Before the internet was the everyday tool it is today, me and my gang tried to become one-man Wikipedias. For a long time, our focus was music. If you hadn’t memorized the best entries in THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HARD ROCK AND HEAVY METAL, and knew that Lucifer’s Friend was considered “a poor man’s Uriah Heep,” you weren’t worth a damn. (And to be honest, “Riding the Sky” by good old Lucifer’s Friend was awesome!).
Later, when we learned books weren’t filled with koodies, we started get OCD on weird genre fiction. As usual, my friend Jamie led the way. Dude was always two steps ahead of most people when it came to cool stuff. My buddy Neil was the same way, somehow garnering arcane knowledge about Lovecraft or Poe or Philip K. Dick. We’d spend a lot of time at used bookstores looking for lost classics and bizarre genre books. And we only had a smattering of knowledge on the authors, usually stolen from SF encyclopedias and recommendations in the back of books . . . and I remember for the longest time I thought Robert E. Howard was British.
I guess I thought most cool fantasy came from over the pond or in Europe. Tolkien, Lewis, Peake, etc. And for some reason I remember the Bran Mak Morn collections littering our book cases more than Conan. So, when I found out as an adult that old REH was USA born and bred (from small town Texas no less!), it was quite a shocker! I’d always thought of him as some mustachioed country gentleman who lived near the Scottish border and wrote wild tales from some cozy cottage surrounded by recently discovered Pict weapons!
Don’t get me wrong, I love the real life and sad times of Robert E. Howard, two-fisted pulp writer from Cross Plains, a man who made mountains of fictional worlds in the wake of the oil boom and depression. And if you haven’t seen his life portrayed in THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, do so. But I still have a fondness for the fake Robert E. Howard of my youth, a country scholar who looked like a thin version of Otto Von Bismarck and carried a Gurkha blade in his belt.