“Sailor Costigan and the Jade Monkey” is a tale penned by Robert E. Howard under the pseudonym Patrick Ervin, featuring the robust and adventure-seeking sailor Steve Costigan. In this story, Costigan navigates the treacherous and deceptive underworld of Hong Kong, blending a mix of humor, action, and a dash of mystery as he deals with dubious characters and seeks a mythical artifact.

Three drafts exist for this story; One early shorter untitled draft; A draft in final form told in the 3rd person; A draft in final form told in the 1st person.

The 3rd party draft was prepared a couple of years before the 1st. person version. The 1st. person version is the one sent to Otis Adelbert Kline, who proceeded to mark it up with changes to try to make it a Dennis Dorgan story. Kline then sold the story to THE MAGIC CARPET MAGAZINE and it was announced in the last issue (January 1934). THE MAGIC CARPET MAGAZINE then went under and it was never published. OAK listed the story in his records as “Sailor Costigan and the Jade Monkey.”

The final typescript sold on eBay in 2000 for around $1500.
In the first publication, Glenn Lord decided to keep the Kline changes, likely to try to have more Dorgan stories to make a book with. Glenn also listed the author as “Patrick Ervin”, the pseudonym that Howard used with some of his Dennis Dorgan stories

From the letters:

In a letter (#333) to Otis Adelbert Kline, January 8, 1936 Howard writes:

Today I received a check from him for the novelet, which he sold to Dime Sport. The shorts were rejected. He tells me that Bloomfield is interested in my work, and suggests that I let him have something else to submit. Popular Publications is a company I’ve long yearned in vain to crash. So I’m re-writing “Sailor Dorgan and the Jade Monkey” in the third person for him to try. This one, you know, you placed with Wright for the Magic Carpet, and recently returned to me to be re-written when Magic Carpet was abandoned as a publishing project. If Kofoed sells this, you’ll receive your commission just as if you had sold it, for you’ve handled the yarn and are entitled to it.

and in the same letter

I trust that my intention of letting Kofoed try to place “The Jade Monkey” meets with your approval. If it sells, I’ll send you a check for your commission on the next mail.

It seems Kline did not like this and Howard apologizes in the next letter (#334) to him on January 13, 1936:

Just read yours of the 11th. I gather you aren’t too pleased with the idea of Kofoed offering some of my stuff to Dime Sport. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, for I certainly had no intention of doing so. When I agreed to let Kofoed show Bloomfield the yarns he had left over when Jack Dempsey’s Fight Magazine went out of business, I did not mean to imply any dissatisfaction with your agency. Emphatically not. I’ve already let Kofoed have the three Costigan yarns he had on hand, and the re-written “Jade Monkey” but if you feel that it’s not fair to you, I won’t send him any more.

The story

The story begins with Costigan freshly arrived in Hong Kong, where he is promptly attacked by his shipmate, Jim Rogers, who hits him over the head with a bottle. Rogers, desperate for money to purchase a jade monkey he believes is valuable, attempts to rob Costigan, mistakenly thinking he possesses $50. After subduing Rogers, Costigan learns about Miss Betty Chisom, a woman trying to sell the supposed jade monkey to secure passage out of Hong Kong.

Moved by a mix of chivalry and curiosity, Costigan visits Chisom at the American Bar. She explains that the monkey is not only a valuable antique but also a symbol of imperial power in China, purportedly the “monkey of the Yih Hee Yih” and a relic of historical leaders like Genghis Khan. Chisom claims she needs $50 to escape her predicaments and return to safety. Sympathetic yet broke, Costigan concocts a plan to obtain the money through an impromptu boxing match at a local fight club.

At the Quiet Hour Arena, Costigan challenges and fights a formidable opponent, “Swordfish” Connolly, managing to win against odds that include a tampered glove filled with lead. With his victory, Costigan secures the needed $50 and rushes back to the American Bar to purchase the jade monkey from Chisom.

After acquiring the artifact, he discovers a tag indicating that the monkey is a cheap replica from Connecticut, worth merely fifteen cents. The realization of being duped hits him hard, and the story concludes with Costigan leaving the bar in a mix of frustration and resignation, reflecting on the deceit and his own gullibility.

Characters and ships

  • Steve Costigan: The main character, a sailor known for his brawling prowess and straightforward nature.
  • Jim Rogers: Costigan’s shipmate who initially tries to rob him but later becomes part of the plot surrounding the jade monkey.
  • Miss Betty Chisom: The deceptive woman claiming to need money to escape Hong Kong, who sells Costigan the fake jade monkey.
  • Swordfish Connolly: Costigan’s opponent in the boxing match, known for his tough reputation.
  • Spagoni: The owner of the Quiet Hour Arena where the boxing match takes place.
  • Various unnamed characters: Including the bartender at the American Bar, fans at the boxing match, and additional fighters at the arena.
  • The Sea Girl: The ship aboard which both Costigan and Jim Rogers serve.

Alternate titles:


Published in:

Source: Howard Works.