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Damon Runyon: A Life Hardcover – Sep 1991

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Ticknor & Fields; 1st Edition edition (Sept. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0899199844
  • ISBN-13: 978-0899199849
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 768,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By N. J. H. Ratnieks on 15 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of Runyon's short stories since when I was a kid-ill in bed- my mother got me to read some- and I've been re-reading them ever since. This book gives you the real Runyon- the early days in the Wild West and all the rest of it-fast, fascinating and furious-both funny and sad-it's all there. I've read this book a couple of times and I will read it again- the subject's worth it-a towering figure from the days when newspapers, their proprietors and their writers wielded immense power.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. A. Craig on 15 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this as a christmas gift for a big Runyon fan - he had read all the stories but not the one about the author's life. It was a big success. The quality of this second hand book was very good, and it arrived in good time in good condition.
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By Ross Tayne on 8 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Breslin Dissects a Predecessor 2 May 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Before there was Jimmy Breslin, there was Damon Runyon: A writer who kept company with gangsters and gamblers, politicians and showgirls, sports figures and cops. Breslin, a very gifted writer, dissects his subject with humor. The heroes of Runyon's world were figments of his imagination. He was enthralled with gangsters, adopting their street language himself. He romanticized the worst among him. He drank heavily and smoked heavily; eventually giving up the booze for waterfalls of coffee. It was too late for the cigarettes. Toward the end of his life, Runyon communicated by writing notes, his vocal chords having succumbed to cancer. This book is a gem. You come away knowing much more about Runyon the person and his times: New York City during the glamorous 1920's. A time made-up by one Damon Runyon. Breslin remains the best at what he does.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By far, the most interesting biography I've ever read 16 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
At first, this biography on Damon Runyon seems like any other biography: a list of dates, names, people, and places. As you start reading it, though, it becomes a story that puts you right in the middle of Runyon's life, the good and the bad. You'll see Runyon's start in poetry, sportswriting, war reporting, and what he is most well-known for: his short stories. Also, you'll see the people in Runyon's life who he based some of his most Runyonesque characters on, and people who based their lives off of his characters. This book reads more like a Runyonesque story than a biography, which makes it so interesting to read, besides the fact that it gives a glimpse into the life of the very private Damon Runyon.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Tall tales of the twenties with your host Jimmy Breslin 18 Jan. 2006
By J. Carroll - Published on
Format: Hardcover
On the book jacket of DAMON RUNYON: A LIFE there is the line, "Much more than a biography." Actually it is much less. Rather it is a colection of oft told tales of the roaring twenties, secondhand stories with little corroboration, and with little effort being made to set history straight. Runyon is just one of the many characters who captures Breslin's fancy, Pancho Villa, various mobsters, and "colorful polticians all make appearences, with or without Runyon's presence. It's entertaining in the fact that Breslin always knew how to tell a story, but if you're actually looking for a biography...look elsewhere.
By Joy E. Thacher - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Damon Runyon was an excellent journalist and later in life short story writer. Jimmy Breslin, also,was a most colorful writer and he depicted Runyon;s life without any frills. I finished this book with mixed feelings as I am addicted to Runyon's short stories but do not admire the person. Runyon was only happy when rubbing elbows with the underworld. With this lifestyle he was armed to write his fascinating stories of Guys and Dolls====Bookies , gamblers, swindlers and murderers, no good bums and showgirls. I now understand where all his stories evolved. Not only that, but his style of present first person is so unique. I will continue to read and re-read some of his short stories
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Omnipresence 12 Feb. 2011
By Pugwash - Published on
Format: Paperback
When I was a youngster in the early 1970's, I picked up Jimmy Breslin's "The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight". I found it so raucous, so vivid, and so intriguingly funny, that I have wanted to learn about gangsters for the rest of my life.

It has been difficult to locate an affordable, readable copy of his treatise of Damon Runyon. But upon finally reading it, Runyon had to be Breslin's hero. He could write sports, theatre, politics or crime with equal ease and passion. His penchant for the ease with which he could interact with any strata of society and retain his dignity and humor coined the term "Runyonesque".

His access to all levels and strata of celebrity makes him seem omnipresent. He began his newspaper career almost as a child, and worked almost every single day at it for the rest of his life. He had a decency that earned him the respect of almost all.

Breslin brings Runyon to life in his unique writing style. The celebrity characters of the Roaring Twenties remain some of the most vivid in american history, however Breslin almost singularly cuts them down to size against conventional wisdom. Jack Dempsey has always been revered as one of the most fearsome of heavyweight champions. Breslins writes of Dempsey's handlers putting plaster paris shavings in his gloves, which contributed to breaking Jess Willard's ribs and rearranging his face. He calls Dempsey a pedestrian fighter who defended his title only four times in seven years against overmatched and unqualified competition.

He makes other surprising revelations about Fiarello LaGuardia, Primo Carnera, Bill Tilden and Walter Winchell, among others. His story of Runyon's interaction with Wally Pipp, the Yankees first baseman who took the day off, and let Lou Gehrig, he of the 2130 game playing streak, is wonderfully captivating.

Breslin has a unique writing style, and although he jumps around, and can be hard to follow at times, he gives a treatise on a wonderful subject.
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