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Beggars of life
Beggars Of Life is easily the greatest of hobo autobiographies. First published in 1924, it holds up remarkably well because Jim Tully was one of the founders of the spare, gritty, unsentimental style that became known as ‘hardboiled’ (of which Dashiel Hammett was the best known practitioner). Tully’s father was a ditchdigger, his mother died when he was very young, and he spent several years in an orphanage. By the time he was 14, he was a road-kid hopping freight trains. He worked variously as a chain maker, a tree surgeon and as a boxer – until he got knocked unconsciousness for 24 hours in a fight in San Francisco. Early on he also acquired a taste for reading and became a ‘library bum’, hitting the stacks in the towns he tramped through. He loved Dumas and Dickens, but he above all sought to follow the example of Jack London and Maxim Gorky, two other road-kids w ho made it out of the tramp world through writing. And it worked for Tully too. He ended up on Hollywood, for a while as Charlie Chaplin’s secretary, and then as practically the only honest – and therefore feared and respected – journalist in Hollywood; instead of rewriting the puff piece handouts of the powerful studios he wrote truthfully about the place. In this vivid piece of outlaw history, the first of 5 (somewehat fictionalized) autobiographies, Tully takes us across the seamy underbelly of pre-WW1 America on freight trains, and inside hobo jungles and brothels, while narrowly avoiding railroad bulls and the wardens of order.
Includes an introduction by Charles Willeford.
Author: Tully, Jim Year: 2003 ISBN: 9781902593784 Pages: 170 Language: English Publisher: AK Press Publisher's city: Edinburgh Publication date: