In all the hubbub earlier this year about all the anniversaries related to Robert E. Howard, one seems to have been overlooked. This year marked the fifth anniversary of the publication of Cross Plains Universe, an anthology put together to mark the Robert E. Howard centennial as well as the 30th anniversary of Lone Star Universe, an anthology of Texas writers.
Now as anniversaries go, the fifth isn’t all that big a deal unless you forget and your wife has to remind you. (Can I get an “Amen” from the brethren?) Also, this book was never made for sale to the general public, at least as far as I know. If you weren’t able to attend the 2006 World Fantasy Convention in Austin or one of the following Howard Days, where the book was made available in the gift shop, you probably haven’t seen a copy. I’d even wager that many of you might not be aware of its existence.
If you are able to score a copy, do so. It’s worth your while. A brief perusal of the contents will show you why.
After an introduction by Scott Cupp, Ardath Mayhar leads off the stories with “The Pillar in the Mist”, the tale of a young Briton who has to prove his prowess as a warrior on the moors one night. Rick Klaw and Paul O. Miles give an interesting alternate history take on the pulps in “A Penny a Word”, while in “Slim and Swede and the Damned Dead Horse: A Tale of Bloodson” C. Dean Anderson mixes two of Howard’s favorite genres, western and sword and sorcery. Bradley Denton provides poetry in “The King Comes to Texas.” Howard is resurrected from the grave in “An Excerpt from The Stone of Namirha” by Bill Crider and Charlotte Laughlin. “Two Hearts in Zamora” by Jessica Reisman is the story of a pair of girls who find themselves in a dangerous land. Co-editor Scott Cupp provides a weird western with “One Fang”.
|l. to r., Cupp, Reasoner, Crider, Lansdale|
One of Saddam Hussein’s sons meets an end not seen on the evening news in “The Bunker of the Tikriti” by Chris Nakashima-Brown. Gene Wolfe tells the tale of “Six From Atlantis”, while Mark Finn lets us know why a Conan movie wasn’t made in the early 70s in “A Whim of Circumstance”. James Reasoner’s contribution is a twisty El Borak story, “Wolves of the Mountains”. The incomparable Howard Waldrop tells what happens when some seniors make a trip across the border in “Thin, on the Ground”. Grandchildren learn about their grandmother’s encounter with a warrior king in Carrie Richerson’s “The Warrior and the King”. Lillian Stewart Carl provides a historical adventure in “The Diamons of Golkonda” while “Prince Koindrinda Escapes” is an alternate history tale with giant apes from Jayme Lynn Blashke.
L. J. Washburn tells how a young Bob Howard helps solve a murder in Cross Plains during the oil boom with “Boomtown Bandits”. Chris Roberson’s “The Jewel of Leystall” is an installment in his Paragaea series, and very much in the vein of Howard. Neal Barrett, Jr. tells a tall tale in “The Heart”, while Lawrence Person explains why you don’t mess with “The Toughest Jew in the West”. “The Sea of Grass on the Day of Wings” by Melissa Mia Hall is a meditation on Howard’s final hours. Finally, Michael Moorcock gives us the story of Ronan the Red Archer in “The Roaming Forest”.
As you can tell, the contents of this anthology are quite varied, with stories told in the style of Howard, using new characters, characters and settings previously created by the contributors, Howard’s characters, and even Howard himself. All of the contributors are from Texas or resided there at the time of writing, which is why some of the names may not be familiar to you.
ABE currently shows 11 copies available with prices ranging from a steal to a gouge. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that unsigned copies of this book are rare. With the exception of Gene Wolfe and L.J. Washburn, all the contributors, including artist Gary Gianni, were at the WFC and participated in the mass signing, and Washburn sent signed bookmarks with her husband James Reasoner. Before you buy a copy online, check to make sure you’re getting a signed copy.