Ed Hoch & Jack Boyle

May 9, 2011 at 8:32 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Edward Hoch’s introduction to BOSTON BLACKIE is frustrating.  I say this with the greatest respect, because it is also the best essay published to
date on the life and career of Jack Boyle.  When Mr. Hoch sat down to compose his introduction to Gregg Press’ 1979 reprint of Boyle’s one and only book, practically nothing was known about the creator of Boston Blackie.  Hoch did a remarkable amount of research (without the benefit of the internet, in those days prior to the information super-highway) to give the world some idea of the man behind the character.  Before his efforts, no scholarship existed on Jack Boyle at all, and my own research would have been virtually impossible without the foundation he laid.  I owe Ed Hoch a
great debt.

At the same time, it’s frustrating to see citations in print across the internet (and elsewhere) quoting “facts” which simply aren’t true.  All of these citations stem back to Hoch’s introduction, the definitive source for information on Jack Boyle.  But occasionally Hoch’s scholarship missed the mark.  In particular, it is frequently stated that Boyle was born in Chicago, and later moved west.  Without meaning to be overly blunt, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Like most readers, I took Hoch’s statement as fact, because he was the expert.  As my own research took shape over the years, however, I came to realize that the only mention of Boyle’s birth in Illinois seemed to be in his introduction.  Where did that tidbit of information come from?

Luckily, I made one really smart move when I decided to pursue my own investigation of Jack Boyle – I wrote to Ed Hoch.  Ed was very pleasant to correspond with, and exceptionally gracious to an upstart amateur trying to unearth information that had eluded a professional like him.  He was
delighted that someone was following in his footsteps, trying to divine a clearer picture of Jack Boyle.  During our correspondence, I asked Ed where
he got the impression that Boyle had been born in Chicago, and he responded that he found it in the autobiographical sketch published in THE AMERICAN MAGAZINE.  Eagerly, I dug out my own copy of that sketch, but soon found myself disappointed.  It contained no references at all to Boyle’s birth.  Somewhere along the way, Ed had gotten the notion that Boyle was a Chicago boy, and the idea wormed its way into print.  Which is no big deal, except that now practically everyone who writes more than two sentences about Jack Boyle says he was born in Illinois (in spite of census records which have long since proven otherwise).

Of course, Ed Hoch is far from being the only writer to put forth erroneous information about Boyle and Blackie.  At least one major cinema reference
book attributes the creation of Blackie to a totally different author (don’t believe anyone who tells you that George Randolph Chester was the father of Boston Blackie).  And in the earliest stages of my own scholarship, even I fell guilty to perpetuating misinformation, before discovering a few errors in my research.  Once an idea has been committed to paper, it is very hard to erase from the realm of “common knowledge.”

Regardless of such errors, Hoch’s 1979 essay is the seminal work on Jack Boyle, unlocking the door through which all future scholars must pass.  I
regret that Ed passed away in 2008, before my Boston Blackie project found a home with a potential publisher, and that I had been out of touch with
him for quite a few years.  I think he would have been intrigued to read the items on Boyle’s life which have surfaced in the last few years.  But who knows … perhaps Ed knows more about Boyle now than the rest of us ever could.  Perhaps out there in the Beyond he and Jack are sharing a drink and a chuckle together, spinning the best yarn yet about Boston Blackie.  At any rate, I hope so.

JBF  5/9/11

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2 Comments

  1. Angelia said,

    So where was Jack Boyle born?

    • jackboylefan said,

      California. Most likely, somewhere in the vicinity of San Francisco.

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