"I was born in the little ex-cowtown of Peaster [Texas],” Robert E. Howard wrote to a friend, and the first story he ever published (in 1922) was a Western sketch. Although he went on to write hundreds of fantasy tales set in Conan’s Hyborian kingdoms, Kull’s ancient Atlantis, and Solomon Kane’s darkest Africa, his heart always remained in the West. In 1929 he began publishing Western tales, but they were unlike any the genre had ever seen—they didn’t have happy endings or perfect heroes. They were grimmer, more action packed, even cataclysmically violent.
Howard was fascinated by outlaws and gunmen, especially those who “crossed over” to become lawmen, and he knew and interviewed many “old-timers—old law officers, trail drivers, cattlemen, buffalo hunters, and pioneers.” The twelve stories collected here show a West stripped down to essentials, where internalized codes of personal honor, loyalty, and courage matter more than laws, progress, or civilization. Also included are four articles, suggestive of his wide-ranging interests—from Billy the Kid to the eerie and unexplained happenings on the frontier.
“To me the annals of the land pulse with blood and life,” Howard wrote, and his Western stories are full of memorable characters, heart-pounding action, and the distinctive prose generations of fans have come to know, and expect, and appreciate.