The Texan pulp writer Robert E. Howard’s cultural influence is great. His character Conan the Barbarian spearheaded the sword and sorcery genre and lead to many literary, cinematic, and artistic depictions. In addition to fantasy and historical fiction, he was apt at writing comedy and poetry as well.
As a protege of weird fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft, Howard also contributed stories to the Cthulhu Mythos. Other memorable characters Howard created include the Puritan swordsman Solomon Kane, the Atlantean warrior Kull the Conqueror, the Celtic king Bran Mak Morn, the evil sorcerer Thulsa Doom, the boxing champion Sailor Steve Costigan, and the female mercenary Red Sonya.
These characters, like so many Howard created, often dealt with existential crisis. The writer’s interest in history provided a grim realism to his stories. In particular, the boom and bust cycle perpetuated by the oil companies in Texas influenced Howard to include a cynical layer of political and social commentary to his work.
Sadly, Howard’s literary skills were offset by his deteriorating mental condition. He was devoted to his mother, who was ill with tuberculosis, and took care of her until she fell into a coma. When it became clear she wouldn’t be regaining consciousness, Howard grew despondent and died by suicide in their driveway.
While Howard was dismissed by critics during his lifetime, his reputation as a literary talent has grown since his death. His stories continue to be published and have been adapted to various media. The house where he grew up and died is now a museum devoted to his life and work. In 1994, it was added to the U.S. Register of Historic Places.
Know Before You Go
The Robert E. Howard Museum is located at the junction of Texas State Highway 36 and Avenue J in Cross Plains, in Callahan County, Texas. It isn't open on a regular basis, so it's best to email or call.