“Spanish Gold on Devil Horse” is an adventure-filled narrative set in the vividly described locale of Cross Plains, featuring a thrilling hunt for hidden treasure. This work blends real-life geographical elements with fictional adventures, showcasing Robert E. Howard’s skill in creating rich, atmospheric settings.

This was a 2-part serial (45 pages) that was submitted to Argosy and Adventure but rejected by both in 1928.

“Spanish Gold on Devil Horse” piques one’s curiosity as it represents Howard’s maiden venture into fictionalizing the community of Cross Plains. By ingeniously integrating the surrounding geographical features of Caddo Peaks, he crafted a story that saw him, under the pseudonym Mike Costigan, embroiled in a thrilling saga of concealed treasure, illegal liquor dealings, and, predictably, a damsel in dire straits.

See also “Spanish Goldon Devil Horse (early draft)“.


“Spanish Gold on Devil Horse” begins with the protagonist, Mike Costigan, discovering a curious Spanish coin in the hands of a local urchin named Skinny. This discovery sets Mike on a quest to uncover the origins of the coin, believed to be part of a legendary treasure hidden during the Spanish colonial era.

The plot unfolds as Mike, under the guise of his alter ego, investigates the peculiar activities of two geologists, who are secretly searching for the same treasure. The story escalates with the arrival of a young woman named Marylin la Valon, who is revealed to be a direct descendant of the treasure’s original owner, General Ricardo Marez. She joins forces with Mike, driven by her desperate need to secure the treasure to save her ailing sister.

Their adventure is fraught with danger, involving deceitful alliances, violent encounters, and a race against unscrupulous treasure hunters. The narrative climaxes with a dramatic showdown where loyalty and betrayal collide, leading to a catastrophic crash of an airplane used by the villains trying to escape with the gold.

In the end, despite the physical and emotional trials, Mike and Marylin’s journey not only uncovers the treasure but also leads them to discover love. The treasure, while a curse to many who sought it, becomes a symbol of hope and redemption for the couple, who plan to use it for noble purposes.

Comparing the draft and the finished story


Early Draft:

  • The protagonist is named Steve Costigan.
  • Other significant characters include Marylin la Valon, Gomez, and El Culebra.

Full Story:

  • In the final version, the protagonist’s name is changed to Mike, which can suggest a redefinition or relatability aspect introduced by Howard in later revisions.
  • It’s common for Howard to refine or change names in his drafts to better fit the tone or historical setting of the story.


Early Draft:

  • Begins with the discovery of a Spanish coin, leading to a treasure hunt.
  • Involves geologists who are secretly looking for the treasure, and the plot unfolds with confrontations and betrayals centered around this quest.
  • Ends with a dramatic showdown involving betrayal and a plane crash.

Full Story:

  • Likely includes more nuanced motivations and clearer explanations for the characters’ actions, enhancing the logical flow of events.
  • Additional plot twists or more complex interactions between characters could be introduced to deepen the narrative.
  • The ending might be adjusted to provide a more resolved or morally poignant conclusion, possibly emphasizing themes like redemption or the folly of greed.


Early Draft:

  • Set around the fictional East Peak and the surrounding oil boomtowns, reflecting a rugged, adventurous backdrop typical of Howard’s settings.

Full Story:

  • Howard might have added more detailed descriptions of the settings to enhance the atmosphere and immersion into the story’s environment.
  • Additional locations relevant to the newly introduced plot elements might be included, providing a broader scope and richer context.


Early Draft:

  • Steve Costigan is portrayed as a physically strong and morally straightforward protagonist.
  • Marylin la Valon is the treasure-connected damsel in distress.
  • Villains like Gomez and El Culebra are relatively one-dimensional, representing clear antagonistic roles.

Full Story:

  • “Mike” (the renamed protagonist) could be depicted with more depth, possibly showcasing internal struggles or more complex motivations.
  • Marylin’s character might receive an enhancement, giving her more agency or a more pivotal role in the resolution of the story.
  • Antagonists such as Gomez and El Culebra could be depicted with more backstory or motivations that provide a psychological depth, making them more realistic and less stereotypically evil.

Overall Differences

The transition from the early draft to the full story in Howard’s works typically involves significant enhancements to character development, plot complexity, and thematic depth. The changes from Steve Costigan to Mike in the protagonist role likely reflect broader adjustments in character portrayal and narrative focus, aiming for a more mature or sophisticated storytelling style. Howard’s revisions would have aimed to improve coherence, emotional impact, and thematic resonance, ensuring that each element of the story—from the setting to character arcs—serves the larger narrative and its intended message.


  • Mike Costigan: The main protagonist, a rugged individual with a background in writing, who becomes embroiled in the adventure to uncover a hidden treasure.
  • Skinny: A local urchin who initially finds the Spanish coin, sparking the treasure hunt.
  • Marylin la Valon: A direct descendant of General Ricardo Marez, driven by the need to recover her ancestor’s treasure to save her sister’s life. She becomes Mike’s partner and love interest.
  • General Ricardo Marez: The original owner of the treasure, who hid it during the Spanish colonial retreat.
  • The Geologists: Two mysterious individuals who are covertly searching for the treasure under the guise of conducting geological surveys.
  • Gomez and El Culebra: Antagonists who are also in pursuit of the treasure, posing significant threats to Mike and Marylin.
  • Leary and Edwards: Minor antagonists aligned with Gomez and El Culebra, contributing to the dangers faced by the protagonists.

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