The amusing excerpt, “Voyages with Villains,” is a fictional tale spun by Robert E. Howard in a letter (#136) to his friend Tevis Clyde Smith, written circa July 1930. This story is portrayed as being from the book, “Voyages with Villains” written by a character named Rupert Goofo, who recounts his experiences with the “Rogues of America”, representing Howard, Smith, and Vinson, as they embark on various misadventures.
- Rupert Goofo (Robert E. Howard): Rupert is the narrator of the tale. He appears to be the voice of reason among the group, often expressing doubt and concern over their brazen actions. He is also responsible for managing the practical aspects of their travels, including paying bills they often leave unpaid.
- Smith (Tevis Clyde Smith): Smith in the tale appears to be a fearless character, unafraid to stir the pot and cause chaos, as seen when he tries to chase villagers over a cliff wearing a tiger skin. His actions often land the group in trouble, such as when it’s revealed that he has a contentious history with Sultan Mechmet Ali (Clankin Jarkis), leading to their imprisonment.
- Howard (Robert E. Howard): Howard is depicted as a man of simple solutions, often suggesting to resolve disputes by offering a drink. His ideas, though not always practical, exhibit his nonchalant approach to dangerous situations.
- Vinson (Truett Vinson): Vinson is portrayed as a reckless character, constantly seeking amusement and thrill. His impulsive behavior, such as trying to gouge out a jewel from the Sultan’s throne, often adds to the group’s troubles.
- Sultan Mechmet Ali (Clankin Jarkis): The Sultan, who turns out to be an old adversary of Smith, is portrayed as a vindictive and violent ruler. His discovery of Smith’s presence leads to a conflict that lands the group in the Sultan’s dungeons.
The story is a rollicking recounting of the group’s misadventures in the realms of Sultan Mechmet Ali and Prince Hutdara. The characters find themselves in increasingly ridiculous and dangerous situations due to their wild behavior, including being presented to the Sultan while intoxicated, a physical altercation with the Sultan leading to imprisonment, seducing the wife of a guard to escape, and their ultimate expulsion from Prince Hutdara’s kingdom. The story ends on a note of self-promotion as Goofo directs the readers to another work, “The World’s Three Greatest Men,” in which these outrageous characters brag about their lives and works.
Here’s an extract from the story:
The glorious moment had come! We were presented to the exalted Sultan Mechmet Ali. I was fully cognizant of the honor of the occasion, but I doubt if my materialistic companions shared my thrills. They were half drunk as usual, and at the very moment the escort was presenting us, I spied Vinson industriously endeavoring to gouge out a jewel which represented one of the eyes of the golden leopards which formed a base of the throne.
I noted that the Sultan’s eyes were fixed on Smith with a basilisk gleam and without answering our salutation, Mechmet Ali suddenly laughed harshly and raucously. Smith suddenly began to sweat profusely and to my utter amazement said: “Hell’s devils, it’s Clankin Jarkis!”
“The same,” snarled the sultan, brandishing his sceptre. “Now I’ve got you where I’ve wanted you for years! Your goose is cooked! Now for the broadsword and deserted castle —”
- THE COLLECTED LETTERS OF REH VOL. 2: 1930-1932, Robert E. Howard Foundation Press, October 2007
- THE CURSE OF THE CRIMSON GOD (MOICHANIE IDOLA), North-West, 1999 (Russian)
- THE COLLECTED LETTERS OF REH VOL. 2: 1930-1932 ultimate edition, (letter #136) Robert E. Howard Foundation Press, June 2022