Jim Tully’s ‘The Living Dead: A Death Cell Interview’

PULP NONFICTION

A reading from the pioneers of true crime.

True crime history is not just about reviving the stories of America’s scandals, scoundrels and scourges, but also about exploring the history of true crime as a genre.

This episode is also a bonus sidebar to The Gangster Chronicles, a special edition of Yesterday’s News focusing on the notorious scoundrels of the Prohibition and Depression eras.

On the first Sunday of each month, The Gangster Chronicles has been exploring newspaper accounts of John Dillinger’s fourteen month murderous rampage across middle America.

Episode Six, Dillinger at the Biograph, will be released June 5. In doing my homework for this episode, I came across a feature story by Jim Tully that was datelined July 21, 1934, but published on July 22, the very day that Dillinger would see his last movie.

Jim Tully was a fairly well-known writer in the 1920s and ‘30s, but not for true crime. He wrote novels based on the hard-luck life of Irish immigrant like his parents and his nine-year stint as a young hobo riding America’s rails. He was one of the first freelance reporters to work the Hollywood beat and for a time served as secretary to Charlie Chaplin, who later sued Tully for writing an unflattering article about him.

He was a large, soft-spoken man, but also a professional boxer, and a year before writing this article was himself the subject of a profile by the famed sportswriter Damon Runyon.

Below, you can read what Hollywood columnist Walter Winchell had to say about Tully’s association with gangsters, because as it would happen, Jim Tully grew up in the factory towns of Northern Ohio and knew Charles Mackley as a teenager.

Mackley, you may recall, was one of the ten escapees from the Michigan City Prison, involved in Dillinger’s delivery from the Lima jail, and captured in Tuscon. At the time of this article, Mackley and Harry Pierpont, the trigger man in the Lima murder, were both awaiting their execution.

This feature story not only detail’s Tully’s visit to “the death row,” but also an account of a poignant lunch later with the parents of Harry Pierpont.

Music by Chuck Wiggins

Clips:

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