Two-Gun Bob: Appreciating an American Tough Guy

John D. Haefele told me I was way off the other day when I said that one of his chapters in the upcoming Lovecraft: The Great Tales ran 50,000 words, at least in rough draft. He figured it probably was more like 20,000 (maybe it was the chapter covering At the Mountains of Madness, and it just felt like 50,000 words). In any case, he’s plunging toward the finish line and estimates a word count of 300,000 or so when he breaks the tape.

Our pal Brian Leno is moving a tad slower with his book on the boxers of Robert E. Howard’s era, but he’s plugging along, round after round on the machine, and reports 30,000 words logged so far. If he didn’t have to check weigh-in stats for one fight after another, double-check all the guys who crossed fists in a thousand blood-spattered rings, he might have a higher word count.

In any event, he’ll get there. No one in Howard Studies knows as much about boxing as Brian. And while I’m willing to concede the possibility that someone out there might know as much about the pugilists of the era as Brian, I’m sure they wouldn’t know anything about Robert E. Howard.

Here’s a tidbit Brian came across in pursuit of those brawlers of yesteryear — a little tipoff that his boxing book won’t be for the faint of heart:


The pic above is of William “Bill the Butcher” Poole of Gangs of New York fame — Daniel Day-Lewis played the role in the movie. Poole certainly was a tough nut.

I know many Mean Streets readers appreciate tough guys, as did Robert E. Howard, who wrote in a September 22, 1932 letter to Lovecraft:

There have been, however, few more desperate rogues than those living in old New York, from all I can hear. In the days of the Hudson Dusters, the Dead Rabbits and other gangs. Bill Poole, the leader of the ‘native Americans’ must have possessed incredible vitality, to have lived fourteen days. . . with a bullet under his heart.

Howard also writes, “I’d have given five dollars to have seen the fight John Morrissey had with Poole.”

Wikipedia states that Poole was the founder of the Bowery Boys — obviously not the Hollywood rendition in which the name lives on. And Wiki quotes the New York Daily News about the incident in 1851 when Poole and another noted pugilist, Thomas Hyer, entered Florence’s Hotel:

It appears that Thomas Hyer, William Poole, and several others entered the above hotel, and while one of the party held Charles Owens (the bar-keeper) by the hair of the head, another of the gang beat him in the face to such an extent that his left eye was completely ruined and the flesh of his cheek mangled in the most shocking manner.

In an earlier paragraph, the newspaper reported that Owens’ face was “beat to a jelly.”

When he cashed in his chips, Bill Poole supposedly said, “Good bye boys; I die a true American.” 

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