1941-1945: following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, nationally famous Western and Boxing writer Robert E. Howard temporarily retires from writing to enlist in the army. Due to his remarkable physical health, especially for someone in his mid-thirties, the Army enthusiastically accepts him. Sgt. Howard proves to be a soldier of uncommon valor, distinguishing himself in North Africa, Italy, and finally, in France.
1945-1950: Robert E. Howard returns home to Crossplains and resumes his writing career. The experience of war gives his writing a depth that was absent before, and eventually he begins to return to some of his characters that enjoyed major popularity with readers of Weird Tales, including Conan, Bran Mak Morn, and Solomon Kane. Although he had abanded these characters more than a decade earlier because he no longer felt a connection with them, first hand experience with violence and bloodshed served to breathe new life into his creations. In 46, REH strikes a deal with fellow Weird Tales writer August Derleth and his publishing company Arkham House to publish a collection of his short stories. Skull Face and Others
is a modest success, but its a start.
Meanwhile, REH reconnects with an marries his old sweetheart Novalyne Price.
1954: REH has enjoyed tremendous sucess as a writer of Western Stories, and many of his most popular stories such as The Vultures of Whapeton
have been made into popular films starring actors such as John Wayne and Henry Fonda. Nevertheless, his dark fantasy stories still only enjoy modest success with a relatively small fanbase. Looking to change that, REH strikes a deal with small hardcover publishing company Gnome Press to publish all of his Conan stories in to a single collection. The twelve volume series is a minor success, but still fails to break through in a major way. The same year, fellow fantasy writer and correspondent JRR Tolkien publishes the first volume of his landmark trilogy The Lord of the Rings
1961: The genre of dark fantasy that REH created is now known as "Sword and Sorcery", a term coined by friend and fellow writer Fritz Leiber. Other young writers begin contributing to the genre, including a British writer who describes his albino character as the "Anti-Conan". Meanwhile, Boris Karloff's Anthology show Thriller
adapts Pigeons From Hell
into a one hour episode.
1964: The Valley of the Lost
is adapted into an episode of The Twilight Zone
in its final season.
1966: Its a time a political and cultural upheaval. REH, now sixty, witnesses the paperback editions of Lord of the Rings
finally break through and enjoy major popularity. He decides to give his Conan stories one more shot at mainstream success, and signs a deal with Lancer books for a series of fifteen paperbacks. With covers by up and coming fantasy, comic, and movie poster artist Frank Frazetta, REH feels that he has stumbled upon a winning formula. The first volume, Conan of Cimmeria
, is a worldwide success and cultural phenomenon. By 1971, by the time the final volume, The Hour of the Dragon
, is published, millions of copies have sold worldwide.
1970: a deal is signed with Marvel comics for a Conan series. Kull, Solomon Kane, and Bran Mak Morn quickly follow. Meanwhile, Conan of Cimmeria
, with special effects by Ray Harrihausen, and starring Sean Connery, is one of the biggest box office successes of the year. Still, many fans are dissappointed by the bloodless, family friendly tone of the film.
1976: now seventy, REH successfully sues minor SciFi writer and proverbial gossip monger L. Sprague deCamp for libel for referring to REH in print as "maladjusted to the point of psychosis", and alledging that REH had had an incestuous affair with his long deceased mother Hester. REH says publicly that he'll forgive the monetary amount if deCamp will agree to meet him in the boxing ring for three rounds. DeCamp declines and pays up.
1981: REH, screenwriter and co-executive producer, fires director John Milius from the set of Conan the Cimmerian
, citing creative differences, particularly Milius' insistence on giving the title role to an unknown Austrian bodybuilder.
In a parallel universe, all of this really happened.