Tuesday, June 5, 2018

'I am a fighter. A man fighter.'

You can tell a pulp writer is confident of his storytelling ability, not to mention his story, when he skips an opportunity to write out a fight scene. In "Big Fella" (Adventure, January 1, 1932) Robert Carse has his protagonist, a Texas boxer stranded in Spain by an absconding manager, try to earn money by betting that "no man can known me off this handkerchief when I spread it on the floor and stand upon it." The scene ends just as it's about to begin, with "Big Fella" eagerly waiting for three men to take their shots. Carse ends a paragraph on an ellipsis, and starts the next the next morning, with our hero "full of food and equally full of liquor." He'll try the stunt again shortly, only to almost lose when a matador confronts him. The matador's protege sees potential in Big Fella's footwork and poise, despite his size. The Texan will train to be a bullfighter, but will also use his ranching expertise to help raise the bulls. Things get a bit corny from there, as Big Fella befriends a bull that rescues him from another rampaging animal, only to find himself encountering his taurine savior in the bullring as a substitute toreador in his first public performance. I couldn't help but be reminded of the cartoon where Popeye the Sailorman insists that "I ain't gonna harm no bull!" In this case, to prove to a hostile crowd that he's no coward, Big Fella fights the bull the American way, by steer wrestling the animal into submission. All ends well as the American keeps his job on the ranch, after conceding that "a big man can fight the bulls; but not a man who hasn't Spanish blood." The Spaniards don't see that as an insult, though I wonder. Carse wrote more than one bullfighting story in his career, though it was at most a minor subgenre for him. This story, however, gives you the idea that he had the bullfighting bug nearly as bad as Hemingway did; this came out the same year as the great man's Death in the Afternoon. "Big Fella" is relatively minor Carse, but minor Carse is usually above the pulp average.

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