This is L. Sprague de Camp and his wife Catherine’s biography of Robert E. Howard. Considered by many to be full of gossip, psychoanalysis, rumors, and tall-tales about Howard. There is a lot of Howard’s family history and upbringing including a family tree and all the places that Bob and his parents have lived over the years of his life before settling in Cross Plains, TX.
If you read this, be sure to read many of the more serious and great biographies that have since been written.
In the book, de Camp gives E. Hoffman Price a lot of credit. Price met Howard twice. Unfortunately, Novalyne Price is given very little credit even though she had a relationship with Howard. There are innumerable small errors in the book, like when Patches (Howard’s dog) died.
What is important to know is that this was the first full book-length look at Robert E. Howard and for many years the only one. There is a lack of citations and de Camp and his collaborators tend to be very judgemental and let their own ideas of Howard crowd out more objective analysis. Even though it is clear that de Camp appreciated Howard’s fiction, his overall assessment of Howard’s life and work tends to be negative, down-putting, and sometimes even preachy.
This makes a lot of sense if you look at what de Camp wrote about Howard leading up to this full biography; he had done a lot of work in various essays, including a chapter in Literary Swordsmen & Sorcerers. Based on all the interviews and transcripts one should think that de Camp may have learned some more facts about Howard’s life, but it does not seem like his understanding of Howard evolved much over time.
More recent books like Mark Finn’s Blood & Thunder or Todd Vick’s Renegades & Rogues show a more balanced portrayal of Howard’s life, especially with regard to his fiction. De Camp was mostly interested in Conan and these other biographers give a lot more focus on Howard’s other works too.
This book might have been a milestone in Robert E. Howard studies, but has been largely superseded by later works.
- Dark Valley Destiny: The Life of Robert E. Howard • (1983) • nonfiction by Catherine Crook de Camp and L. Sprague de Camp and Jane Whittington Griffin
|Publisher :||Bluejay Books|
|Year :||December 1983|
|Book No.:||031940742 (Regular hardcover edition) | 031940750 (Limited hardcover edition) | 0312940769 (Trade paperback)|
|Format :||Hardcover with dust jacket (limited edition with slipcase) | Trade paperback|
|Cover :||Kevin Eugene Johnson|
By L. Sprague de Camp, Catherine Crook de Camp, and Jane Whittington Griffin
There are numerous black and white photos throughout the book.
Limited edition of 1000 signed and numbered copies in a slipcase. Signed by both de Camps.
“First Bluejay printing, December 1983” stated on the copyright page.
“Jacket art and endpaper art (collector’s edition only) by Kevin Eugene Johnson”
“Book design by Francesca Belanger” stated on the copyright page.
“Jacket painting by Kevin Eugene Johnson”
“Jacket design by Greg Wilkin” printed on the back flap of the dustjacket.
Credits and thanks
I would like to thank Bobby Derie for being so eloquent and putting my thoughts into words when describing this book.