Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Blow The Chinks Down!

Blow the Chinks Down! by Robert E. Howard. A "Sailor Steve" Costigan boxing short story. Originally featured in Action Stories, October 1931. Approx.14 pages.

Sometimes you really need to step back and appreciate the full spectrum of work the Robert E. Howard brought to the world in his brief 30 years. While best remembered for his iconic fantasy characters (Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, etc.), he also penned a vast amount of boxing stories (being a big fan of the pugilistic arts himself). The best of these tall tales of fisticuffs feature "Sailor Steve Costigan", the hard-hitting seaman from the Sea Girl. With the last story I read featuring Costigan being the pretty good "Champ of the Forecastle", I wanted to see how this Far East tale would pan out.

Sailor Steve is getting himself properly sauced after docking in Hong Kong when he runs into none other than Bill McGlory, a lug headed foe from the rival Dutchman, who matches Costigan in height and weight. Barbs are traded, and after they both start vying for the affections of the lovely Kit Worley (a governess for local mercantile magnate Tung Yin), fists are about to fly. However, their righteous roughhousing is cut short by the appearance of British Secret Service agent Sir Peter Brent, written with "Pip-pip cheerio" aplomb. His dating and fighting both so rudely interrupted, Costigan heads off to find the lovely Ms. Worley. What follows is, of all things, a far-fetched caper involving a stolen royal diamond, a black market crime syndicate, and other wacky shenanigans.

I'll admit, the reason that I picked this story is that I expected some bruising fighting scenes with either Chinese gangsters or some kind of Hong Kong fight club. The whole diamond caper slant is fun and all, and it bears remembering that this was most likely penned for the younger set, a generation of kids that did not have Scooby-Doo (or TV for that matter) to bring them silly scenarios like this. What carries the story, as usual with these yarns, is Costigan's first person narration. His dialect and vernacular is always fun, bringing such classic lines as "You'll eat them words with a sauce of your own blood." I mean, seriously, you can't find quality dialogue like that anymore.

What takes away from the tale? Well, first there is the lack of boxing in this boxing tale. There is one decent scrap, and it is written well enough. Also lamentable is that Sailor Steve's trusty bulldog Mike sits out this tale with a bout of distemper. Furthermore, besides the plot being ludicrous (although it's assumed to be a tall tale), the plot twists are telegraphed like a punches of an amateur boxer, and the whole shebang is wrapped up with some long-winded exposition by one of the criminals.

I will also make mention of this: some of today's more easily offended PC types will be put off by the language in this story. Please remember the era that this work was penned in. Then again, if you can get past the title of the story, you can deal with a few 'slant-eye' and 'yellow' cracks.

Here's what it is:
Sailor Steve does more nosing about than fighting during some leave in Hong Kong. One of Howard's weaker stories is still a lot of fun today.

Final Score:


Cover Score:

No specific cover for this one, it was bundled into a big omnibus. However, I added the cover of the Action Stories issue that it premiered in above. That pic was found at this great site. 

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