Tuesday, August 25, 2020

‘The Glad Hand’

Waterfront Law by Robert E. Howard

In this Steve Costigan adventure, set in Cape Town South Africa, the Irish-American hero is scammed numerous times by various grifters and doesn’t really give a damn as he had a good time doing it, which brings to mind two of my favorite real life characters, Big Ron from Baltimore and Tony Cox from Seattle, big men, slick as goons go, and alright with the outcome of their misadventures as long as it was a good ride—as long as it’s not a man lying to their face, gas-lighting them or questioning their manhood—then it’s go-time.  I have rarely smiled so often reading a story, knowing men as I do who have embraced such shit situations with “fuck it” grin. Both of these real-life men, by the way, have Tarzan and Cheetah relationships with their side-kick dog, exemplified by the opening paragraph of Waterfront Law:

“The first thing that happened in Cape Town, my white bulldog Mike bit a policeman and I had to come across with a fine of ten dollars, to pay for the cop’s britches That left me busted, not an hour after The Sea Girl docked.”

At this point in the review the reader is struck with two notions:

-1. If there is ever a chance to have a Robert E. Howard character authentically represented in film or on TV, it would be Sailor Steve Costigan and his dog, one reason being that every ethnic slur is used except for “cracker, white trash and the N-word” and the dog, Mike, would bring children and women to view the story in droves. Furthermore every woman, every “frail” in the Costigan saga is far smarter than the hero!

-2. There is a lot of Steve Costigan in Conan and Black Vulmea, always starting without money or a girl and having a natural affinity for working men. In every Conan story in which Conan makes himself useful to a chief of men, the men all end up developing lateral bond with Conan, making the barbarian pretty much Steve Costigan—if he had a brain and a criminal mindset.

The crux of this story was a criminal playing to Steve’s sense of patriotism, “here’s the Kid, a American like yourself…”

Mike’ heroism is further increased in this story when the reader discovers that he not only goes to the bar, but drinks beer.

Diction of Note

bucko [a ship’s mate who beats his men, a bully]
socking [punching, went out of general use in the early 1970s]
jassack [apparently a way of writing “jackass” in print]
tin-canned [folded with body punch, tomato can being a period metaphor for an easily dented opponent]
Jerusha [Jesus]
gyp [to rip-off by the use of wits, went out of general use in the late 1970s]
(c) 2020 James LaFond

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