Robert E. Howard spent a good portion of his youth traveling through the boomtowns of Texas with his family. His father, a physician, moved from town to town for patients in the early part of the 20th Century. Young Robert was a quiet, studious boy who loved reading as well as boxing, the most popular sport in the country at the time. He was a fan of adventure writer Jack London and marveled at his tales of the outdoors and all things stereotypically masculine. Robert tried his hand at writing, taking his inspiration from a copy of the pulp periodical Adventure Magazine. With the encouragement of a teacher, he submitted a story to the magazine, which was promptly rejected. Robert never forgot that rejection and subconsciously carried the criticism with him for the rest of his life.
In 1924, nineteen-year-old Robert sold his first story to another pulp magazine Weird Tales. It was soon followed by more. His stories were filled with sword battles and brutal struggles for supremacy among imaginary primitive civilizations, often taking on blatant racist themes. At twenty, his story “Wolfshead” made the cover of Weird Tales, relating the tale of a werewolf loose among 18th Century Portugal. Robert moved towards the budding “sword and sorcery” genre, creating a series of stories about Kull, a barbarian and Solomon Kane, a vengeful Puritan. These characters appeared in several tales and were fairly popular.
In 1930, Robert wrote a letter of admiration to noted horror/fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft replied and Robert was welcomed into the author’s inner circle of friends. A few years later, Robert began to flesh out the fantasy land of Cimmeria and its most prominent inhabitant – Conan the Cimmerian (known , more often, as Conan the Barbarian). Robert recycled an unpublished Kull story into the first Conan story. Robert began to churn out story after story about Conan, finishing nine before the first one was published. The series was well received and Robert continued writing Conan stories, along with unrelated science fiction and fantasy stories. He attempted to write a Conan novel on three different occasions, giving up halfway through each. He finally finished the only Conan novel, The Hour of the Dragon, although it did not see publication until 1950.
Robert began to grow weary of Conan, wishing to concentrate on Western stories, based on a new obsession with the history of his native Texas. By 1935, he had fully devoted his writing to Westerns.
On June 10, 1936, Robert purchased burial plots for his mother, father and himself. His mother had been suffering from tuberculosis for some time and it was apparent that she was nearing death. On the morning of June 11, 1936, Robert asked one of his mother’s nurses, if she would ever regain consciousness. When she told him “no,” Robert walked out to his car in the driveway, took a pistol from the glove compartment, and shot himself in the head.
Robert was 30 years old.