Robert E. Howard

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Robert Ervin Howard (January 22, 1906 – June 11, 1936) was an American author who wrote pulp fiction in a diverse range of genres. Best known for his character Conan the Barbarian, he is regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre.

Howard was born and raised in the state of Texas. He spent most of his life in the town of Cross Plains with some time spent in the nearby Brownwood. A bookish and intellectual child, he was also a fan of boxing and spent some time in his late teens bodybuilding, eventually taking up amateur boxing himself. From the age of nine he dreamed of becoming a writer of adventure fiction but did not have real success until he was twenty-three. He was published in a wide selection of magazines, journals and newspapers but his main outlet was the pulp magazine Weird Tales.

He was successful in several genres and was on the verge of publishing his first novel when he committed suicide at the age of thirty. His mother was terminally ill with tuberculosis before she had even met his father and so was slowly dying throughout Howard's entire life. When he learned that his mother had entered a coma from which she was not expected to wake he, for reasons that are not clear, walked out to his car and shot himself in the head. His suicide and the circumstances surrounding it have led to varied speculation about his mental health; from an Oedipus complex, to clinical depression, to no mental disorders of any kind.

Howard created Conan the Barbarian, in the pages of the Depression-era pulp magazine Weird Tales, a character whose pop-culture imprint has been compared to such icons as Tarzan, Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond. With Conan and his other heroes, Howard created the genre now known as Sword and sorcery, spawning a wide swath of imitators and giving him an influence in the fantasy field rivaled only by J. R. R. Tolkien and Tolkien's similarly inspired creation of High Fantasy. Howard remains a highly read author, with his best work endlessly reprinted. He has been compared to other American masters of the weird, gloomy and spectral, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Jack London.

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