The biography of Cross Plains author Robert E. Howard is at least as compelling as many of his works, and that is part of what attracts literary experts and mere fans to Cross Plains every year, decades after he took his own life.
Howard’s novels, poems and short stories were enjoyed by a rather small circle of followers until one of his fantasy fiction characters — Conan — burst onto the Hollywood screen in 1982 in the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that led both to international fame.
Yet, the fantasy fiction with which Howard is so widely identified is only a small part — less than 10 percent, by some researchers’ calculations — of the literature he left when he died in 1936. And as the annual celebration of the author’s legacy continues, the other 90 percent of Howard’s writings have come into focus.
Visitors from as far away as California and even France were in Cross Plains last weekend for this year’s Robert E. Howard Days, and that is typical. Howard has moved beyond a curiosity for a small Texas town and a reason for that community to hold an annual festival. He has moved into a place of respect among Texas’ authors that has been achieved because of the quality and imagination of his work. But there’s also a fascination with what might have been. Howard appeared to be on the verge of breaking new, exciting ground in his writings at the time of his death, and that probably cost him an even greater — and more immediate — following.
The volunteers who formed Project Pride deserve the thanks of each reader of Robert E. Howard works for recognizing the importance of the Howard home and for preserving it as a museum. The building has become the focal point for the annual event, and a tribute not only to the author, but also the foresight of the community where all Howard’s words were written.