Mark has been disturbingly absent from this blog for months now — either his experiment with buying and running a movie theater is going great or my watch has stopped (read his personal blog for all the details of what’s happening on that front). But his biography of Robert E. Howard continues to dominate Howardian news cycles. This time word comes down that the book has made the cut for the 2007 Locus Awards for Best Non-Fiction Book (hat tip: Rusty Burke). That’s great news, a continuation of the shockwaves generated by the hugely successful Centennial year.
At the end of 2005 the rumor was that someone was planning on re-releasing Dark Valley Destiny sometime during 2006 (click on the preceding link and scroll down to the bottom of the linked page for Ed Waterman’s classic review). It never happened, and hence Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard is the book educating fans and changing minds in this modern era. That’s about as good a situation as we can expect at this point in the game, and Mark is to be commended for busting his ass so that a Howard biography would indeed appear during the Centennial.
I’ve been told that over at Gary Romeo’s new L. Sprague de Camp Yahoo! Group Darrell Schweitzer is making waves about getting DVD back into print. Yeah, good luck with that — on eBay it’s difficult to sell even signed, slipcased copies for more than $20, and de Camp’s name no longer holds any serious sway in publishing circles. My guess is a reprint would be a losing proposition for any mainstream publisher.
A savvy print-on-demand outfit like Wildside could make a bit of mazuma with it, but it would first have to get in the back of the queue of books John Betancourt needs to shepherd through the production process. The reprint of the Charles Hoffman/Marc Cerasini book on REH (the old Starmont Reader’s Guide) has yet to appear from Wildside even though the revised manuscript has been ready for well over a year. Judging by that, I’d say that those who hate DVD have nothing to worry about for the foreseeable future, and Mark’s book will continue to dominate the scene, massaging de Camp’s death grip off of Howard’s biographical reputation.
In fact, if Darrell or Gary don’t step in and become more proactive about keeping de Camp in print, I’m guessing that he’s in deep trouble. His sons dumped a huge amount of his library onto Half Price Books, which struck me as a sign that they couldn’t care less about their pop’s legacy. If publishers come calling I’m sure they would cooperate, but as far as doing any preservation or popularization on their own, don’t hold your breath.
My guess is that Mark’s book will be the beginning of a steady stream of new biographical tomes in the coming years, with each one diluting the longstanding de facto preeminence of DVD that much more. By the time there are four or five to choose from, I can’t see many people prizing de Camp’s bio enough to justify a reprinting. A book of de Camp’s source materials — interviews, letters, etc. — would be valuable, though. Gary is poking around the Harry Ransom Center, where de Camp’s papers are kept, so perhaps he’ll make the effort someday.
For the record, the picture above was taken during the release party for Blood & Thunder at the World Fantasy Convention in Austin. The motley horde surrounding Finn includes (from Left): Dennis McHaney, Steve Tompkins (obscured), Chris Gruber, Rusty Burke, Finn, Leo Grin, Damon Sasser, Bill “Indy” Cavalier, and Tim Arney.