The novels of Jim Tully

Tully started publishing books in the 1920ies, a time when many journalists and authors tried to write about people at the edges or bottoms of society. Several hobo autobiographies, for instance, were published in those years by authors such as Harry Kemp, Jack Black and others. Why was it that authors would choose to write about the outcasts of society in an age of prosperity and at a time of big parties and great shows, at a time when theaters and nightclubs flourished and when a general consumer culture was arising and people indulged in materialist hedonism?

In Tully’s case, he tries to make the reader of his time conscious of the social evils. He clearly rejects the materialistic values of the wealthy in his hobo autobiography Beggars of Life (1924; about his seven years as a road kid) and wants to reveal despair amid great wealth. Spending seven years on the road, Tully well knew what it was like at the bottoms of society. He had found the raw material for his stories in freight cars, circus tents, whore houses, prison cells, hobo jungles, factories, boxing rings, and saloons. This material he used to construct the stories of numerous novels.

Emmett Lawler (1922) is about his experiences in the orphanage

Circus Parade (1927) is about acquaintances in various carnivals

Shanty Irish (1928) is about his family in St. Marys

Shadows of Men (1930)

Blood on the Moon (1931)

Laughter in Hell (1932)

The Bruiser (1936) is about his boxing career

Altogether, counting Broadway plays and other works he wrote in collaboration with Robert Nichols, Frank Dazey, and Charles Behan, twenty-nine books were published under Tully’s name. Charles Willeford notes that "Tully had the ability to uproot the reader from a comfortable environment, to make him feel and live with his men of the road, the jail, and the professional boxing ring."

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