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ST. MARYS — Two authors stopped at a local library to speak on a writer with ties to the area who was a household name in his prime, as part of a presentation Thursday evening.
Paul J. Bauer and Mark Dawidziak presented on their biography on St. Marys native Jim Tully, titled “Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler,” at the St. Marys Community Public Library.
“We’ve been giving a lot of talks about Jim Tully around the state,” Dawidziak said. “This may be one of the atypical talks we’ve given because some of you may know about him.”
He added the two became interested in Tully in 1992.
“At that time, I had a used bookshop,” Bauer began. “Someone came into the shop and asked for a copy of ‘The Bruiser.’”
He added he had never heard of “The Bruiser” or about the author, Tully.
“I flinched a little bit when the person said Tully was considered the father of hard-boiled fiction,” Bauer said.
The customer also mentioned that Tully had lived in Kent, where Bauer’s bookstore was located.
“He had a working career in Kent — I had lived in Kent for six years, and I had never heard of him,” Bauer said.
The next time Dawidziak — who was working at the Akron Beacon Journal at the time — came in, and Bauer said he asked him if he knew anything about Tully.
“I said, ‘Should I?’” Dawidziak said.
“I stopped at another bookshop in Akron, and I asked if they had any books by Jim Tully. They said ‘yes.’ It was ‘Shanty Irish.’”
Dawidziak then went on his way to work at the Akron Beacon Journal, and he looked up Tully in the paper’s morgue.
“They had a file on him,” Dawidziak said, noting Tully had briefly worked at the Akron Beacon Journal in 1908. “I went home, and I read ‘Shanty Irish’ — there’s no other way to describe ‘Shanty Irish’ except it took my head off — I had never read anything like that.”
He said Tully was “indeed a hard-boiled writer.”
“In one way he hits you like a pile driver — and then side by side with this hard boiled gritty writing, was this incredible, Irish poetry literacism.”
Dawidziak noted Tully went from “mud poverty in St. Marys, Ohio, to a household name.”
“From there, we had to make the decision — do we write this biography,” Dawidziak said. “In September 1992, we made the decision, and we made the decision with blind faith — then we hit the motherload.”
Bauer said the two started their research at Kent State University by looking through reels of microfilm.
“So much of Tully’s life and our experience at writing it has been running into the right librarian at the right time,” Bauer said, noting they were at Kent State University when the librarian told them she located Tully’s personal papers.
“They were in special collections at UCLA. They had been untouched since Jim’s widow had donated them in the ‘50s.”
Bauer described the collection, which included Tully’s letters, tax documents, unpublished manuscripts and more, as “pretty much everything a biographer could dream of.”
“That was when we found we had more than enough to get that biography written,” he said.
The two then went through Tully’s life — from when he was born in Glynwood to when he was shipped off to an orphanage in Cincinnati after his mother died when he was six before he ended up back in St. Marys.
Tully left for good when he hopped trains and became a hobo and traveled on the road. Tully got off the train in Kent, where he married, was a featherweight boxer, chain maker and tree surgeon before moving to Hollywood.
While in Hollywood, Tully published his books, worked for Charlie Chaplin and wrote various articles for magazines.
“He was fair,” Dawidziak said. “He wrote about people as they were. That freed him to write about people as they were.”
Tully’s second book, “Beggars of Life,” was his first success — it was adapted into a Broadway play, as well as into a movie. Tully then started his dual career — he wrote books and the became “the first journalist covering Hollywood honestly.” He concentrated his books on America’s underworld.
“Tully was writing about people and the people he knew — he was giving a voice, before John Steinbeck, to people who were not on the shelf,” Dawidziak said.
He noted Tully earned the nickname “the most feared man in Hollywood” thanks to his articles.
“He was writing about people in a way they didn’t like, and he never lost his right hand as a boxer,” Dawidziak said.
He and Bauer noted books of Tully’s such as “Circus Parade,” “The Bruiser,” “Beggars Abroad,” “Biddy Brogan’s Boy” and “Ladies in the Parlor.”
Tully then went into a decline between 1935 and his death in 1947 at 61-years-old with his health. He was buried in California.
The two noted they were able to get four of Tully’s books into reprint through Kent State University Press — “Beggars of Life,” “Circus Parade,” “Shanty Irish” and “The Bruiser.”
“We have hopes of reprinting more,” Dawidziak said.
St. Marys Community Public Library Director Sue Pittman noted the majority of Tully’s books are available at the library, and the biography, which includes an introduction by Ken Burns, should be available by next week.
It is currently available for purchase at Canalside Book Shop on Spring Street.