Saturday, June 2, 2018

'He aint like your New York pugs. He never paid anybody to lay down for him.'

Prolific pulpster Frederick C. Davis created, or was given, the pseudonym Art Buckley for a boxing story published in the July 1930 issue of Street & Smith's High-Spot Magazine, where Davis already had a story under his own name. "Buckley" became Davis's regular alias for Street & Smith fight stories, including a series about contender Duke Elliot in Complete Stories. "Iron Fists" (February 1, 1932) finds Elliot, his manager Carl Rost and his handler Hunter in the town of Carmel to train for an important fight with Mike Conlin. Winning will put him "pretty close to the belt," but Duke may have a fight on his hands before that. A local amateur, "champ of the mines" Chuck Veach, stalks Elliot and challenges him to a fight. Veach and his manager predictably denounce Duke as a coward and a crooked fighter for refusing, and only Rost's threat to quit keeps Elliot from attacking Veach to avenge the insult. There's an interesting story right here, but I have a feeling it might have been done already, since Davis/Buckley adds additional complications. It's made clear to Duke that fighting Veach is a no-win situation, even if he can handle the miner with relative ease. Veach is not only the champ but the idol of the miners. A local newspaper man warns Elliot that beating Veach could start a riot where he could very well get hurt, ruining his chance at Mike Conlin. Still, even if he must be a professional and think of his career and the big paydays in the future, a fighter has his pride and a point to prove to the local upstart. Where this gets corny, in my opinion, is when Duke and his entourage learn that Veach has been put up to his grandstand challenge by none other than Conlin, who presumably hopes that something will happen to let him skip his own meeting with Elliot. Apparently the story lacked a real bad guy until this revelation, and that allows the author to turn Veach into a good guy. When the fight finally happens, Davis/Buckley renders it fairly realistically, allowing Veach to be a puzzle for a few rounds but showing plainly enough that the miner is grossly outclassed. When Duke inevitably knocks him out, people in the crowd accuse the winner of fouling and the predicted riot starts -- only to be aborted by none other than the revived Veach, who tells the crowd that Elliot beat him fair and square and now has his respect. "He may be a dude, but he can hit!" the miner explains. He explains further that Conlin had put him up to the challenge and had promised him a hundred bucks before the fight started, only to welsh. Conlin shows his true cowardly colors as the good guys rescue him from the re-enraged mob. The story ends with Elliott offering to pay for the promising Veach's training, earning the ultimate accolade from his former foe: "Say -- you're sure white to say that, after all I said about you." This was the second of five Elliott stories in a series that continued through the end of 1932. I haven't read many fight stories apart from Robert E. Howard's standard-setting Steve Costigan tales, but I liked this one despite its overplotting. The boxing seemed well-described and the characters likable enough, and I wouldn't mind another round with Duke Elliott if circumstances ever permit.

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