Ed Hoch, Ray Long and the Chicago Conundrum

April 15, 2016 at 9:31 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Back in 2011, I posted an entry here titled “Ed Hoch and Jack Boyle” which discussed, among other things, the misconception that Boyle was born in Chicago.  Hoch made this misstatement regarding Boyle’s hometown in the introduction to Gregg Press’ reprint of the 1919 hardcover collection Boston Blackie, and since that time the inaccuracy has wormed its way into numerous biographical entries.  When I asked Ed where that bit of data came from, he said that he had gotten it from Boyle’s 1914 autobiographical sketch, A Modern Opium Eater.  At the time, I took this answer at face value, but upon later examination, the essay revealed no such reference.  Since my correspondence with Ed took place years after his research for the Gregg Press introduction, I’m sure this was a case of his memory simply failing him.  But we’re still left with the mystery of where the idea of Boyle’s Chicago birth came from.

I’ve puzzled over this for years, to no avail.  How do you trace a decades-old fallacy to its source?  Then recently, while pursuing an entirely different avenue of Boston Blackie research, I stumbled across this passage from the Lothrop, Lee and Shephard Company’s 1932 anthology 20 Best Stories in Ray Long’s 20 Years as an Editor:

And then one day there came into my office in Chicago a tall, handsome chap who announced himself as Jack Boyle, 6606.  He had recently been freed from prison, where he had written the articles for The Americanand had returned to his old home in Chicago.

So it was Jack Boyle’s long-time editor Ray Long who, in a memoriam published just a few years after the Boston Blackie creator’s death, mistakenly credited Chicago as the locale of his birth.  Long must have somehow misheard or misconstrued Boyle’s comment about returning to “his old home in Chicago.”  It is entirely possible that Jack had, indeed, resided in Chicago at some time prior to his visit to Long’s office in 1917.  Large chunks of his life between 1909 and 1915 are a blank, and Jack was known to have traveled the Midwestern states.  It’s quite plausible that he lived in Chicago at some point during this gap.  But his remark about returning to “his old home in Chicago” did not mean he had returned to his birthplace, just to a place he had lived previously.  Census records have long since documented Boyle’s 1881 birth in the State of California, and this is corroborated by his World War I draft registration card.  A simple misunderstanding of a friend’s casual remark caused Ray Long to write something which spawned a chain of misinformation for over eight decades.  It’s amazing how easily an idea — even a mistaken one — becomes fact, just because it has been written down.

JBF  4/15/16

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BREAKING NEWS … An Exciting Boston Blackie Discovery!

March 26, 2015 at 8:12 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

How many Boston Blackie stories did Jack Boyle publish?  This has been a point of contention for years.  H.K. Fly’s often-reprinted 1919 collection presented seven Blackie tales, which for nearly a century were the only specimens of Boyle’s writing available in book form.  But when this volume was republished by Gregg Press in 1979, Ed Hoch’s introduction to the new edition pointed out that further Blackie exploits were chronicled in the AMERICAN, RED BOOK and COSMOPOLITAN magazines.  Ultimately, examinations of these periodicals brought to light another fourteen Blackie yarns, increasing the series’ total count to twenty-one.  For years, this was thought to represent Boyle’s complete output on his most celebrated creation — until the advent of the internet.  In the 21st century, research online revealed a “missing” Blackie story, serialized in THE LOS ANGELES TIMES five years after Boyle published his last story in THE COSMOPOLITAN.  This curtain call to the Boston Blackie adventures was eventually reprinted in Coachwhip Publications’ 2012 collection BOSTON BLACKIE & FRIENDS, definitively setting the count of the complete Blackie saga at twenty-two.

Until now.

I’m thrilled to announce the discovery of not one, but TWO hitherto unknown Boston Blackie stories, both from the pen of Jack Boyle.  The pair, written in a period during which Boyle’s literary output had primarily turned away from his rogue hero, has languished for more than ninety years in the pages of a publication not typically associated with the author.  Through a kindness of Providence, their existence was discovered in time to allow for their inclusion in my upcoming collection THE COMPLETE BOSTON BLACKIE.  Of course, preparing the texts for publication will mean a further delay in a project that is already behind schedule, but I’m happy to run beyond my original deadline if it means presenting all twenty-four installments of the Blackie canon in their entirety.

And speaking of the Blackie canon in its entirety, let me go on record to confirm that ALL of Jack Boyle’s published Blackie stories do still exist.  Some speculation to the contrary has arisen on Amazon’s pages reviewing Coachwhip’s BOSTON BLACKIE & FRIENDS.  At least one post on that site postulates that the stories “The Poppy Girl’s Husband” and “Miss Doris, Safecracker” may be lost to the crumbling pages of magazines originally considered a disposable medium of entertainment.  Thankfully, such speculation is incorrect.  I have located copies of both tales, as well as an alternate version of “The Poppy Girl’s Husband,” based on Jack Boyle’s original text but re-imagined by an entirely different author.  There’s always the possibility that another unknown story could surface, but there is no danger that any of the currently known Blackie stories is “lost.”  My goal is to have the complete collection available in both print and digital editions by the end of 2015.  Stay tuned for further details …

JBF  3/26/15

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May 24, 2011 at 8:03 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

To some extent, the long-defunct New York publishing house The H.K. Fly Company is the reason that anything is known today about Jack Boyle.  In
1919, they issued the only hardcover collection of any of Boyle’s work.  Otherwise, every word the man wrote was relegated to the rather impermanent world of magazines and newspapers.  Of course, as a character, Boston Blackie has transcended the written medium, gaining a life of his own in cinematic and broadcast entertainment.  But the original stories of Jack Boyle have all but faded away.  If not for the 1919 hardback BOSTON BLACKIE, his work could easily have been buried in the crumbling pages of the popular magazines of the early 20th century, lost today to all but the most devoted antiquarians.

Fortunately, H.K. Fly did release seven of the early Boston Blackie tales in their 1919 hardbound collection, ensuring that at least a portion of Boyle’s canon would remain in bookstalls and libraries for decades to come.  And of course, it was for the Gregg Press 1979 reprint of that 1919 volume that Ed Hoch pursued the first serious research into the life of Jack Boyle.  In turn, it was that 1979 reprint that spurred me to begin my own research efforts to expand the world’s knowledge of Boston Blackie’s creator.  If not for The H.K. Fly Company and that one book from 1919, the rest of this quest could never have begun.

However, the Fly volume has also spawned a common misconception – that the original Boston Blackie saga consists of seven stories.  For years, a great many readers have assumed that the 1919 collection gathered all of Boyle’s Blackie tales.  Ed Hoch went a long way toward dispelling this in his 1979 introduction, pointing out the earlier quartet of stories which debuted in several 1914 issues of THE AMERICAN MAGAZINE.  Still, the thought that Fly’s BOSTON BLACKIE is a “complete collection” frequently persists.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  While the company is to be
commended for preserving seven excellent Blackie yarns for posterity, Boyle wrote a total of twenty-two stories featuring his most famous creation
between 1914 and 1925.  Not to mention, several of his other magazine pieces included characters that first appeared in the Blackie stories.  So, in the final accounting, The H.K. Fly Company presented readers with less than one-third of the Blackie saga.

Over the years, these “unknown” stories began to surface as my research into Boyle’s career progressed.  At first, I only gave attention to the uncollected Blackie tales, but as story after story came to light, I began to realize what an unsung body of work Jack Boyle left behind.  My best efforts
have unearthed 42 stories from Boyle’s typewriter, each drawn from the author’s unique perspective of a professional writer with intimate personal
knowledge of the criminal underworld.  They are compelling fiction, and I’ve been moved to the conviction that they do not deserve to be forgotten.  So it was an exciting day, earlier this year, when a publisher expressed not just interest, but actual excitement over the prospect of releasing my research in conjunction with a complete collection of Jack Boyle’s fiction.  I’m hesitant to jinx myself by divulging too many details until the official announcement of the book’s release, but I’m ecstatic at the thought of seeing all of Boyle’s stories in print after nearly a century of obscurity. The collection is slated for release in 2014, marking the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Boston Blackie’s first appearance. Stay tuned for more details …

JBF 5/24/11

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