. His Picts were made to be sly, furtive, unwarlike and altogether inferior to the races which followed — which was doubtless true. And yet I felt a strong sympathy for this people, and then and there adopted them as a medium of connection with ancient times.
I made them a strong warlike race of barbarians, gave them an honorable history of past glories, and created for them a great king — one Bran Mak Morn. The earliest mention of this character is in a letter to his friend Tevis Clyde Smith, in which Howard names Bran among several characters in a book he is writing which apparently does not survive. At the age of 16, Howard dreamed up another character, Solomon Kane, a Puritan swashbuckler who travels the world avenging wrongs.
It was accepted, but he was asked to come up with another title. His exploits seem to take place largely during the reign of Elizabeth I, and while some stories are set in England and the Continent, it is in Africa Kane faces his greatest challenges. That was his obsession, his driving force of life…. Kane was the first character Howard sustained beyond a published story or two: seven of the Kane tales appeared in Weird Tales between and , and he remains a favorite with readers and fellow writers alike.
It would be over a year before this story saw publication in August In fact, he first appeared as only a minor character in a story which was never accepted. At least, he was intended to be a minor character, but I had not gone far before he was dominating the yarn. This slight tale relates how a young Kull grants the boon of a quick death to a woman about to be burned at the stake, thus violating tribal custom and forcing him into exile. The confining nature of traditions, customs, taboos and laws is a frequent theme in the Kull stories. In this story we learn that Kull was adopted by the Sea-Mountain tribe of Atlantis after he was found wandering in the woods.
He knows nothing of his parentage, but he has a dream in which he is hailed as king of Valusia, the greatest civilization of his age. Atlantis and Lemuria had not yet vanished into the seas, but they were inhabited not by the advanced, utopian civilizations claimed by the occultists, but by savages. It was the Thurian continent that boasted grand civilizations, as well as mysterious pre-human races.
It centers upon a conspiracy by a race of Serpent Men to kill the king and, by taking on the semblances of Kull and his chief councilors, to seize control of the ancient kingdom of Valusia. In this story Kull first meets Brule, a Pictish warrior who will become his friend and comrade-at-arms throughout the rest of the series.
Together they uncover and foil the conspiracy in a climax that shows Howard at his apocalyptic best. In , when H. In that year the year-old writer began to sell to other magazines, initially with strange tales of pugilism.
More importantly, in July , Fight Stories published the first of his Sailor Steve Costigan stories, about a roistering merchant seaman who battles his way around the world as he is caught up in one comic mishap after another. The most well-defined phases are those during which he wrote boxing stories, culminating in the Steve Costigan series; heroic fantasies, culminating with Conan; oriental adventures, culminating in El Borak; and western yarns. Just when Robert Howard developed his passion for boxing is not clear, but certainly by the time he met Clyde Smith in Brownwood it was strong.
He boxed with his friends at any opportunity, and may have occasionally assisted in promoting fights at local clubs in Cross Plains. He soon became a frequent participant in these bouts. Between at the latest and , Howard put himself through a weight and strength program, and took on really heroic proportions. He read avidly about prizefighters and attended matches whenever and wherever he could.
By early he had begun writing and submitting boxing stories, with his first efforts mingling boxing with weird themes presumably a field in which he knew he could sell. During the same summer weekend in when he met Harold Preece in Austin, Howard bought a copy of G. Howard enthused about the poem in letters to Clyde Smith, sharing lengthy passages. This historical melting pot allowed Howard to portray what he saw as universal elements of human nature as well as giving him nearly all of human history for a playground.
His letters to Preece and to Clyde Smith from to are full of discussions of Irish history, legend and poetry — he even taught himself a smattering of Irish Gaelic and began exploring his genealogy in earnest. Irish and Celtic themes came to dominate his poetry and by he was ready to try out this new persona with fiction. In keeping with his tendency to use old material as a springboard into new, he first introduced an Irish character into a story featuring two earlier creations.
During , Howard wrote a number of stories featuring Gaelic heroes, nearly all of them outlawed by clan and country. In June , Howard received a letter from Farnsworth Wright informing him that Weird Tales planned to launch a sister magazine dealing with oriental fiction, and asking him to contribute.
The magazine changed its title to The Magic Carpet Magazine in and ceased publication with the January issue. While these stories were set during the Crusades, or periods of Mongol or Islamic conquests, they invariably featured Celtic heroes. Hated by the Irish and despised by the Normans he had payed back contempt and ill treatment with savage hate and ruthless vengeance. In the letter, he noted the use of a phrase in Gaelic, suggesting that Lovecraft might hold to a minority view on the settling of the British Isles.
Wright sent the letter on to Lovecraft, who frankly had not supposed that anyone would notice the liberty he had taken with his archaic language.
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He wrote to Howard to set the record straight, and thus began what is surely one of the great correspondence cycles in all of fantasy literature. For the next six years, Howard and Lovecraft debated the merits of civilization versus barbarism, cities and society versus the frontier, the mental versus the physical, art versus commerce, and many other subjects. At first Howard was deferential to Lovecraft, whom he like many of his colleagues considered the pre-eminent writer of weird fiction of the day.
It is unfortunate that this persona did not have a chance to mature, as his letters suggest that he would have made one hell of a western writer.
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His correspondence with Lovecraft seems to have inspired the young writer to attempt stories similar to those of the acknowledged master. I did not create him by any conscious process. He simply stalked full grown out of oblivion and set me at work recording the saga of his adventures. This occurred to me when I was writing the first stories of the Conan series especially. I know that for months I had been unable to work up anything sellable.
Then the man Conan seemed suddenly to grow up in my mind without much labor on my part and immediately a stream of stories flowed off my pen — or rather, off my typewriter — almost without effort on my part. I did not seem to be creating, but rather relating events that had occurred. Episode crowded on episode so fast that I could scarcely keep up with them. For weeks I did nothing but write of the adventures of Conan.
The character took complete possession of my mind and crowded out everything else in the way of story-writing. In the spring of , Howard took on Otis Adelbert Kline as his agent, continuing to deal directly only with Weird Tales. Conan, because he could range freely throughout the world, provided a useful vehicle for a writer trying his hand at new types of fiction. On the night of December 29, , Howard and three friends were returning from Brownwood on a foggy, rainy night, when Robert ran his car head-on into a flagpole, painted grey and set in concrete in the middle of the street, in the town of Rising Star.
One companion was thrown through the windshield, another suffered an injured leg.
By , Howard had turned his attention closer to home and, along with his friend Clyde Smith who went on to write several books of local history he had begun to explore the pioneer days of Texas. Elkins was a huge mountain of a man whose rollicking adventures recall the tall tales of Pecos Bill. Best For. Web, Tablet, Phone, eReader. Content Protection. Learn More. Flag as inappropriate. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders.
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