From 1917 to 1946, Damon Runyon, one of America’s greatest writers, followed and befriended Jack Dempsey, one of America’s greatest sportsmen, and now, for the first time, almost 200 reports of their interviews, meetings, opinions, and whimsy, as well as Dempsey’s fights, are gathered together for the first time. Boxer Jack Dempsey and author Damon Runyon crossed paths frequently and often, from Jack’s ascension to the gloried heights of world champion after triumphing over Jess Willard in Toledo in 1919, to his victories in the resined ring against Tommy Gibbons and Luis Ángel Firpo in 1923. In subsequent years, Dempsey profited from his position as the “King of Fistiana,” as Runyon described him, until the loss of Jack’s crown to Gene Tunney in 1926. There followed the comeback fight with Jack Sharkey in 1927, and the second controversial defeat to Tunney a few months later (in what has been called ‘The Battle of the Long Count’). But Dempsey persisted with a grueling tour of exhibition fights through Depression-era America, followed by a restless life as a businessman and referee. The events of Dempsey’s life have been the subject of heated arguments that have been reheated numerous times by all and sundry, yet Runyon has the advantage over other commentators by dint of having actually been there, ringside, in the gym, in the dressing rooms, offices and cafes, with Dempsey before and after the fights to give a unique and privileged view of events as they happened.
This book, which collects three previously published volumes – A Tale of Two Fists; The Champion; and King of Fistiana – in one volume, provides a definitive glimpse into the life and times of Jack Dempsey, who lost his crown but never lost the love and affection of the fans, and could, for many years, legitimately claim to be the most popular sportsman in the world.
Damon Runyon became a worldwide literary figure after the publication and subsequent film adaptations (like Guys and Dolls) of his Broadway short stories in the 1930s, but before, during and after that time he was first and foremost one of America’s greatest newspaper columnists.
This volume is edited by Paul Duncan.
Independently Published, 2021