Kid Allison version. “Fighting Nerves” was originally written as a Kid Allison story and submitted to the magazine Sport Story. It was rejected because Sport Story was all stocked up with fight stories and REH was asked to hold it for several months and resubmit. Not wanting to wait that long, REH rewrote the story changing the character’s name to Jim O’Donnel, and submitted it to Fight Stories. It was not published in Howard’s lifetime.
From the letters:
In a letter (#184) to Tevis Clyde Smith, ca. November 1931 we learn:
Just before I left Cross Plains, work descended on me in large quantities. A novelet returned from Street & Smith, requesting that I alter it — i.e., eliminate the saloon and speakeasy setting. My hero was a bouncer in a tough waterfront bar. I made him a cook in a hamburger stand.
Frustrated, circa April 1932, Howard blows off some steam in another letter (#202) to Tevis:
Hear ye the tale of “Fighting Nerves”. I wrote this story — a Kid Allison yarn — as a complete novelet for Sport Story. I wrote it, I think, three times, before I sent it off. Back it came with the request to cut out the saloon atmosphere and reduce the length. I re-wrote it and returned it to the same magazine. It came back with the statement that they were all stocked up with fight stories — requested me to keep it several months and return it, with a letter reminding them of it. Not wanting to wait that long if I could help it — a natural desire of a penniless adventurer like myself — I rewrote most of it, changing the names of the characters, and sent it to Fight Stories. Back it came with the request to cut it down in length. I rewrote it and sent it back. Back it came, with the remark that it was acceptable, but that they couldn’t find a place for it just then. I should keep it a month or so, and then they’d like to see it some more. So I sent it to Sport Stories, with a letter reminding them of what they had said. It was returned with no explanation — merely a rejection slip. So I sent it to Fiction House — and back it came with the statement that Fight Stories had been — or was going to be — taken off the stands. I mentioned to you a year or so ago that that magazine wasn’t going to be published more than a year or so, you may remember.
- THE COLLECTED BOXING FICTION OF ROBERT E. HOWARD: FISTS OF IRON, ROUND 4, The REH Foundation Press, April 2015