The initial draft of “Desert Blood” introduces Wild Bill Clanton, a rugged American adventurer in Tebessa, who becomes entangled with Zouza, a local woman desiring proof of his bravery through the slaying of a lion. Misled by her and Ahmed ibn Suleyman, Clanton finds himself on a dangerous quest that leads to a confrontation, betrayal, and ultimately, a deeper connection with Ayisha, another significant female character. Clanton’s journey is marked by cultural clashes, personal growth, and the complexities of honor and bravery in a foreign land. The final story was published in Spicy Adventure Stories in June 1936.

“Desert Blood” is a product of its time, blending adventure with elements of romance, danger, and cultural stereotypes. The narrative offers a window into the pulp fiction genre’s treatment of exotic locales and situations, resonating with readers’ appetite for stories that transport them to worlds filled with danger, intrigue, and passion.

See also Howard’s list of characters and the final story (and also a comparison of the draft and final).

Summary of the story

The story kicks off with Clanton in a room with Zouza, who challenges him to prove his bravery by bringing her a lion’s pelt, implying that only such a feat could win her affection fully. Despite his initial reluctance, Clanton’s pride and desire for Zouza push him to accept the challenge.

Clanton’s venture into the desert under the guise of hunting a lion soon reveals itself to be a ruse orchestrated by Zouza and Ahmed ibn Suleyman to trap him for reasons initially unclear. Clanton, slightly inebriated and misled, finds himself instead at a tent where he meets Ayisha, who reveals the plot against him and confesses her love.

The narrative takes a sharp turn as Ayisha and Clanton are attacked by Ahmed and his men, leading to a violent confrontation that ends with Clanton’s capture and Ahmed’s death. Clanton is then taken to the camp of Shaykh Ali ibn Zahir under the orders of Zulakha, the Shaykh’s wife, who desires Clanton for reasons tied to her family’s political machinations.

In a twist, Ayisha adopts the guise of a white woman to distract Shaykh Ali and his men, allowing for Clanton’s escape. The plan leads to a chaotic rescue where Clanton saves Ayisha, now disguised in Miss Augusta Evans’ attire, mistaking her initially for the New England schoolteacher.


  • Wild Bill Clanton: The protagonist, an American adventurer, whose quest for excitement and disregard for danger leads him into a web of intrigue, betrayal, and romance in the Barbary.
  • Zouza: A local woman who uses her allure to manipulate Clanton into proving his bravery, serving as the catalyst for his deeper involvement in local conflicts and plots.
  • Ahmed ibn Said: A supposed lion hunter and Zouza’s cousin, who is actually a spy for Shaykh Ali, setting the trap for Clanton under the guise of aiding his lion hunt.
  • Shaykh Ali ibn Zahir: A tribal leader with political ambitions, who seeks to capture Clanton for his wife’s vendetta and for his own political gain, illustrating the intertwining of personal and political motives.
  • Zulaykha: Shaykh Ali’s wife, who desires Clanton’s capture for reasons tied to her brother’s political machinations, showcasing the use of personal power within political struggles.
  • Aicha: Initially presented as a secondary character, she emerges as a pivotal figure in Clanton’s escape and ultimate survival, transforming from a victim of circumstances to an active participant in her own right.
  • Miss Augusta Evans: A New England schoolteacher, representing the foreign, moralistic perspective on the events unfolding in Tebessa, and unwittingly becomes part of Aicha’s plan to save Clanton.

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