By E. Hoffman Price
Edgar Hoffman Price started writing more or less on a whim in the 1920s. He built himself into a regular contributor to Weird Tales and eventually made the plunge into writing full time for a wide variety of pulps in 1932. In the process he came to know many of the pulp writers of his day and especially his fellow writers for Weird Tales. He was active as writer until the pulp markets crashed in the late ‘40s.
In Book of the Dead Price gives pen-portraits of many of his friends and colleagues of those days. In addition to Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, Price recounts his memories of Farnsworth Wright, Otis Adelbert Kline, August Derleth, Edmond Hamilton, Leigh Bracket, Henry Kuttner, C.L. Moore, Clark Ashton Smith and many others whose names deserve to be better remembered. Between sharing drinks, stories, money problems, successes, drinks, failures, more drinks, and a fierce camaraderie, these men and women helped create the great groundswell of popular literature in 20th century America.
Price wrote this when he came out of retirement in the ‘70s. He had assuredly earned the right to be a grumpy old man, which what he often sounds like here. Price has only contempt for Thrilling and other Leo Margolies pulps that demanded action above all else. Price is also a confirmed Conan-hater. While he admired Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane and Kull, he found the Conan tales “too dreary to read.”
Often, much too often, Price criticizes Howard’s and Lovecraft’s writing and professional choices. This attitude may seem like sour grapes, but I believe it is really a reaction against the adulation granted these writers by their latter day fans. At the end of his tribute to Kirk Mahsburn, Price urges fans to lay aside the big names (especially their leftover stories) and take a look at the “writings of the Forgotten Men, they’d be richly rewarded in anthologies of the unique.” Amen to that.
Illustrated with photos of Price’s comrades-in-ink and an EHP bibliography, Book of the Dead is a valuable testament of the pulp era.