One of the surprising books of the late 1980s was a Robert E. Howard collection, Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors. This was a Baen paperback published in May 1987. David Drake edited the book. It sold for $2.95, was 247 pages, and had three printings. The cover by Steve Hickman is spectacular.
This book was a surprise to me when it came out. The 1980s sword and sorcery extinction event had happened a few years earlier. For a period of time from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, this was the most likely Robert E. Howard you would see at a bookstore.
It goes to show the slow but steady growth in H. P. Lovecraft awareness that this book came out. I joke that there should have been a companion collection of Lovecraft stories entitled Barbarians.
Robert E. Howard’s “Mythos” stories were probably for the most part written from 1930 to 1932. Howard had begun corresponding with H. P. Lovecraft in 1930. They discussed the concept of cosmic horror among other things. Howard had already used elements of cosmic horror in this fiction but his interaction with Lovecraft focused the idea.
Howard wrote some stories that read like Lovecraft pastiches: “The Black Stone” (Weird Tales, Nov. 1931), “The Thing on the Roof” (Weird Tales, Feb. 1932), “Dig Me No Grave” (Weird Tales, Feb. 1937), “The Hoofed Thing/Usurp the Night” (Weirdbook Three, Feb. 1970). The opening portion of “The Children of the Night” (Weird Tales, April/May 1931) reads like Howard writing Lovecraft.
Cosmic monsters made their way into Howard sword and sorcery stories including “The Footfalls Within” (Weird Tales, Sept. 1931), “The Slithering Shadow” (Weird Tales, Sept. 1933), and “A Witch Shall Be Born” (Weird Tales, Dec. 1934).
Howard was not the only one cracking Weird Tales with Lovecraft’s ideas. Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, Robert Bloch, and later Henry Kuttner all had runs of “Cthulhu Mythos” stories in “The Unique Magazine.” Everyone was cleaning up except Lovecraft.
Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors has the following conents:
The Black Stone
The Fire of Asshurbanipal
The Thing on the Roof
Dig Me No Grave
Silence Falls on Mecca’s Walls (poem)
The Valley of the Worm
The Shadow of the Beast
Old Garfield’s Heart
People of the Dark
Worms of the Earth
Pigeons from Hell
An Open Window (poem)
This is a great collection. There is a mix of Howard’s Mythos stories, a few sword and sorcery stories, a weird western, a couple Southern horror stories, an adventure Mythos story, and a few poems. It has the sort of grab bag (but in a positive way) feel as the Bantam (and 2nd) edition of Wolfshead (the one with the Robert Bloch introduction). Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors was probably the first introduction of Robert E. Howard to a generation of new readers. It is also a great beginning for new readers.
There was a horror boom in the 1980s. It grew in pace that reached a peak around 1987. There were paperback collections of Clive Barker, Karl Edward Wagner, and Ramsey Campbell. Brian Lumley’s Necroscope books were coming out. Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors was part of that mix.
David Drake’s background made him perfect to edit this book. He is in the ranks alongside Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, and Gary Myers as August Derleth discoveries.
Here is the story on the genesis of this book as told to me from David Drake:
“Jim told me he’d bought a novel by REH, The Three Johns. I was startled to hear this. Jim sent it to me and I found a clumsy fix-up of bad (mostly unsold) REH stories. (The only one I remember is The Black Bear Bites.)
I told Jim he’d been had. He was quite peeved. I called the fellow who’d sold him the bill of goods and gave him a couple options. The option he took was to keep the portion of the advance he’d gotten and walk away.
I then talked to Glenn Lord, who hadn’t known it was to be sold as a novel. He didn’t want to give Jim rights to better stories for such poor money as he’d taken for the crap. I talked to Jim and got more money for Glenn.
At the end, I asked Jim if he’d put my name on it. He did. (I wasn’t paid anything for my involvement.)
There may be some of the original batch of stories in what was published; but not, I think, many. I didn’t use any of the contents when I later put together the Baen REH Library (which I did do and was paid for).”
Cthulhu had two more printings in September 1989 and February 1992. It was a fixture in bookstores of the time. Seems like I continued to see copies on shelves up through 1995. I remember mentioning the book to all-time greatest Robert E. Howard fan, Glenn Lord. He said the book sold well.
There was an expanded collection of Robert E. Howard’s Mythos fiction: Nameless Cults (Chaosium Books, 2001) edited by Robert M. Price. The Baen paperback has a much better cover.