For Glenn, with Thanks

I completed the following appreciation in January 2011 for a book of testimonials to be published in connection with honoring Glenn at the annual Robert E. Howard Days celebration in Cross Plains, Texas, in June 2011. That particular volume of tributes to Glenn did not materialize; therefore, this is the first publication or appearance of this essay.

I’ve left it in the present tense although Glenn passed away on December 31, 2011.

If his name is new to you, please see the Wikipedia page devoted to him at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Lord

Glenn Lord is an important man.

I first heard his name in the late 1960s. I was in high school and, as things turned out, a witness, one of many, to a turning point in this country’s popular culture. By that time, I was reading and collecting the Lancer editions of the Conan stories, I had subscribed to Amra, and I had been buying Creepy and Eerie for years, primarily for the Frank Frazetta covers, as well as Castle of Frankenstein magazine—isn’t that a name from the past for a lot of us?—to read Lin Carter’s book reviews of paperback fantasy novels. There was very little fantasy available then in print for those of us just discovering it. Otherwise, there was the Burroughs boom, of course. And a lot of science fiction paperbacks. And pulp reprints, mainly of the Shadow and Doc Savage. But for stories way beyond any of those, for stories that were as raw and visceral and real as a punch in the face or a cut on the arm, for stories that felt as actual as the things your dad told you had happened during the war and stories dealing with the arrant madness and arbitrariness and casual cruelty that the world can inflict on us—for these kinds of stories, there was Conan. There was nothing else remotely like them. They didn’t feel made up, not entirely. They felt raw and real.

Which, of course, they are.

This was the beginning of the Howard boom, or of the first Howard boom, and the boom occurred because of Glenn Lord.

Because even though the Conan paperback reprints with the legendary Frank Frazetta covers were raw and real and interesting in and of themselves, few of us had any idea — certainly I didn’t, not at the age of 15 or 16 — of what else had been left to us by Robert E. Howard, that astonishing wealth of posthumous material. Guarding this material, preparing it for publication, publicizing Robert E. Howard, and promoting his artistic vision — this is what Glenn has done for us.

How, precisely, would we now regard Howard if not for Glenn? I don’t care to imagine the portrait of Howard that we would have today if it were not for his preeminent literary champion.

Literary executor is the term most associated with Glenn’s name. How many times have we seen that phrase in print — “courtesy of Glenn Lord, literary executor of the Robert E. Howard estate”? As a literary executor, he is in estimable company. One thinks of Max Brod choosing not to burn Kafka’s manuscripts, of Robert Barlow championing Lovecraft, of Irving Shepard fulfilling this fiduciary responsibility for Jack London’s estate following the death of Charmian London, and of Dan Fante today doing the same for the legacy of his father, John. And of course, we now automatically think of Glenn and of the trunk — Robert E. Howard’s manuscripts and letters, all that remained. Graciously and imperturbably and patiently, Glenn fulfilled the promise of what had been hinted at in the late 1960s. He brought the promise to fruition, and fruition is not a bad word to use for it. Glenn has toiled long and hard and with love, like a planter or grower, preparing the soil for the blossoming, really, of serious interest in Robert E. Howard — first with enthusiastic fans, then with increasing commercial assertiveness, and now with verifiably academic, scholarly results. Have you seen, in Glenn’s Wikipedia entry, the list of publications to which he’s contributed? It’s incredible. The man is tireless. And every article, every apazine, every book is one more seedling he has planted and nurtured that has come to fruition for those of us involved in the serious appreciation of Howard’s life, work, and legacy.

Glenn and I first made each other’s acquaintance, as it were, by correspondence, in late 1975, when both of us were in the Esoteric Order of Dagon, the amateur press association devoted to H. P. Lovecraft. I still have the carbon copy of my first letter to him, and I have his response to me. The topic, predictably enough for me, at least, was the movies, in particular Howard’s comments on some of the cinema actresses of the early Depression. Then there is a jump to 1980, and most of our correspondence for the next half decade or so has to do with business, or at least starts out as business-related correspondence, because at that time I was involved, with Dick Tierney, in writing a number of pastiche novels based on Robert E. Howard literary characters.

November 1980: Ace is considering reprinting The Witch of the Indies. April 1981: Ace is finally paying what they owe for the Red Sonja novels, slowly but surely, so here’s a check, and by the way, filming on the John Milius Conan movie is going to wrap in about three weeks. (And if it is a success, Glenn warns me, look out for a whole lot of bad s&s movies!) January 1982: A Red Sonja movie is going to be made. May 1982: Ace has been bought by Berkeley. September 1983: Wilhelm Heyne are interested in publishing the entire Red Sonja series in West Germany. October 1984: Glenn sends along a check for my share of the money from the German edition of For the Witch of the Mists — money I really need because I am out of work, have dropped out of writing, and have just spent the money I do have to move to another city to make a fresh start. December 1986: the Red Sonja books are still earning a little bit, so, Dave, here’s your share of the most recent check: $12.81.

But it’s not all business. How could it be? Glenn’s natural generosity and friendliness come through all the time, answering questions of mine, providing tantalizing hints of projects under way to advance appreciation of Howard and his work, and commiserating with me about the vicissitudes of life. October 1984: he thanks me for helping him get in touch with a collector who can help index the Spicy line of pulps. April 1985: a tornado has come through close to Pasadena and flooded some streets, but fortunately, Glenn is otherwise unaffected. February 1986: Pinnacle has bit the dust. Have I been able to get back the rights to my books from them? The letters start to drop off after that—my fault, not Glenn’s. But we stay in touch. June 1998: he is sorry to hear of the death of my father and apologizes for not writing in a while because he has been assisting with his mother, whose own health has been suffering. April 1999: Glenn sends me copies of my novel Oron, which has been translated and published in the Czech Republic.

And, of course, all through the 1990s, there were his ongoing, unconscionable legal issues. Truly, if no good deeds go unpunished in this world, then what other reason could there be for dragging this man over hot coals time and again, frustrating and humiliating him and all of us who are concerned most of all with the integrity of Howard’s life and work?

It was reprehensible.

I finally met Glenn in person in 1994 at PulpCon, and the circumstances were as you’d expect: this unaffected, honest man, so elementally important to assaying and cataloguing our popular literary heritage, was happy because he’d managed to snag a rare periodical containing a story by Tevis Clyde Smith. And I met him again in June 1998 during Howard Days in Cross Plains. The same man, maybe with a little more weight on him (true of me, too!), but the same truly good human being, sharing anecdotes, making plans, giving us the latest news.

This is Glenn Lord:

When I needed money, Glenn got me a check, no questions asked.

When my morale was low because writing for publication is so arduous and risky, Glenn put things in perspective. And he was happy to hear when things looked up on my end — the usual ups and downs in life — and who would know those better than Glenn himself?

When my novel Oron was translated and published in the Czech Republic, Glenn is the person who graciously went out of his way to retrieve some copies for me. Not easy to do — and he was the only person who offered to assist.

I am now a long way from high school and a long way from the wonderful thrill I first had from reading Robert E. Howard’s fiction. The passing of time does not matter. The excellent legacy that Glenn continues to create is what matters, his importance to literary scholarship and his championing of his fellow Texan.

Aside from that, my own personal gratitude to him is great. I am honored to know him.

Thank you, Glenn, for everything you have worked for and achieved, for everything you have given us.

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2 Responses to For Glenn, with Thanks

  1. Dave Smith says:

    Mark, thank you. I hope Howard Days go well this year. One day I will make it back. My daughter’s birthday is June 13th — she will be six next week — and so far that has made it unlikely for me to leave home around that time. But sometime soon I will introduce Lily to Howard Days!

  2. Mark Finn says:

    Beautifully done, sir.

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