Friday, May 25, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Best of Damon Runyon -- Damon Runyon, Edited by E. C. Bentley

I first learned about Damon Runyon from radio and a series called The Damon Runyon Theater. It wasn't like anything else we listened to back in 1949, and I thought it was great, not because of the stories themselves but because of the language. I guess that even as a grade-schooler, I was already aware of such things on some level, because the unique narration has stuck with me through many years. The radio show was just being true to the stories from which it was derived, though I didn't find that out until years later.

Here's an example of that narration, picked at random from a story called "Blood Pressure." The stories are all narrated in the first person by the same (I suppose) unnamed character. Sometimes he's just reporting; sometimes he has a role in the action, as in this case: "Now of course I do not wish to go to Nathan Detroit's crap game; and if I do wish to go there I do not wish to go with Rusty Charley, because a guy is sometimes judged by the company he keeps, especially around crap games, and Rusty Charley is apt to be considered bad company. Anyway, I do not have any dough to shoot craps with, and if I do have dough to shoot craps with, I will not shoot craps with it at all, but will bet it on Sun Beau, or maybe take it home and pay off some of the overhead around my joint, such as rent."

Great stuff, right? Well, I think so.

The collection of stories pictured here is a well-worn Armed Services Edition with a fine introduction by E. C. Bentley of Trent's Last Case fame. It contains at least one of the stories I remember from the radio show, "The Brain Goes Home." There might well be more. Doesn't matter, they're still fun and fresh and a pleasure for me to read. You might give one a try and see what you think, or you could go here and listen to one of the radio shows. Maybe you'll get as big a kick out of it as I did all those years ago.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

As you may or may not know, GUYS AND DOLLS is Jackie's favorite musical. This looks like a good one.

Jeff

Bill Crider said...

I did not know that.

If she hasn't read any Runyon, she might give it a try. Or she would listen to one of the radio shows.

Anonymous said...

I just reserved a 600+ page book of Runyon's stuff introduced by Pete Hamill.

Jeff

Anonymous said...

I just reserved a 600+ page book of Runyon's stuff introduced by Pete Hamill.

Jeff

Bill Crider said...

That should be plenty!

John said...

Genuinely American writer, this guy. A real original. So many of stories made great movies because his characters are so alive. THE LEMON DROP KID, LITTLE MISS MARKER, THE THREE WISE GUYS, A POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES, PRINCESS O'HARA... Who wouldn't want to play some of those guys and dolls?

Kent Morgan said...

I've got this one somewhere so may go on the hunt and read a story. For some reason I think of Runyon and Ring Lardner together.

Richard R. said...

I thought I saw a listing or advertisement for the large anthology of Ryan's works, including most of the stories and a couple of the longer works. Does anyone recall that?

Paul D Brazill said...

Good call. Wonderful writer. Guys and Dolls is my favourite musical, too.

Brent McKee said...

"The Damon Runyan Theater" on radio was produced by a big time Runyon fan named Alan Ladd.

Apparently there was also a TV series that ran for 39 episodes over two season on CBS around 1955. I guess I'm going to have to try to find it for a "Forgotten TV series" post (I've already got two in the planning stage ahead of it).

Bill Crider said...

I've heard of the TV series. Never saw it, though.