FORGOTTEN BOOKS ~ THE BRUISER BY JIM TULLEY!
I’M POSTING THIS WEEK’S INSTALLMENT OF FORGOTTEN BOOKS EARLY AS I’VE A COUPLE OF VERY BUSY DAYS AHEAD AND DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH TIME I’M GOING TO HAVE TO SIT AT THE COMPUTER. SO, WITHOUT FURTHER ADIEU . . .
Author Jim Tully is a character right out of Hemingway or Damon Runyon. Born in 1894, his father put him in an orphanage at six years old after the death of his mother. Tully lasted there until he was eleven when he fled the adverse conditions in favor of a life on the road. He worked on farms, with the circus, and eventually as a prizefighter – leaving ring career behind after being knocked unconscious for 24 hours during a fight in San Francisco.
H.L. Mecken discovered Tully’s writings through Tully’s reporting in two Akron newspapers. Mecken began publishing Tully’s work in the magazine Smart Set. This led to two autobiographical novels, Emmet Lawler and Beggars of Life, both of which received praise for their unstinting view of life on the road in the ‘20s and ‘30s.
Tully eventually turned from writing to become a highly successful Hollywood publicity agent, with a mansion in Tuluca Lake and an 89 acre ranch in the back country. Not bad for a guy with his humble beginnings.
Like Tully’s other novels, The Bruiser, is unflinching in its realism and brutality. It’s also a fascinating character study of a man facing his greatest fear by exposing himself to it over and over again.
Shane Rory was a tough, good-hearted road kid who drifted into fighting through the help of a friendly priest. Encouraged by his easy successes in his first matches, which proved to him and his friends that he had the makings of a champion, Shane began the long and grueling apprenticeship that finally won him the heavyweight title. He had first, however, to overcome the grimmest of obstacles: the fear of being driven mad by the relentless pounding he faced every time he climbed through the ropes.
Jim Tully’s vivid and colorful novel about a great fighter is drawn from his own early experiences in the ring and from the stories of the many men he has known – including, presumably, the man to whom The Bruiser is dedicated: “My fellow road-kid, Jack Dempsey.”
I have a dozen or so of these 1930s – 1950s boxing novels in my collection and enjoy their retro feel and storytelling. The Bruiser, is a cut above most.
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