Rediscovered: Great Moments in Tough Guy Litcrit

Among the casual hobbies I indulge in from time to time: trying to toughen up my pal and occasional Guest Blogger Brian Leno when he is knocking out the litcrit. Makes for a fine counterpoint to the usual cheer and cheese you get around this time of year, too.

I know he’s got it in him, but Brian is such a nice guy, he just doesn’t want to put his best lean mean lines into print.

I’m certain he could do it — last month he popped me a note:

Saw a movie critic today rating the best horror movies for Halloween and his number one pick was The Shining. Moron. Said it really scared him.

What a wimp.

Brian’s got that colloquial knack, you know he’d be at his peak if you could just put a mic on him and get his first impressions. For example, I was talking with him after he read John Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos and he paused, thinking about one of the so-called Lovecraft “critics” who comes under Haefele’s scrutiny — and how lividly angry this little cultural commissar would be about having his views challenged.

Out of nowhere, Brian said, “He probably filled his pants three times, and blew off a shoe.”

Man. He could be like some kind of rude Mark Twain of litcrit, if he’d just let it rip.

To date, my absolute fave of Brian’s off-the-cuff comments rolled in after I sent him a link about the release of the eBook Bareknuckle Barbarian — part of the Fight Card Series, in this case two stories about the Texan Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, ending up in a boxing ring in New York City and then on to fistic action in Ireland. I can see some fight fiction with Howard as the mauler, and have nothing against that concept — after all, I spotlighted Howard and boxing by putting the Mark Finn essay “Fists of Robert E. Howard” first up in my litcrit anthology The Barbaric Triumph back in 2004, and further emphasized the idea by using a photo of Howard in a boxing pose for the frontis.

But both Brian and I tend to take Howard pretty seriously, so while I think either of us would maybe read a story about the writer in boxing matches in Texas or Mexico or some back alleys in New Orleans, the jump to NY and the land of Eire is just too much. Howard never made it that far east of New Orleans, never got to New York, and although he had a passionate Irish heritage thing going on, certainly never got to the Emerald Isle. Who knows, if he hadn’t killed himself with a gunshot to the head at the age of thirty, maybe he’d have traveled in that direction.

As soon as I saw the blurb, I thought, Jeez, how stupid — I’ll have to send this to Brian (and Brian, of course, is also big into the history of boxing). He won’t want to read it, either. . . .

Now, for someone other than me or Brian, this eBook might sound just great. The wet dream of the right kind of fanboy. Howard, man, boxing in Ireland! Can’t wait to read that!

And I wouldn’t want to knock the Fight Card Series in general. I’ve read three or four or five of the early entries, and in fact congratulate the team on coming up with the concept and knocking out a new little novel, or novelette, every month. Paul Bishop, the main honcho for the project, mentioned this statistic a few weeks ago, with 40 titles that far and more on the card.

And what did Brian say about the blurb for Bareknuckle Barbarian to enter the Tough Guy Litcrit Hall of Fame?

Two lines:

My eyes are bleeding. At least the poor bastard can’t kill himself twice.


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