The TNT Punch
|"The TNT Punch"|
|Author||Robert E. Howard|
|Series||Sailor Steve Costigan|
|Published in||Action Stories|
|Publication type||Pulp magazine|
|Publication date||January 1931|
"The TNT Punch" is a Sailor Steve Costigan short story by Robert E. Howard. It was originally published in January 1931 issue of Action Stories. It has been reprinted under the titles "The Waterfront Law" and "The Waterfront Wallop" since Howard's death. The story was sold to Action Stories publisher Fiction House in August 1930 for $75.
The story concerns Costigan entering into a grudge match in South Africa in order to raise bail money for another boxer. Like all of the Sailor Steve Costigan stories it is told in the first person by Costigan himself.
The story starts with Steve Costigan and his dog Mike ashore in Cape Town, South Africa, and penniless after having to pay a fine for Mike biting a policeman. He meets an old enemy, Shifty Kerren, who is the manager of rival boxer Kid Delrano. Kerren says Delrano is in jail and needs to pay the £6 ($30) fine to be released. When he plays on Costigan's sense of patriotism, he agrees to get him the money for his release.
Costigan heads to the waterfront and the South African Sports Arena. Promoter "Bulawayo" Hurley set him up in a special grudge match with the Australian sailor/boxer Bucko Brent. Bucko was the brutal mate aboard the Elinor when Costigan served on her on the way to Bristol to meet the Sea Girl. They fought a few says into the trip and Bucko ended up with several broken bones.
A few rounds into the fight, with Bucko almost unconscious, Bucko and crew from the Elinor soak his left glove in Turpentine. A blow from this to the face blinds Costigan but not before he can grab Bucko's wrist and force the glove into his own face. Things get worse when the referee gets involved and, being blinded, Bucko punches and blinds him as well.
"'Ow can H'I h'officiate in this condition?" howled the referee, jumping up and down. "Wot's tyking plyce in the bally ring?"
"Bucko's just flattened one of his handlers which was climbin' into the ring, with a blind swing!" the crowd whooped hilariously. "The Sailor's gone into a clinch with a ring post!"Hearing this, I released what I had thought was Brent, with some annoyance.— The TNT Punch, Robert E. Howard
Soon, however, Costigan manages to catch hold of Bucko, knocks him out and wins the £6 prize money. The fight took longer than expected so Costigan takes the money directly to Shifty Kerren's room only to find Kid Delrano already there. The Kid laughs at Costigan, having bet Shifty $10 that they "could hand you a hard luck tale and gyp you outa your last cent". Costigan soon knocks out the Kid, his sparring partner Bill Slane and Shifty then leaves.
On his way back, he finds a young woman being thrown out by her landlady. Costigan uses the prize money to pay her rent and feels proud to have contributed to a worthy cause and for being too smart to be conned out of the money. However, back at the American Sailors Bar, the bar man mentions the notorious con artist "Boardin'-house Kate" is in town, taking money by pretending to being thrown out by her landlady. With his final coin, he ends the story by asking the barman, "Give me a schooner of beer and take this nickel, quick, before somebody comes along and gets it away from me."
"The TNT Punch" was first published in the January 1931 issue of the pulp magazine Action Stories. Since that time it has been reprinted in these publications:
- Fight Stories, Fall, 1941, retitled as "The Waterfront Wallop" and attributed to the housename "Mark Adam"
- The Howard Review #4, 1975
- REH Fight Magazine #2, September 1990, retitled again as "Waterfront Law"
- The Complete Action Stories, November 2001
- The Complete Action Stories, November 2003
- The Complete Action Stories, January 2005
- Boxing Stories, April 2005, using the "Waterfront Law" title
- Publication history at Howard Works, retrieved 11 September 2007
- REHupa Robert E. Howard Fiction and Verse Timeline, retrieved 11 October 2007
- The Robert-E-Howard: Electronic Amateur Press Association, The Copyright and Ownership Status of the Works and Words of Robert E. Howard by Paul Herman, retrieved 11 September 2007
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