From February 2008 to 2014 I ran the website JimTully.net, gathering information about the author in one place. Now in January 2021, I’ve revived it. Here is why it existed, went away, and reappeared.
I have been a fan of the writing of Tully for quite a few years. When I was publishing with my pal Chris as Scapegoat Publishing, I had a quote from Circus Parade on the back of my business card:
Our world was brutal, immoral, smug and conventional. We had unbounded contempt for all those who did not sin as we sinned.
My next publishing project Underworld Amusements was named, in part, because of Tully’s idea of his autobiographical books being his “Underworld Editions”.
One of the first books I published under the imprint Underworld Amusements in August of 2008 was the extremely rare and suppressed Ladies in the Parlor. It is not a “great book” but at the time the only copies you could buy, if you could find it, fetched $500 or more. I was pleased to have been done a kindness by a bookseller who sold me a stack of Tully for a reasonable price that included a copy of Parlor.
Tully was almost entirely out of print with the exception of the AK Press edition of Beggars of Life.
I had plans on publishing my own edition of Circus Parade, and had it transcribed, typeset and the cover designed with original photography. It had an introduction by sideshow expert James Taylor, publisher of Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway. I was writing my own short piece for an appendix about assumed names through history. I may still use some of those ideas when I write about Arthur Desmond, aka Ragnar Redbeard.
I started a Jim Tully page on Facebook and I tried to find other people interested in his work. I built out the website by mostly trying to built a bibliography of his work. It was a one-man show and it showed.
In 2009 I decided to set up another website, for another equally gritty artist: WilliamLindsayGresham.com. More than anything, these website-based projects are a way for me to gather information on a subject I’m interested in. That interest will ebb and flow. I had the hosting fee that was set, so more or less if I wanted to start a new website it was just the cost of the domain name. It’s a form of “learning in public” that I’ve repeated time and again. I don’t set up a website because I’m an expert, I set it up because I’m ignorant and changing that. If others want to come along, even contribute, they are welcome. My work on this website ended after a few months, and I let the domain name lapse a couple years later.
It was also in 2009 that Kent State University Press, under the Black Squirrel Press imprint, began releasing a series of Jim Tully books, and their edition of Circus Parade had a foreword by Harvey Pekar and introduction by Jim Tully experts Paul J. Bauer and Mark Dawidziak. It was Paul and Mark that had been working for forever on the Jim Tully biography that would be released a few years later.
The cover is one of the ugliest I’d seen. It was so… not period appropriate, and a clown… oh, I hate clowns. I don’t hate them like it seems a lot of people hate them, but maybe in the way some people do. I won’t get derailed in trying to explain it. I don’t like the clown on the cover of this edition of a book I really like and felt let down that it would now be rude to release my edition. Also, the other Tully books were scrapped too. I wasn’t going to duplicate the work of a University Press, even if their books were a little uglier than I’d like.
But, I succumbed to enough resentment I never purchased a Black Squirrel Edition of any Tully book.
In 2011 I did, however, immediately snatch up a copy of Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler upon its release in April of 2011. The Bauer and Dawidziak book was LONG in the making and Kent State released it with an introduction by Ken Burns, no less. It was a fine looking book.
I was right in the middle of a Jim Tully revival! The hobo was blowing up and I ran the only website on him, I published a book by him four years prior. Except…. I was not actually in the middle of it at all. Where was I, in it? Was I even adjacent to it?
There was a big story about the biography on a major website, but no mention of the site, no links. Then a reporter called me from a major newspaper. I took a break at work and I answered questions and I think I answered them quite well! A few zingers that should have seen print, but…. nope, not a word.
I had no bona fides, I believe was part of the problem. My press was micro and my website, while being the only resource online, was not polished.
Then, in late 2012 I discovered there was an entire conference and exhibit about Jim Tully at UCLA happening! And on October 11th the conference occured and the exhibit happened and I’m only speculating because I found out too late on my own because nobody thought to inform the guy who had been building the only website in the world about this hobo writer.
I was, admittedly, a bit deflated.
In November 2012 I started a website for another Smart Set/American Mercury author Benjamin DeCasseres. I had adjusted my expectations and have since never assumed anyone would really help out.
Sometime in 2014 I just decided that other people didn’t care about the Tully website and I wasn’t updating it, and I’d let the registration on the domain name lapse. I deleted the Facebook page and nobody wrote to ask why. I was done with it, and wasn’t given a reason to leave it up for others.
It would be in 2018 I ran across Tully’s name in connection with my research on the Union of Egoists project. He was a contributor to the 1923 revival of the egoist/Nietzschean journal The Eagle and Serpent.
Maybe there wasn’t a revival after all? Maybe a few blogs needed content and a lecture was given and a library set up a display and some books were published including Mark and Paul’s great biography. Quite a bit of his work is still not in print, though it seems that someone has done some cheap ebook editions.
Just recently I thought to myself “well, who has stepped up in my absence, what resources are there online now?”
And, as far as I can tell…. Wikipedia finally caught up with my bibliographical work, there were some stories here and there but… that’s it.
I couldn’t believe the domain name was still available, so… here I am again, and I’ll update this as and when I like, and my expectations are probably more realistic, and at some point, I’ll let the registration lapse, and I’ll once in a while revisit this time on archive.org, like I can go and visit the last website I built here.
Kevin I. Slaughter