Boxing stories of R.E. Howard: Sailor Dennis Dorgan and other stories

An another noticeable boxing sailor from Robert E. Howard was Dennis Dorgan, who's a very familiar personality, especially if you've read any of the Steven Costigan stories. The long and short of it is, that Dennis is actually Steven, Howard just changed the name, as he wanted to expand his audience by selling some of his unpublished Costigan stories to an another magazine, the Magic Carpet. Howard churned out about 10 of these Dorgan stories, but only a handful of them were published, as the several fighting magazines at the time went under.

If you want to read a longer take on what kind of a character Dennis Dorgan is, I'd recommend checking out my write up on Steven Costigan, as that pretty much sums of Dorgan as well. The biggest differences are some of the names that have been altered, like the name of the ship he sails on and the name of his, again, white bulldog, which is this time around Spike.

Other than those name changes, Dorgan remains largely the same character, who drifts from fight to fight and problem to problem, thanks to his personality and not so bright mind. His downfalls still are his trusting nature and habit of falling head over heels for dames in distress.

The stories themselves follow the same structure as do the Steven Costigan ones, so all that I said about them, apply here as well. It's safe to assume, that if you like Steven Costigan stories, you'll like Dennis Dorgan stories just the same.

Cupid VS. Pollux is similarly a bit humorous tale of a heavy weight boxer, who's fallen in love. This romance ends up cramping his style. It's by no means a remarkable story and out of Howard's boxing tales easily among his worst.

The narrator of the story is a college boxing manager, simply named Steven, who is coaxing his heavy weight Spike into an upcoming match against Monk Gallranan. This takes some doing, as Spike has fallen in love with some dame, causing him to doubt his given vocation as a heavy weight brute.

This one is a short, almost like a sports report style story, which culminates into giving a play by play description of what happens during the 3 rounds the match lasts. It's a boring tale and lacks the energy Howard's Costigan and Dorgan stories have.

The Apparition in the Prize Ring is a great little boxing story, narrated by a boxing manager of a black heavy weight Ace Jessel. The manager is accounting what happened during a match between Ace and Senegalese heavy weight brute Gomez, who almost murdered Ace during a bloody 15-rounder.

Ace Jessel is described as a smart boxer, who doesn't only know his way around the ring but is also a man, who lacks the killer instinct necessary to give the final knockout punch. This hasn't stopped him from becoming a notable fighter, who wins the matches he takes.

The match between Ace and Gomez would be a pretty typical boxing story, if not for the supernatural element is has. Tom Molyneux is a black boxer, dead for a century, who is hailed as the best fighter there ever was. He's also the man, who Ace idolizes and the reason why he as well took up boxing. Before the fight Ace's manager witnesses him talking to a painting of Tom, telling him of the upcoming battle and how dangerous opponent Gomez is. He doesn't know if he really saw what he imagined, but he could have sworn seeing the painting ripple.

When the figth finally begins, Ace is more than a match to Gomez at first, as he is a smart fighter where as Gomez is just a brute. But he's a brute with stamina and comes to eight round, Ace has taken a severe beating, even making the audience silent in the front of the punishment Gomez is putting him through.

John, the manager, throws in his last resort. Unbeknownst to Ace, he has taken the picture of Tom with him to the match, knowing he might have a use for it. While the black fighter is laying on the ground, dazed and confused, the manager rolls up the picture, flashing it to Ace. He feels a cold wind in the arena, some men even close their coats tighter. A breeze surrounds the ring and it he cold mist Ace sees Tom, stepping up to the ring, rallying him up.

To the amazement of Gomez, Ace shakes up the last punch that felled him and proceeds to launch an attack, that drops the heavyweight champion on the ground for the count. The apparition of Tom disappears, with no-one else but Ace and one old sportsman seeing him. But that matters not, as Ace has beaten the much feared and disliked Gomez, the brute of the ring.

The Apparition in the Prize Ring is a bit different kind of a boxing tale from Howard, not because of the supernatural element it has, but as the main character, Ace, is a black man. You can make the argument, that while he's portrayed in a pretty stereotypical manner as far personality goes, but he's also portrayed as a competent boxer and as a fine person. Even his manager looks up to him and admits of thinking him as a friend. This deference reflects from the audience as well, given how they react on when Gomez almost destroys Ace in the ring.

All said the Apparition in the Prize Ring  is a solid, well-written story that is a bit more serious in nature than Howard's other boxing tales. It's also a one off, so that works for it as well, making it perhaps a bit more approachable than the stories of Costigan and Dorgan.

And these were the boxing stories of Robert E. Howard. I must admit, that they are far better than I expected. I've never been a huge reader of sports related fiction, but I must say I've enjoyed these often humorous tales of heavy weight brawlers have kept me entertained. They might not give a serious image on what boxing is really like, but they do show that Howard always had a knack on describing action.

The boxing tales of Robert E. Howard have been collected into several different collections, some containing only them, some all of the works Howard has written. So, if you want them as an official collection, the best thing you can do is to check the collection in your preferred store or a library.

Or you can check free e-book archives, as many of these stories have already fallen out of copyright, thanks to how old they are. In any case, I can recommend reading them.