“Red Shadows” was REH’s first published Solomon Kane story (Howard’s original title was “Solomon Kane”). It tells a tale of wide scope, one which takes place over many years and in many countries. It’s a tale of unrelenting dogged persistence as Kane spends years of his life seeking to avenge the death of a complete stranger.
First published in Weird Tales, August 1928. Howard got $80 for this story. The story was also sent to Argosy, but it was rejected.
From the letters:
In a letter (#062) to Tevis Clyde Smith, week of February 20, 1928, we can read:
Strange thing: I had a long mss. with the Argosy-Allstory and last night I dreamed that I got it back together with a long personal letter from the editor, written in pen and ink. Sure enough I did. He said in some places the story was “very good” and in some places “rotten!” He says that I have the “stuff” if I “get steered right” so therefore he is giving me the reasons it was turned down, in detail. He did, very concisely and very clearly. He says as the setting was the Middle Ages, I had too much “Eugene O’Neill jungle stuff” in the story. (He’s not accusing me of plagiarizing.) The main reason for non sale was “unexplained miracles.” The reason for this is, I wrote this story for the Weird Tales originally and then decided to try my luck with Argosy-Allstory, just as it was. So, if a despised weird tale, whose whole minor tone is occultism, can create that much interest with a magazine which never publishes straight weird stuff, I don’t feel so much discouraged. He apologizes for having kept the mss. so long, saying that he wished to write me a personal letter and therefore kept the mss. on his desk two weeks before he found time; he says they have been getting about 100 mss. a day. He says at the last of the letter (everything I’ve quoted have been his own words, I mean everything in quotation marks): “You seem to have caught the knack of writing good action and plenty of it into your stories. If you guard against the faults I have outlined, I believe your stuff will be saleable and will be interested in seeing some of it. Good luck.”
The “long mss.” was “Solomon Kane”, later retitled “Red Shadows”.
We get a bit more information in another letter to Tevis (letter #066) from circa March 1928.
The Weird Tales took that mss. the Argosy editor commented upon, offering me $80. The Weird Tales editor took it in its original form, for I didn’t change it any, in spite of the defects pointed out by the Argosy editor, and says that he thinks he’ll give me front page and cover illustration. He asks me to change the title “Solomon Kane” however and I can’t seem to think of a good title.
Next, we learn that the story has a new title. Here is what we can learn from the letter to Tevis (letter #075), circa June 1928:
Next month if nothing happens the Weird Tales publishes my “Red Shadows” which according to the announcement is “Red Shadows on black trails — thrilling adventures and blood-freezing perils — savage magic and strange sacrifices to the Black God the story moves swiftly and without the slightest let-down in interest through a series of startling episodes and wild adventure to end in a smashing climax in a glade of an African forest. A story that grips the reader and carries him along in utter fascination by its eery succession of strange and weird happenings.” The announcement does it a fair amount of justice I suppose.
A letter to Harold Preece (#076), circa June 1928 tells us:
This issue of Weird Tales there is an announcement of a story scheduled for next month, “Red Shadows,” which I submitted to Argosy-Allstory under the title of “Solomon Kane,” and was rejected. The announcement gives it justice in a fair manner.
- THE RIGHT HAND OF DOOM AND OTHER TALES OF SOLOMON KANE, Wordsworth Editions, April 2007
- THE ROBERT E. HOWARD OMNIBUS: 99 COLLECTED STORIES, Halcyon Press, Ltd., May 2010
- WEIRD TALES: 101 WEIRD, STRANGE, AND SUPERNATURAL STORIES VOLUME 9, Civitas Media, June 2013
- THE RIGHT HAND OF DOOM, Wordsworth Editions, October 2014 (as “Solomon Kane”)