Friday, November 23, 2018

Forgotten Books: FAMOUS SOMEDAY by Don Herron

Though this ebook is a recent release, I figure it qualifies as a Forgotten Book because most of the contents have been lurking deep in the pages of a Robert E. Howard fanzine called The Cimmerian, published between 2004 and 2008. 

The heyday of my Howardmania was in the mid-seventies, so the fanzines I read were The Howard Review, REH: Lone Star Fictioneer, REH: Two-Gun Racaonteur, Fantasy Crossroads and a few late issues of Amra. By the time The Cimmerian began, that mania was long gone and had moved on to who-knows-what. 

Famous Someday is proof I missed something good. The bulk of this collection consists of interviews conducted by Leo Grin and Don Herron on field trips from their annual pilgrimage to Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas. 

The interviews are with Bob Baker, Marie Baker Andrews and Norris Chambers, all of whom knew REH's father, Dr. Isaac Howard - and to a lesser extent REH himself - back in the day. By the time these interviews were conducted (2004 and 2005), the memories of most Howard acquaintances had been picked clean, but Grin and Herron scored a coup in speaking to Marie - who had never been interviewed before - and ferreted out cool new details from the others. 

As a traveling doctor, Robert's father had a big and very public personality, and was very well known by his neighbors. Mrs. Howard, by contrast, was a homebody, not so friendly, and often ill, while Robert E. was quiet, standoffish and considered strange. So it's not surprising that most of these reminiscences focus on Dr. Howard, and merely nibble around the edges of Robert and his mother. 

Those nibbles, however, are enough to make this a rewarding little volume. We learn stuff that adds to our understanding of Howard's personality and character, as well as his writing life. Tempting as it is, I'm not going to tell you what they are. If you're as interested in the subject as I am, you'll want to read them for yourself. 

Also included is the saga of how Don and Leo encountered some forty books that had once been owned by Dr. Howard, and may have had their own influences on REH. The doctor was apparently a compulsive doodler, making his mark on the endpapers and odd pages of many of those books, and his doodles are presented here in full color, along with detailed descriptions of the books and their contents. The books also lead Don Herron to posit what appears to be an original theory regarding a mental disorder that may help explain both REH's prolificacy and emotional problems.

And as a ebook bonus, we're treated to the story of how the original typescript of one of my all-time favorite books, A Gent from Bear Creek, was discovered by friend of Don's in a bag in the pantry of her home in San Francisco. An extremely weird tale, indeed.

My brush with fame: The author and I back in 2011

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