"You remind me of Malraux." - Charles Bukowski

"His poetry is like a cross between Catullus and a country and western song."- John Moore, SUBterrain Magazine.

"The last unpurged North American anarchist romantic. Bakunin bless him!" - George Woodcock.

Always in search of original characters and experiences, Jim Christy is a literary vagabond with few peers. He was once described by George Woodcock as "one of the last unpurged North American anarchistic romantics." His publisher has called him a hip Indiana Jones; one reviewer credited him with a "Gary Cooper-like presence." His buddies have included hobos, jazz musicians, boxers, and non-academic writers such as Charles Bukowski, Peter Trower and Joe Ferone. "I never dismiss another's story out of hand," he writes, "no matter what it's about or how outrageous it may seem." Christy's often wry reminiscences of his travels, trysts and trials are fueled by a hard-won pride. A gardener, a sculptor and a spoken word performer with a jazz/blues ensemble, Christy has been seen in film and television productions, usually in non-speaking roles as a thug or a gangster.

Born in Richmond, Virginia on July 14, 1945, Jim Christy grew up in South Philadelphia, a tough area featured in his autobiographical novel Streethearts, and also featured in Sylvester Stallone's Rocky movies. "Boxing was in the air," he once recalled. "You knew people who had boxed; if Dickens had been around he would have written about boxing." Christy later wrote about boxing as a business and a sub-culture, in Flesh & Blood. Christy began running away from home around age 12, once getting as far as the outskirts of Buffalo. He befriended one of his closest friends and mentors, Floyd Wallace, a hobo, a former boxer and a former soldier of fortune, and learned to ride the freights at a young age. Christy came to Canada in October of 1968, to evade the Viet Nam war draft, and was active in co-founding two shortlived underground press publications in Toronto. His first book concerned draft resisters in Canada. Christy became a Canadian citizen as soon as possible. While researching Rough Road to the North, he became fascinated by the life of Charles Eugene Bedaux, and subsequently wrote a biography called The Price of Power. Other outsiders who have struck Christy as heroes include a veteran carnival performer named Marcel Horne, jazz musician Charlie Leeds, leftist Emma Goldman and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton.

Jim Christy first came to Vancouver in December of 1981 to promote his novel Streethearts, and he has remained on the West Coast, adopting Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast as his home base. An artist, gardener, prolific freelance journalist and an ex-regular on American Bandstand, Christy has evolved his own "King of the Road" outsiderism into a cool-headed series of "noir" fiction featuring a tough-talking private detective in Vancouver named Gene Castle. The series opens in 1937 with Shanghai Alley and moves forward to 1939 in the second Gene Castle gumshoe mystery, Princess and Gore, a title drawn from two street names in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The third Castle mystery is Terminal Avenue, another title drawn from a street name. It features the bullet-eating detective searching for the kidnapped daughter of a Nazi resistance leader. The series culminated with Nine O'Clock Gun [see review below].

As a departure from his detective novel series, Christy published The Redemption of Anna Dupree, an unconventional love story and a "road novel" about an acid-tongued, elderly actress in her seventies who escapes to Mexico with Colin, a much younger employee of the Okanagan nursing home in which she lives. The protagonist, who formerly appeared in some British and American noir films in minor roles, has been described by reviewer John Moore as an unrepentant bad girl who is "guilty of no crime but her age in a culture that worships youth."

Christy has had his passport stamped in Central America, Greenland, Cambodia, Europe and Brazil. The locales for Christy's non-fiction collection entitled Between the Meridians include an annual convention of hobos in Britt, Iowa and the Honduran jungle where he searches for a Golden Madonna--plus memories set in Bogota, Soweto, Chiapas, Honduras, Rhodesia, New Zealand and Vienna. Other reminiscences introduce a local hit man, a stripper, a lesbian Mom, an aging Russian Count, two homosexual Indian brothers from the Yukon, named Byron and Shelley, and a lovelorn American tourist waiting 20 years for a Mexican gigolo.

Some hype is too good to overlook. According to Guernica Editions, "The poetry in Marimba Forever is concerned with love and longing, which the author displays in all their multifarious guises. Many of the poems can be regarded as small films: nourish, action, farce or slapstick; others call music to mind: a tenor saxophone improvising on a standard melody in the wee small hours just as the milk man is getting up and rubbing sleep from his eyes; a roadhouse honky-tonk hell-raiser; six gypsies with accordions and tubas on the back of a flatbed truck somewhere near Ploestki or a marimba orchestra in a tropical town square playing like they never want to stop while palm trees sway and lovers neck on the green benches."

In quick succession, Jim Christy published his 32nd book since 1972, The Big Thirst and other Doggone Poems (Ekstasis $23.95), followed by his 33rd, Rogues, Rascals, and Scalawags Too: Ne'er-Do-Wells Through the Ages (Anvil $20). Always in search of original characters and experiences, Jim Christy is a literary vagabond who has a follow-up volume to Scalawags: Rogues, Roustabouts, Wags & Scamps. The characters profiled for Ne'er-Do-Wells include Carolina Otero, Andre Malraux, Lord Timothy Dexter, Suzanne Valadon, William Hunt, Mata Hari, Emma Hamilton, Bata Kindai Amgoza.

[Also see Charles Bukowski entry.]


The New Refugees: American Voices in Canada, editor (Peter Martin Associates, 1972)
Beyond the Spectacle, essays (Aline Press, 1973)
Palatine Cat, poems (Four Humours Press, 1978)
Rough Road to the North, travel (Doubleday, 1980)
Streethearts, novel (Simon & Pierre, 1981)
Traveling Light, stories (Simon & Pierre, 1982)
The Price of Power, biography (Doubleday, 1983)
Flesh and Blood, (D&M, 1990)
Letter from the Khyber Pass, CD and intro (D&M, 1992)
Strange Sites: Uncommon Homes & Gardens of the Pacific Northwest (Harbour, 1995) with photographs by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward & Lionel Trudel & Felix Keskula
The Sunnyside of the Deathhouse, poetry (Ekstasis, 1996)
The BUK Book, Musings on Charles Bukowski, biography/appreciation (ECW, 1997) with photos by Claude Powell
Shanghai Alley, novel (Ekstasis, 1997)
The Long Slow Death of Jack Kerouac, biography/appreciation (ECW, 1998)
Junkman, stories (Ekstasis, 1998)
Between the Meridians, travel stories (Ekstasis, 1999)
Princess and Gore (Ekstasis, 2000)
Terminal Avenue (Ekstasis, 2002)
Tight Like That (Anvil, 2003)
The Redemption of Anna Dupree (Ekstasis, 2005)
Scalawags: Rogues, Roustabouts, Wags & Scamps (Anvil 2008)
Nine O'Clock Gun (Ekstasis, 2008). 978-1-897430-20-0
Marimba Forever (Guernica, 2010). Poetry. 978-1-55071-316-9 $20
Sweet Assorted: 118 Takes From a Tin Box (Anvil, 2012) 978-1-927380-05-5 $20
The Big Thirst and other Doggone Poems (Ekstasis 2014) $23.95 978-1-77171-073-2
Rogues, Rascals, and Scalawags Too: Ne'er-Do-Wells Through the Ages (Anvil 2015) $20 978-1-77214-017-0

CITY/TOWN: Gibsons, B.C.



AWARDS: One drama prize. National, Western, Webster Awards for journalism

BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS: "I've held many jobs in many parts of the world--a journalist in 1974 wrote that the list of jobs I've held would read like a parody of that kind of thing. And he wrote this when writers still took jobs instead of going to creative writing school. Ferryboat deckhand, Chesapeake Bay; Landscape worker, Yukon Territory; antiquities restorer, Mexico; free lance photographer, Vietnam, etc."

Ian Cutler wrote a biography of Christy:
Jim Christy: A Vagabond Life (Feral House 2019) $17.95 978-1-62731-074-1

[BCBW 2019] "Fiction" "Literary Biography" "Memoir"