This is an untitled synopsis of REH’s “Black Canaan”. The story revolves around Kirby Buckner, a man drawn back to his home in the isolated backcountry between Black River and Nigger Head Creek due to unrest among the local African-American population. The narrative unfolds with elements of mystery and tension in a setting rich with historical and cultural complexity.

Black Canaan” is a short story originally published in the June 1936 issue of Weird Tales. It is a regional horror story in the Southern Gothic mode, one of several such tales by Howard set in the piney woods of the ArkLaTex region of the Southern United States. The related stories include “The Shadow of the Beast”, “Black Hound of Death”, “Moon of Zambebwei” and “Pigeons from Hell”.

Most likely the original form of the story “Black Canaan” before changes made in response to editorial requirements. The original script was sent to Otis Adelbert Kline in Chicago who forwarded it to Jessica Miller in New York. No records survive to indicate what magazines the story was submitted to or what editorial requirements, if any, were made on the story. REH withdrew the script, rewrote it, and resubmitted it to Kline. Kline sent it to WEIRD TALES and it was accepted.

After publication of the first printing of PICTURES IN THE FIRE, it was discovered that the typescript used for “Black Canaan” was Howard’s final version, rather than the earlier version that was intended. To correct the error, the REH Foundation Press issued this chapbook and included it with copies of the first print run.

Future print runs of PICTURES IN THE FIRE will have the early version of “Black Canaan” included in the book. The text for this alternate version of “Black Canaan” came from copies of REH’s original typescript that were provided by the Glenn Lord Collection.


Kirby Buckner, engaged in gambling and other activities in New Orleans, receives a cryptic warning from an old African-American woman: “Trouble on Black River!” Understanding the significance, Buckner immediately returns to his home in the isolated backcountry between Black River and Nigger Head Creek. This region, characterized by its pine forests, swamps, and independent inhabitants, has its own laws and traditions.

Upon arriving at the steamboat landing, Buckner rides to the village of Grimesville, crossing Nigger Head Creek, named after a violent rebellion where the leader’s head was nailed to a tree. During his journey, he encounters a mysterious quadroon woman with a Spanish accent who tries to lure him into the woods. When he resists, he is attacked by three African-American men. Buckner defends himself with dueling pistols and a bowie knife, managing to kill one and wound another before the third flees.

At dawn, Buckner meets Esau McBride, a villager investigating the gunshots. McBride informs him of the recent strange behavior among the African-American villagers on Cypress Creek, who have been influenced by Saul Claver, a charismatic figure from South Carolina, and his brazen female companion. The villagers speak of drums and chants emanating from the swamps, signaling wild and possibly sinister rituals.


  • Kirby Buckner: The protagonist, a man from the backcountry who returns home after receiving a warning about unrest among the local African-American population.
  • Old Negro Hag: An elderly African-American woman who mysteriously warns Buckner about the trouble on Black River.
  • Quadroon Woman: A mysterious woman with a Spanish accent who tries to lure Buckner into the woods and is associated with the attacking men.
  • Esau McBride: A villager from Grimesville who helps Buckner and provides information about the unrest and strange happenings in the area.
  • Saul Claver: A charismatic African-American man from South Carolina whose presence has caused unrest among the local African-American villagers.
  • Brazen Young Wench: A woman associated with Saul Claver, whose exact relationship to him (sister, wife, or daughter) is unknown.

Published in: