Otis Adelbert Kline/Almuric Controversy
When Robert E, Howard, creator of Conan, died in 1936, he left behind the second draft of a novel, ALMURIC, a sword and planet style adventure constructed in a style roughly
similar to A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. When it was published in WEIRD TALES, many readers noted that the last few chapters were very different from
Howard's normal style. At the time why this was so couldn't be determined, but later theories seemed to lead to the conclusion that Otis Adelbert Kline, Howard's literary agent,
had fleshed out the last chapter of the second, but still rough, draft.
I personally disagree with this notion. However, while intriguing to contemplate, I've never been willing to do the research necessary to prove or disprove the idea that Kline
completed Howard's novel. Apparently at least one other Kline/Howard devotee has been willing to invest the time to answer this question as well as it can possibly be answered,
given the amount of time that has passed. In a 2008 entry to REHupa, author Morgan Holmes posted the following short essay. I've slightly edited the essay for clarity leaving out
an unclear sentence at the end of paragraph two.
Almuric and Otis Adelbert Kline
Posted by Morgan Holmes on February 24th, 2008
Last week, Rusty Burke sent me an email alerting me to an advertisement at Paizo.com regarding their upcoming edition of Robert E. Howard’s Almuric as part of their Planet
Stories line. In the description, it is stated “For those historians who believe the latter theory, the chief suspect responsible for wrapping up Almuric is none other than Otis
Adelbert Kline, Howard’s literary agent and himself a prominent Weird Tales author. In addition to veiled references to shady arrangements, theorists who believe Howard never
lived to see a complete Almuric draft point to the novel’s ending as uncharacteristic of Howard’s style, whereas others accuse such conspiracy theorists of jumping at shadows.
The debate rages to this day.
I am not sure this is a raging debate with the lone exception of one person who has steadfastly refused to accept Almuric as anything but 100% Robert E. Howard despite
repeated evidence presented to the contrary. “Veiled references to shady arrangements” has me perplexed. I have studied the history of Almuric for years and have some
theories. Glenn Lord told me there was a first version for the novel that was more synopsis than draft. [Plus] There was a second incomplete draft. He got this information from a
fanzine article from around 1940. . . .
Now to Otis Adelbert Kline. Cerasini and Hoffman did speculate that Kline finished the novel in their Starmont Reader’s Guide to Robert E. Howard. This theory is quickly
demolished in that Otis Adelbert Kline would have taken a 50% cut of the sales if he had finished it. The receipts for the novel indicate a 10% agent fee. Also an examination of the
climactic battle is most un-Klinish. Kline loved sword fights and used fencing terms such as moulinet for descriptions. Almuric’s last chapter is very clumsy with the action
sequences. Some sentences are downright embarrassing. I compared potential posthumous collaborators including E. Hoffmann Price, Ralph Milne Farley, Otis Adelbert Kline,
and Otto Binder. My criteria is they had to have been writing for Weird Tales at the time. I came to the conclusion that Otto Binder finished Almuric. After comparing the texts of
the two chapters to a number of stories of his from that period. I wrote this up as an essay entitled “The First Posthumous Collaborator” for REHupa back in 2002. Binder’s
biographer, Bill Schelley agreed with me when I presented my ideas to him. I have no proof as we have no letters or receipts of payment. It is all circumstantial evidence based on
textual comparison. I can say Otis Adelbert Kline can be ruled out easily. It is time to lay this one to rest.