Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, May 9, 2014


Robert E. Howard is best-known for his stories about Conan the Barbarian.  Many also know him for his weird stories.  Few outside of a coterie of admirers are familiar with the wider range of his work, which stretches from boxing stories to historical stories, from tales of oriental menace to tales of adventure, from poetry to westerns.  Howard's output in the thirty short years he was on this planet is impressive.  And, as a pulp writer, he would alter stories that did not sell to one market to fit another market.  Howard stories featuring such character as Buckner J. Grimes, Pike Bearfield, or Grizzly Elkins are Breckinridge Elkins stories dressed in different clothing.  During the Howard revival of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a number of his tales and unpublished fragments were rewritten by other authors -- a practice that continued in the small press and specialty publishers to the present day -- the result being that many of his stories now survive in several forms.

One market for Howard's western stories was Action Stories, which published Howard's tall tales about Breckinridge Elkins, a not-too-bright behemoth of a man from Bear Creek, Nevada.  Thirteen Elkins stories were slightly rewritten for continuity and published as a novel, A Gent from Bear Creek, by London Publisher Herbert Jenkins in 1937, the year after Howard's death by suicide.  Twenty-seven years, in 1965, later the book was finally published in the U.S. by Donald M. Grant.  Grant published a further collection the following year, The Pride of Bear Creek.  Then, after a gap of thirteen years, Grant published the final Breckinrige Elkins collection, Mayhem on Bear Creek, in 1979.  All three books were published in the paperback omnibus Heroes of Bear Creek by Ace.

The Pride of Bear Creek (the cover shows a dazed and bruised mountain lion with its tail tied in a knot) presents seven stories:

  • The Riot at Cougar Paw (Action Stories, October 1935)
  • Pilgrims to the Pecos (Action Stories, February 1936)
  • High Horse Rampage (Action Stories, August 1936)
  • The Apache Mountain War (Action Stories, December 1935)
  • Pistol Politics (Action Stories, April 1936)
  • The Conquerin' Hero of the Humbolts (Action Stories, October 1936 as "The Conquerin' Hero of the Humboldts" and was titled "Politics at Blue Lizard" in Howard's draft)
  • A Ringtailed Tornado (as "Texas John Alden" in Masker Rider Western, May 1944.  Also appeared in Hopalong Cassidy Western Magazine, Fall 1950, and High Adventure, November 2012; this was originally written as a Buckner J. Grimes story titled  "A Ring-Tailed Tornado" and was rewritten by someone at the Otis Adelbert Kline agency.)

These tall tales should probably be read sparingly; they are basically one-note stories, after all.  Elkins is the biggest, strongest, meanest, fightin'est, shootin'est, and (possibly) dumbest person in the West.  (And his horse Cap'n Kidd is the biggest, fastest, strongest, and meanest animal in the West.)  He's often thrust into his adventures by members of his large extended family and a misguided sense of family honor.  In several of these adventures Breckinridge runs across (and fights) his Texas cousin Bearfield Buckner; along the way they have a contest on who can kill the most members of a Mexican outlaw gang.  In most of the stories Breckinridge is shot, stabbed, and hit on the head by a large rock or a piece of lumber --all of which tends to rile his pleasant nature.

Fun and funny -- in small doses.


  1. I haven't always been checking out the forgotten books links but had to leap to this one because of the Howard connection. I'm also a big fan of REH. I like his historicals, like the Sowers of the Thunder tales better than his humorous westerns but I certainly did enjoy those. I was a member of REHupa for years and still hang out with the group when I can.

  2. As tall tales they work quite well, but one shouldn't expect them to be more than that. As you say, fine in small doses.