Howard’s story “The Grisly Horror” was published in the magazine Weird Tales, in February 1935 and was later renamed “The Moon of Zambabwei” (the inspiration for the de Camp/Carter version). Kline received the story on July 23, 1934. The story sold for $110 and Howard earned $99 after Kline Agencies had their share.

The story was adapted by Marvel Comics as a Conan story in Conan the Barbarian #28 (“Moon of Zembabwei”, July 1973) a year before the publication of de Camp/Carter.

From the letters:

In a letter (#301) to August Derleth, ca. mid-October 1934, Howard tells him about the sale:

P.S. Wright just bought “Moon of Zambebwei”, a novelet that differs from most of my Weird Tale yarns; a modern story, laid in Mississippi; hope the readers will like it.

And in a letter (#304) to H.P. Lovecraft, ca. December 1934, we learn of the change of the title:

My latest sales to Weird Tales have been a two-part Conan serial: “Beyond the Black River” — a frontier story; and a novelet dealing with Mississippi negroes, etc. “The Moon of Zambebwei”, which I understand will be changed to “The Grisly Horror.”

When Howard hired Kline as his agent, it was with the understanding that he would continue to make submissions directly to Weird Tales, without paying Kline a commission, since he had built up that market himself. However, when Howard’s “The Moon of Zambebwei” was rejected by Terror Tales and Top-Notch, Kline submitted it to Weird Tales, where it was published under the new title. In a letter (#312) to Otis Adelbert Kline, May 13, 1935, Howard says:

I’m writing this to ask for some information in regard to Weird Tales.
As you know, for some time I’ve had a story in almost every issue. One of those yarns you sold Wright, yourself, “The Grisly Horror,” you remember. The others I sold him direct.

Almost a year behind, Howard was paid for the story. In a letter (#333) to Otis Adelbert Kline, January 8, 1936 we learn:

A belated acknowledgment of the check for $99.00 from Weird Tales. A pleasant surprize, as I had not expected a check for “The Grisly Horror” at this time.


The story begins with Bristol McGrath trekking through dense pine forests, driven by a cryptic message from his long-time adversary, Richard Ballville. McGrath discovers Ahmed, an Arab servant, gruesomely tortured and dying, who imparts clues about a dire situation involving Ballville and a mysterious woman named Constance. McGrath’s journey leads him to Ballville Manor, where he uncovers a sinister scene of Richard Ballville being tortured by a monstrous figure from an African cult.

As McGrath delves deeper, he learns that Constance, whom he had loved and believed dead, is alive and held captive by Ballville. Driven by a mix of hate and a twisted love, Ballville confesses to abducting Constance, intending to coerce her into marriage. However, his plans unravel as a more terrifying threat emerges in the form of John De Albor, a cruel priest of an ancient African cult, who has taken control of the local black community and intends to sacrifice Constance to appease his deity.

The narrative reaches its climax in a moonlit clearing, where De Albor attempts to feed Constance to a monstrous ape, a god of his dark religion. McGrath, having followed a tortuous path to save her, confronts the beast and De Albor in a violent showdown. Amid chaos and bloodshed, McGrath manages to kill the creature and save Constance, securing a precarious future for them as they prepare to escape the nightmare woods.


  • Bristol McGrath: The protagonist, a tough and resourceful man who returns to his homeland to rescue Constance, driven by a complex mixture of duty and old affection.
  • Richard Ballville: The antagonist and McGrath’s former friend, who becomes obsessed with Constance and descends into madness and cruelty.
  • Constance Brand: A woman from McGrath’s past, whose presumed death is revealed to be a ruse; she is central to the story’s conflict and resolution.
  • John De Albor: A malevolent priest of the Zambebwei cult, whose ambition and cruelty pose a grave threat to all characters.
  • Ahmed ibn Suleyman: Ballville’s servant, whose torture and death provide McGrath with crucial information to advance his quest.
  • Ali ibn Suleyman: Ahmed’s brother, who appears to assist McGrath but is later revealed to be another layer of De Albor’s deceit.

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