Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jack Black, reconstructed Yegg

My favorite book. You can't win, by Jack Black.

Born ca. 1870 New Westminster, B.C. Canada- Missing/Died >1932 New York City, U.S.A. Jack's body was never found.

" My name is William Brown, from Pocatello, Idaho"

"Jack had been a sort of a reign of terror...just before the earthquake and fire of 1906. Every crime committed in San Francisco during the first three months of that year was ascribed to Jack Black." (R.L. Duffus)

"He returned to New York and Fremont thought Jack did what he always said any down-and-outer should do, “fill his pockets with rocks and take a header into the bay.” (Mrs. Cora Fremont Older)

"To cut a long story short," said Jack, "I left it all."

"Enough of this "I" and "me" stuff. I must get to the point. You have a big, true story with one hundred thousand readers. Tell them all how to help the under dog. They are willing, but they don't know how. "

"He is in a class by himself. That is why he is so interesting." (Fremont Older)

"I look so much like a judge." Portrait by E. Weston, tramp art cigarbox frame.

San Francisco Bulletin, Jan. 1917

S. F. Bulletin, Feb./Mar. 1917, these serials are the blueprint for "You can't win"

Prison record, Postcards from the Bulletin building and S.F. Cliff House "where first I saw the sea..."

Harpers Monthly Magazine, June 1929

Harper's Monthly Magazine, Feb. 1930

Letters to Fremont Older

French edition, Librairie Gallimard, 1932


  1. more then I thought you had! Very, very impressive!

  2. I recommend you take a look at the 2007 translation published by Editions Les Fondeurs de Briques, entitled YEGG.

  3. I'm aware. You translated that one.
    What was wrong with the Gallimard version?
    I'd recommend reading the original English ,there's so much argot in there, I wish I could read LFC in French for that reason, but it's just too complicated. This, however, is not a difficult book, in fact I think Black was not the greatest writer, but it's a wonderful story.

  4. Where did you find the letters ? I found an old San Francisco call from 1912 that has a picture of jack that I'd never seen, the article is about him crushing out of ingleside jail as described in you can t win- it also has jacks real name-
    Thomas Callaghan

  5. Interesting!
    I think Callahan was just another monicker, his San Quentin record mentions John Black a.k.a H.J. Kline.
    He's also referred to as Harry Klein in other S.F. Call articles, and they drop the Callahan alias.
    Yet, he's always referred to as John/Jack Black.
    No reason to think his real name was Harry Kline/Klein...
    Also, the book and the letters to Fremont Older are signed John Black. Why would he use an alias with someone who was so very dear to him?
    It's a theory, but a bit radical to change the Wikipedia entry.

  6. I found some information regarding Jack's family ..some old census records..it ties in with almost everything Jack said about his father
    The fathers name according to tne census record is William Black..born Canada.
    1850....moved to Missouri in 1872, parents from Scotland , profession listed as railroad engineer, remarried in 1891 to Grace, two sons after Jack left in 1886/87..named Eugene and John..location Kansas City,Missouri
    ...any chance Jack may have said his father was dead to protect his father and the new family privacy or maybe the folks at the rail yard lied to Jack not wanting him to interfere with his new family ? I can email the census information along with a screen shot of it if you're interested. Cbarnett940@gmail.com
    Take care