The Fight Card series continues sending exciting contenders into the squared circle of pulp fiction with a new book every month and the punches landed are always solidly entertaining.
BAREKNUCKLE BARBARIAN is no exception, and even has a little extra going for it by blending in some alternative history and a dose of heroic fantasy. Author Teel James Glenn uses a fictionalized Robert E. "Bob" Howard as his protagonist. He time-shifts him past the point where (in real life, sadly) Howard committed suicide. "Bob" endures the pain of his mother's death (the real-lie event that caused Howard to take his life) and then embarks on a journey beyond his hometown of Cross Plains, Texas where he hopes to benefit from meeting "real" writers and also to test his physical stamina and inner barbarian against a wider slice of the world.
With this imaginative set-up, author Glenn --- in the Part One "Barknuckle Barbarian" title piece of this two part adventure --- first pits Bob Howard against a gang of New York City hoods staging and controlling the bareknuckle fight game in and around Madison Square Garden. Colorful characters from a visiting circus setting up for a run at the Garden is also worked in. In the rousing climax, Bob himself --- a trained pugalist who has battled in bareknuckle "icehous fights" back in Cross Plains --- steps up as a last-minute replacement in the main event to foil the grip of the crime bosses.
In Part Two – "The Fists of Fae" – a mythical/heroic fantasy element that the real Howard (creator of Conan the Cimmerean and King Kull) would have appreciated is introduced. When Bob visits the Old Sod of Ireland to connect with his Gaelic roots, he soon finds himself invited to attend the Fae Fair that takes place every five years wherein the veil between worlds is weakened sufficiently to allow mortal Bob to also attend the festivities leprechauns, elves, centaurs, etc., are present. Here, once again, he is drawn into becoming a participant in the climactic fight.
Author Glenn does a nice job of capturing the "feel", racial attitudes, and language of NYC in the late 30s and his fight scenes are vivid. He imbues "Texas" Bob with just the right mixture of awe and "aw shucks-iness" yet also strong in his sense of right and wrong and self-confidence when it comes to handling himself. And in Part Two he clearly knows his stuff when it comes to mythology and the intermingling of Worlds.
Imaginative and well done, a pleasant change of pace. Recommended.