Listen Up: A Better Robert E Howard story

Waterfront Fists is a gem of a story, all the more because it comes as a surprise from Robert E Howard.

Robert E Howard is mostly famous for his stories about Conan the Barbarian. For some of us, the Conan stories are hard to cope with as the big oaf doesn't seem to realise that if a woman is running away from him she probably doesn't want him. He is a thug of the 'see, want, have' variety. This kind of takes the glamor off his sword and sorcery tales.

"Waterfront Fists" is far more plausible. There's not sword and sorcery. Instead, it's a contemporary (to Howard) story about a sailor, Steve Costigan, who is very good at boxing, (Howard had a passion for  boxing) and whose rough diamond instincts get him into trouble. His friends try to warn him how soft he is around girls, but he doesn't believe them.

The narration is superb, with a rough, tough voice that sounds like it's seen the kind of life that Costigan lives. Lines like,'"Your remarks is highly insulting, Bill," I said with my well known quiet dignity,' sounds like the kind of bombast the character is capable of when Jim Philips narrates it.

You can find it at Projecting Project Pulp, which I have a fondness for. Just click here: Waterfront Fists


  1. Actually, I have read a lot of Conan stories and I don't recall Conan ever going after a woman who didn't want him. In fact, it was used in some stories as a contrast between him and "civilised" men who threatened and assaulted soe young Sian whom Conan would then rescue. He leered occasionally when it was a woman who could handle it, but that was all. Oh, yes, there was the Frost Giant's Daughter, but he'd just been in a losing battle and she was luring him into a trap. And the love of his life was a strong woman, a pirate captain. I have often thought he'd be a good next door neighbour for a single girl.

  2. Sorry, that's "some young woman". Stupid prediction!

  3. A pleasure, as always, to hear from you, Sue. Don't you love predictive text. The Frost Giant's Daughter sounds like the story Protecting Project Pulp podcast as Gods of the North. Let's just say I didn't care for it as much as Waterfront Fists. On the other hand, Conan was an influence on fantasy literature and shouldn't be forgotten.

    Movie technology might be ready for another Conan movie by now, too.