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Damon Runyon was the journalist and short story writer who, more than anyone else, personified the razzle-dazzle of Broadway and the Roaring 1920s. As a reporter he found early success covering not only Broadway but also the Mexican Revolution, World War I, the Lindbergh kidnapping and the worlds of professional boxing and baseball. Runyon did not only record the American myth; he helped to create it with his short stories of small-time gamblers and gangsters, drawn directly from the underworld characters he was familiar with. After his death, a collection of his stories became the musical "Guys and Dolls". Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jimmy Breslin helps to recapture the 1920s era in this book that includes the characters of Pancho Villa, William Randolph Hearst, Al Capone, Jimmy Walker and Jack Dempsey.
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The life of the mythic, wealthy journalist/short-story writer of the Broadway classic Guys and Dolls, told by the legendary, wealthy journalist/novel writer of Table Money, World Without End, Amen, etc. Making some allowances, this book is like Hemingway on Shakespeare. At first Breslin's bragging--making the reader brilliantly aware that the Breslin Mouth is equal to its subject-- is off-putting. But as his Runyon anecdotes gather force, we slowly grasp that Breslin's self-esteem is tested to the breaking point by this portrait of a figure even more legendary and cynically witty in his day than Breslin himself. The Runyon/Breslin team on the page is, with its fruity richness of newsroom lore, simply overwhelming, better than Runyon's buddy Gene Fowler on John Barrymore in Good Night, Sweet Prince, with Breslin tailoring Runyon's every word and move to cut the most--well, Shakespearean- -figure possible. This Runyon with all his invented dialogue must be a fiction--but so what when the page is drugged with such high humor? Runyon at eight cut his teeth as his father's printer's devil in the western states, at 15 was on his own as a wandering reporter. He was a shy, quiet poet with a withering view of mankind--and also a man of warm fellowship with murderers, gamblers, and criminals who fed him the life in his copy and later became his fictional characters. Breslin excels at creating the mirror-reversed moral world of criminals, with the reader, like Alice, on a Broadway of monsters ruled by Runyon, their re-creator in print--people who later become Runyonesques by choice. Companion to Al Capone, Arnold Rothstein, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, and Walter Winchell, and William Randolph Hearst's highest-paid sportswriter and war-reporter, Runyon never bit the hand that fed him--which included many, many hands, only some of them legitimate. Breslin's best--and more impressive in its sustained cynicism than Runyon's own writing. Could live forever. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
This biography of the hellraising journalist Runyon, written by another hellraising reporter, reads a lot like one of Runyon's short stories. Although a popular and widely read journalist, Runyon became famous for his fiction depicting gangster life on Broadway in the 1920s and 1930s. From the stories came the film Little Miss Marker with Shirley Temple, and the musical Guys and Dolls . Breslin, author of numerous books and a long-time New Yorker, knows the territory well. His book is sprinkled with scenes of the colorful lifestyle that was glamorized in Runyon's short stories. Although Breslin's affection and appreciation for Runyon shine through, his view is not an uncritical one. We see Runyon and his times, warts and all. Recommended for all libraries.
- Rebecca Wondriska, Trinity Coll. Lib., Hartford, Ct.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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