Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ellis, Novalyne Price. One who walked alone: Robert E. Howard, the final years.West Kingston, RI: Donald M. Grant, 1998. 317pp.

This wonderful book is the memoirs of Novalyne Price, a close friend of Robert E. Howard during the final years of his life, before he committed suicide distraught over the impending death of his mother. It was the basis for the equally fine movie Whole Wide World in which Renee Zellweger and Vincent D'Onofrio both give terrific performances as Price and Howard. It's well worth seeing for any Howard fan.

The book in question is made up of Price's diary entries chronicling her stormy relationship with Howard. It's never really clear how romantic their relationship became, and that tension and uncertainty is, I think, a key facet of Howard's personality. He never really seems grown up enough to have a real girlfriend, and Price always seems to know that about him. She goes back and forth between wanting a real relationship with Howard and just valuing him for his stimulating friendship, and that's the key tension in the book and, I guess, in Howard's life.

In the final analysis, One who walks alone is a heart-rendingly sad book, a tragic story of a man who could never really grow up, who could never cut the apron strings from his possessive mother. The whole book we know he's going to take his own life at the end, it hovers over every happy moment Price describes, it is forshadowed by every flash of his temper or dark moods. I can't recommend this book enough to all fans of Howard's work or to historians of fantastic literature. Even those who are unfamiliar with Howard's work will find a lot to admire.


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