Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Finished: "Boxing Stories" by Robert E. Howard

Finished: Boxing Stories by Robert E. Howard, 2005, 0803273525.

I enjoyed these stories but you wouldn't think so for all the times I fell asleep reading them. Howard was a pulp writer in the '20s and '30s who killed himself in 1936 when he was 30. This is another title plugged by Bill Crider. Crider says, "Dance, Monkey! Dance!" and I do a two-step.

Like a lot of pulp writers Howard wrote A LOT and is most famous as the creator of Conan. Howard's publishing history is as interesting as his stories. He wrote across several genres and all the boxing stories collected in this volume were published in various adventure magazines.

Half or more of the stories are Sailor Costigan stories and I liked them quite a bit. The Costigan stories have a good bit of humour and are supposed to be collected elsewhere in their entirety. All the Costigan stories follow the typical set-up where dimwitted but gallant Costigan gets in a beef or needs money and takes a fight. The following fight is narrated by Costigan round by round and Howard does a real good job keeping the story exciting; it's not a plain blow-by-blow recitation.

Either Howard had a fascination with Iron Men fighters or his readers really liked those stories. Either way there are several of those included as well. Iron Men - meaning iron jawed, oak ribbed fighters who could not be knocked out - are fascinating and extinct. The kind of punishment they took - lacking any defensive skills, getting knocked down multiple times, multiple cuts, eyes swollen shut - would never be allowed now, the fight would get called off. Howard mentions the real-life boxer Joe Grim several times. Grim lost about 70 fights and won maybe 5 (I'm approximating). But, Grim was a huge draw because he would stand in the ring with his hands at his hips and just get slugged over and over and over again while throwing wild, easily ducked swings. Grim didn't even duck or sway to avoid the shots, he just waited for an opponent to tire himself out and then hoped to get in a hard shot of his own.

Howard was found of saying punches hit like "caulk mallets" and "trip-hammers".

EDIT 14 Aug 09: This title is no longer in the catalog. I must have really lucked out and got a hold of it before the book was withdrawn.

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