Robert Ervin Howard (January 22, 1906 – June 11, 1936) was a prolific American author and poet. He wrote pulp fiction in a diverse range of genres and is today most famous for the creation of the character of Conan the Cimmerian.
It seems to me that many writers, by virtue of environments of culture, art and education, slip into writing because of their environments. I became a writer in spite of my environments. Understand, I am not criticizing those environments. They were good, solid and worthy. The fact that they were not inducive to literature and art is nothing in their disfavor. Never the less, it is no light thing to enter into a profession absolutely foreign and alien to the people among which one's lot is cast; a profession which seems as dim and faraway and unreal as the shores of Europe... But whatever my failure, I have this thing to remember — that I was a pioneer in my profession, just as my grandfathers were in theirs, in that I was the first man in this section to earn his living as a writer.
Sailor Steve Costigan is a merchant sailor on the Sea Girl and the ship's champion boxer. His only true companion is a bulldog named Mike (after his brother and fellow boxer, "Iron" Mike Costigan). Costigan, one of Howard's humorous boxing pulp heroes, roamed the Asiatic seas with fists of steel, a will of iron, and a head of wood. A striking contrast between Howard’s barbarians and swordsmen, Costigan was a modern-day character, written in a humorous, Texas tall tale style. The Sailor Steve Costigan stories were very popular in the pages of Fight Stories, Action Stories, and the short-lived Jack Dempsey’s Fight Magazine. In a career that was made up largely from writing short stories about recurring characters, Howard wrote more stories about Costigan and his pugilistic ilk than about any of his fantasy heroes.
Weird Tales was an American pulp magazine specialising in fantasy and horror fiction which was first published in March 1923. Under the editorship of Farnsworth Wright, this was the first publication to print material by Howard and remained his main outlet for the remainder of his life. Howard became one f the magazines most popular authors and corresponded with others such as Clark Ashoton Smith and H. P. Lovecraft.
In the same period (from 1933), the magazine's cover illustrations were produced by the former fashion designer and illustrator Margaret Brundage, making Brundage the first and only female cover artist of the pulp era. She created many striking images, especially of nude or semi-nude young women in provocative poses; her whipping scenes attracted the highest attention. Though her art was far from flawless, Brundage's covers became a focus of extreme attention and controversy, which helped to sell the magazine. Howard deliberately put such scenes in his works so that his story would be the one illustrated on the cover; the cover story paid more than the other stories in the magazine.
Weird Tales always struggled financially. In the 1920s and '30s, the magazine's business manager, William Sprenger, was crucial in keeping the enterprise afloat. It is estimated that the monthly circulation of Weird Tales never topped 50,000 copies per issue compared to circulations of 300,000 per issue for popular pulps like Doc Savage or The Shadow, even in the depths of the Great Depression. Wright paid his contributors at the rate of one cent per word, double the going pulp rate of a half-cent per word; but during the 1930s the magazine was sometimes very late in making its payments to authors, which was not unusual at the time in the pulp field. At the time of Howard's suicide, Weird Tales owed him almost $1,000.