[Cons and Cheats:] Out of the Depths. The Redemption of Jack Donovan. The Boy Thief, the Professional Pugilist, Actor, Gambler, Confidence Man, and Fugitive from Justice.
Scarce first edition of Jack Donovan’s autobiography, issued simultaneously in cloth. Donovan’s autobiography begins with a stark catalog of vice:
(1) A thief from earliest childhood. (2) Expelled from parochial school. (3) A bartender at the age of thirteen. (4) In the professional prize ring at seventeen. (5) An actor of note for twenty years. (6) A man having many aliases. (7) A demon-possessed gambler, confidence man with hypnotic powers. (8) Guilty of intention to murder, in a drunken brawl. (9) A swindler of widows. (10) A humbug psychologist and fake artist. (11) A diamond shark. (12) Victim of the “Third Degree,” in solitary confinement and the “Tank.” (13) Photographed for the Rogues’ Gallery and the Bertillon system. (14) Hunted by detectives, arrested eight times. (15) Saved from Sing Sing Prison by money and influence. (p)
This memoir of crime (followed by religious redemption) is written in the third person as though the author was separating himself from his past. His story is a conversion narrative. His criminal past easily led him downward; his worldly associations, innocent enough at first (boxing, theatrical acting, drinking) went too far, so they too are part of his descent into “the depths.” Donovan, firmly “a man of the underworld,” describes a particularly brutal boxing match:
In the fifth round Jack had his man up against the wall, landing upper cuts. ... In spite of these disadvantages Jeff Powers was knocked out in the thirteenth round, remaining down for thirteen seconds. ... The battle became dreadful. Jack’s arm was ridged with great welts from guarding the heavy blows, his face was bloody, swollen and misshaped. A part of the time he drank his own blood. In the twentieth round, Duncan C. Harrison, [heavyweight boxer] John L Sullivan’s manager, offered each of them one hundred dollars to stop the slaughter. Both staggered like drunken man. When they came against the white wall, their imprint was left in blood. The mob was wild with excitement. (pp17–18)
Eventually, Donovan is redeemed. The message of his memoir to others: to know the worst is to give hope, if not for the best, at least for the better.
Description: [Cons and Cheats:] Out of the Depths. The Redemption of Jack Donovan. The Boy Thief, the Professional Pugilist, Actor, Gambler, Confidence Man, and Fugitive from Justice.
Frankfort, Indiana. [Privately Printed]. (1920). Frontispiece, 109, [1 (Conclusion)], pp + 1 additional plate. Small 8vo. printed wrappers; a Near Fine copy.