In a letter to H. P. Lovecraft from around September/October 1933 Howard wrote:
Lately I’ve been trying to write detective yarns, something entirely new for me, and haven’t had much success — in fact none, so far, except for a short yarn, “Talons in the Dark”, written in San Antonio last spring, and which Kline, as my agent, sold to a magazine called Strange Detective Stories. Kline has been a big help in teaching me the technique of detective story writing; whether I am able to profit by his teaching remains to be seen. (Kline marketed another yarn for me since I wrote the above.)1
He also wrote his friend Tevis Clyde Smith cirka October the same year:
How are your parents, and how is business? Kline cracked me into a new market — Strange Detective Stories; don’t know how it’ll pan out.
Strange Detecive Stories bought two Howard stories, “Talons in the Dark” (published in December 1933 under the title “Black Talons”) and “The Teeth of Doom” (published in February 1934 under the title “The Tomb’s Secret” and the byline “Patrick Ervin”) in September 1933, and another, “The People of the Serpent” (published in February 1934 under the title “Fangs of Gold”) in October.
Howard also wrote to August Derleth telling him how busy he has been hammering out “detectives”.
But as early as in June 1935 Howard wrote to August Derleth:
I’ve given up trying to write detective yarns — a job I despise anyway — and am concentrating on adventure stuff.
and again to H.P. Lovecraft on May 13, 1936:
I find it more and more difficult to write anything but western yarns. I have definitely abandoned the detective field, where I never had any success anyway, and which represents a type of story I actively detest. I can scarcely endure to read one, much less write one.
It was pretty clear that according to his letters he didn’t like this genre even though he did several of them very well. It is perhaps excactly the reason these stories have so much appeal, Howard’s instincts fight against the genre and we get a far different sort of tale.
Steve Harrison is the name of the detective that Howard is known for. Brock Rollins is a name that the editors of Strange Detective Stories came up with for volume 5 number 3 (1934) when two Harrison stories were published in the same issue. He operates mainly on River Street and often on the Chinese quarter.
Not your average detective, Steve Harrison is more likely to tear into a fight wth his fists than a gun. More often than not the stories also strays further afield from standard detective fare, adding weird menace and more adventure. Also, few private eyes could boast of a recurring enemy, never mind one as diabolical and evil as Erlik Khan, a descendent of Genghis Khan.
A COMPLETE LIST OF STORIES WHERE Steve Harrison APPEARS:
|The Black Moon|
Featuring Steve Harrison.
|Fangs of Gold|
Featuring Steve Harrison. Alternate title: “People of the Serpent”.
The February 1934 issue of STRANGE DETECTIVE STORIES carried two stories by REH: “The Tomb’s Secret” and “Fangs of Gold.”
Graveyard Rats. Published in the February 1936 issue of STRANGE DETECTIVE STORIES. Featuring Steve Harrison.
|Steve Harrison, Saul Wilkinson, Joel Middleton, Peter Wilkinson, John Wilkinson, Richard Wilkinson|
|Graveyard Rats (draft)|
Graveyard Rats draft. Featuring Steve Harrison.
|The House of Suspicion|
In the Otis Adelbert Kline logs, the original title listed was “The House of Suspicion”, then “Suspicion” is struck out, and “Death” written above it; offered by OAK to STRANGE DETECTIVE, not sold;
|Lord of the Dead|
Featuring Steve Harrison. Alternate title: “Dead Man’s Doom”.
|The Mystery of Tannernoe Lodge|
Featuring Steve Harrison. The Mystery of Tannernoe Lodge. First published in Lord of the Dead, by Grant in 1981. It was then completed by Fred Blosser, based on a fragment by Howard.
|Names in the Black Book|
Names in the Black Book. Featuring Steve Harrison.
|People of the Serpent|
People of the Serpent. Featuring Steve Harrison. Alternate title: “Fangs of Gold”.
|The Silver Heel|
The Silver Heel. Featuring Steve Harrison.
|The Silver Heel (synopsis)|
Synopsis of The Silver Heel. Featuring Steve Harrison.
|Teeth of Doom|
Teeth of Doom. Under the name: Patrick Ervin. Featuring Steve Harrison.
|The Tomb’s Secret|
The Tomb’s Secret. Under the name: Patrick Ervin. Featuring Steve Harrison.
The February 1934 issue of STRANGE DETECTIVE STORIES carried two stories by REH: “The Tomb’s Secret” and “Fangs of Gold”. It appears that the story titles were inadvertently switched. Howard’s agent, Otis Adelbert Kline, kept a list of titles and the magazines that purchased them.
|The Voice of Death|
The Voice of Death. Featuring Steve Harrison.
|Untitled synopsis (Steve Harrison received a wire from Joan Wiltshaw.)|
UNTITLED SYNOPSIS (Steve Harrison received a wire from Joan Wiltshaw.)
Source and more information:
- Steve Harrison – The Thrilling Detective Web Site
- Robert E. Howard’s Steve Harrison | occultdetective.com
- The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard Volume Three: 1933-1936 ultimate
- REH’s Detective and Crime Stories – article by Dierk Günther
- Teaser image by Guillaume Sorel
- Artwork by Jim & Ruth Keegan.