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Of the Outer Dark
Considering Robert E. Howard: A Well of Heroes Epilogue 1
© 2021 James LaFond
A Fighter's View of Writing
In 2011 I began reviewing books. I did this as a pennence for throwing some 700 books, purchased over $15k, on a stock clerk's wages, which I had collected for research and for my dotage and to hand down to my sons and grandchildren. I did this in the end of September 2010. This was soul-rending, with 200 of these books as yet unread, some in fine collectors hardbacks, such as the complete illustrated Dickens and Shakespeare. I could not bring myself to toss my Robert E. Howard books, and moved them by backpack with about 200 other titles to my new rental. Friends, family, library, charity—no one wanted the books that had occupied my only luxury expense since age 12 when I bought my first book, the Ace paperback edition of Mastermind of Mars by Edgar Rive Burroughs. That too went into the dumpster. There were another 1500 books held by my youngest son. 600 of those have been gifted away to trim the LaFond library down to a size his wife will tolerate.
What hit me so starkly about this, was that I knew no one who cared for books. After 30 years of living and working in the 25th largest city in the greatest nation in history, that is the beating heart of the Information Age, I knew not a single soul who was even willing to take a book from my hand for free, that I had spent $20 on. I knew then that I was truly alone, that I never even really connected with any of my girlfriends, that we were just lonely bodies bumping together in a mechanized wasteland.
So, for ten years I have reviewed every book I have written. This has occupied nearly 1,000 reviews of about 800 books. The more I write and the more rapidly I lose my eyesight, the less reading I have done.
To the best of my ability to recall I have read the following rounded out estimates:
-50 books from my Uncle Herb's Library from age 11-30
-25 encylcopedia volumes I bought for my sons in my 20s
-200 paper backs I bought as a teen
-50 large hardback books from the Trinity High School library, including a 1200 page history of Cuba and the Story of Civilization by Will and Arial Durant in the second half of my 15th year on this disultory planet of the apes
-1300 of the 1700 books I bought in my 20s-30s, mostly history and biography
-1,152 books read at the Peabody Conservatory and Enoch Pratt Library from 1998-2000
-800 books and essays of all kinds read from 2010-2021
Thus, my reading totals out at around 3,500 books over my lifetime. According to my log, I have written 235 books and am currently working on 21. Like my reading, these books range from 44-page novelettes to 700-page history books, averaging out at around 250 pages, or the typical 40,000 word novel or self-help book.
Now, as my sight fades, and my drive to write continues, I am doing away with book reviews as a category and am, for no other reason than fatigue and selfishness, turning my back on the pledge I once made to review everything that the man responsible for me becoming a writer, wrote. So life goes, finding another way of finding alone.
Alienation in Fiction is the thing that touched me about Howard's work, that he like his frustrated, acne-riddled teenage reader who discovered his paperbacks at Walden's Books at the Washington Mall in Washington, Pennsylvania in April of 1977, felt like he had been born out of time.
I took up my duty of reviewing his work against some resistance from his hardcore fans, who were horrified that I did not want to read his personal letters, had zero desire to know all about the nuances of his friendly relations with fellow Texans. This was out of the arrogance I felt from knowing in my soul that Howard was certainly as estranged from his friends and family as I was from mine—something I found to be true when I finally read a poem he wrote about him and his two friends and he ended it by describing himself as the one who reached for the night.
I have written and pulled from circulation Dark Art of an Aryаn Mystic, because of some complaints that I did not specify that people who Howard referred to as aunts were not of his blood. There are 20 copies out there somewhere.
There have been three volumes in The Well of Heroes series written according to a thematic scheme.
I broke from this scheme in writing Of Fear and Night and this book, Of an Iron Harp. Thus, this final volume will make the fifth and final book in the series, as the material from the first book was reworked into volumes 1 and 2.
Howard and I shared a lack of formal education and a passion for boxing as an activity for self-improvement of character. There does not seem to be much else we held in common other than a hatred for civilization—specifically the corrosive effects on our races of its many comforts.
Howard committed suicide at age 30, a braver man than I, who yearned to die until age 31, when a really great blow job from a highland town slut who had pulled me back from in front of the bus I had impulsively stepped before, convinced me that pussy was reason enough to remain in a world that hated me.
I had no natural writing talent, where Howard was a genius of the turned page from an early age. I did not write anything publishable until 1988, when I was 26 and would not write anything worthy of mention in the same breath as his work until 2009, when I wrote Big Water Blood Song at age 46.
This does remind me, that I have another connection with Howard, that most do not, that we both sold short works to magazines for a nickel a word and less, he in the 30s and me in the late 80s, when that was ending. I would then face the same problem he had with magazines as I began writing for martial arts periodicals and quickly choked off my outlets by flooding them with work that would take them a decade to publish.
I find at this phase, an aspect of we as writers that is diverging. We shared a compulsion that drove him to write the most quickly paced stories in fiction and me to write more in fiction and non-fiction as separate categories, than any writers of my era. This provided me with the arrogance necessary to try and imagine myself Howard, in a world where I had somehow learned to type.
But now the page so often turns without me, read by an audio voice as I sit in the dark like a child of an earlier age that we both seemingly yearned to be. I have some books left to write, including a few that I hope Howard might have written if he had lived long enough for he and I to meet, or at least look wonderingly down the same savage street.
But of Howard, I have merely a few more pages to write and intend to give that young man some rest. That is the other rub—Howard died young and I've been dead inside since I was the same age he was when he took up his delivering gun.
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