One of Howard’s spicy stories was published with the name Sam Walser. “Desert Blood” is a vivid narrative, encapsulating the adventurous and tumultuous escapades of Wild Bill Clanton, an American in Tebessa, and his encounters with various individuals across the Barbary region. The story weaves through themes of love, betrayal, courage, and cultural clashes, reflecting the pulpy, exotic, and often politically incorrect ethos of its time. The 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 first draft (see below for a comparison).

Alternate title:


Summary of the story

The tale begins with Clanton, a rugged American, in a Barbary room with Zouza, a local woman, who challenges his manhood by demanding he prove his bravery by slaying a lion. Despite his initial reluctance, Clanton is drawn into the quest, partly due to Zouza’s manipulation and his own ego. However, this lion hunt is a facade for a deeper plot involving tribal politics, espionage, and the arms trade.

Clanton’s journey takes an unexpected turn when he’s led into a trap set by Ahmed ibn Said, under the guise of helping him hunt a lion. Instead of a straightforward adventure, Clanton finds himself embroiled in a complex plot involving Zouza, Ahmed, and the powerful Shaykh Ali ibn Zahir, who seeks Clanton for reasons tied to his wife Zulaykha’s desires and political maneuvering involving Clanton’s cargo of rifles intended for Berber rebels.

Clanton’s adventure takes him from the seductive lure of Zouza, through a violent confrontation with Ahmed, to being captured and brought before Shaykh Ali. His fate seems sealed as he is taken to Zulaykha, who attempts to use her charms and power to sway him to her and her brother’s political cause. However, Clanton’s fortune changes with the daring intervention of Aicha, a woman initially presented as Ahmed’s companion but who becomes Clanton’s ally and rescuer.

The story culminates in a dramatic rescue operation led by Aicha, who cleverly draws away Ali and his men, allowing Clanton to escape. The narrative closes with Clanton and Aicha, now a couple, planning their future together as they navigate the aftermath of their adventure and contemplate a life at sea.


  • 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.

Comparison to the draft

Comparing the draft and final version of “Desert Blood” reveals several nuances in character development, plot progression, and thematic emphasis, which collectively enrich the story’s depth and readability. Below is a detailed comparison based on key aspects:

Setting and Description

  • Draft: The setting in Tebessa is briefly sketched, focusing mainly on the interactions between characters. The descriptions of the surroundings and attire are minimal but precise, enough to give a sense of place and cultural context.
  • Final Story: Enhances the atmospheric descriptions, providing a richer backdrop against which the story unfolds. This includes more detailed depictions of the Barbary room and the characters’ appearances, adding to the story’s immersive quality.

Character Development

  • Zouza: In both versions, Zouza initiates Clanton’s quest. However, the final story amplifies her manipulative charm and the physical description, making her role as the catalyst more potent.
  • Wild Bill Clanton: His character remains consistent as a rugged adventurer. However, the final version emphasizes his internal conflict and pride more distinctly, offering deeper insight into his motivations.
  • Aicha: Aicha’s character undergoes significant expansion in the final story, providing a more detailed backstory and emotional depth. Her bravery and quick thinking are highlighted, making her a more central figure in the narrative.
  • Miss Augusta Evans: Used more effectively in the final version as a contrast to the main adventure and to highlight cultural misunderstandings and prejudices.

Plot and Pacing

  • Plot Structure: The core plot remains largely unchanged, focusing on Clanton’s misled adventure, his entanglement with local politics, and eventual escape with Aicha. However, the final version tightens the narrative, improving pacing and clarity.
  • Action and Dialogue: The final story refines the dialogue and action scenes for better flow and impact, making the confrontations and character interactions more dynamic and engaging.

Thematic Elements

  • Adventure and Misadventure: Both versions celebrate the theme of adventure, but the final story enhances the stakes and the implications of Clanton’s misadventures, emphasizing themes of bravery, betrayal, and redemption.
  • Cultural Clash and Understanding: The final version offers a more nuanced exploration of cultural misunderstandings and connections, particularly through the interactions between Clanton, Aicha, and the secondary characters.

Conclusion and Resolution

  • Ending: The draft and final story share similar endings, with Clanton and Aicha escaping together. However, the final version provides a more satisfying resolution by tying up loose ends more neatly and offering a clearer sense of future possibilities for the characters.

Additional Observations

  • Tone and Style: The final story’s tone is more polished, balancing action with moments of introspection and emotional depth, providing a more rounded reading experience.
  • Character Motivations: The final version provides clearer motivations for the characters’ actions, especially regarding the antagonists’ schemes and Aicha’s decisions, making the story’s dynamics more believable and compelling.

In summary, while the draft sets up an engaging narrative with intriguing characters and a vivid setting, the final version of “Desert Blood” elevates the story through enhanced descriptions, deeper character development, tighter pacing, and a more nuanced exploration of themes. The revisions between the draft and the final story showcase the process of refining a narrative to enhance its impact and resonance with readers.

Published in: