Robert E. Howard was born in Peaster, Texas, in 1906. The son of a country doctor, Howard lived his entire life in small Texas towns like Bronte, Burkett, and Cross Plains. Howard’s mother encouraged and supported a classical education for her son and read to him from history and literature. This education included many of the books and authors that Howard would later cite as influences on his work, from Chesterton and Shakespeare to Kipling and London.
Making a living writing for the pulp magazines of the day, Robert E. Howard is best known for the creation of the genre of heroic fantasy, also known as “sword and sorcery.” His characters Conan the Cimmerian, King Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mac Morn et al loom as large and alive from the page today as they did the day they were written. The genre is still so popular that it has spawned a slew of imitators to this day, but few writers have been able to capture the same power and mood as Howard himself.
The first of Howard’s most commercially successful series (within his own lifetime) was started in July 1933. “Mountain Man” was the first of the Breckinridge Elkins stories, humorous westerns in a similar style to his earlier Sailor Steve Costigan stories and featuring an exaggerated, cartoonish version of Conan (or even Howard himself) as the main character.
Written as tall tales in the vein of Texas “Tall Lying” stories, “Mountain Man” first appeared in the March-April 1934 issue of Action Stories and was so successful that Action Stories published a new Elkins story every month without fail until well after Howard’s death.
At his agent’s suggestion, he also created A Gent from Bear Creek, a Breckinridge Elkins novel comprised from existing short stories and new material. This has created differing opinions as to what versions of some stories are Elkins ‘canon’.