Jack Black (author)


Jack Black (1871-1932) was a late-19th-century/early-20th-century hobo and professional burglar. Born in 1871 near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, he was raised from infancy in the U.S. state of Missouri. He wrote You Can't Win a memoir or sketched autobiography describing his days on the road and life as an outlaw. He gained fame through association with William S. Burroughs and his writings had a profound effect on the writings and lives of all the Beat Generation.


  • Your capable beggar on the street does not say "please." He rips off his spiel in such exact and precise language that he gets your dime without it. You so admire his "art" that you do not miss the "please" because he knows you do not use it except when you want the mustard.
    • Chapter Two
  • To say I was shocked, stunned, or humiliated on entering the penitentiary would not be the truth. It would not be true in nine cases out of any ten. It would be true if a man were picked up on the street and taken directly to a penitentiary, but that isn't done He is first thrown into a dirty, lousy, foul-smelling cell in some city prison, sometimes with an awful beating in the bargain, and after two or three days of that nothing in the world can chock, stun, or humiliate him. He is actually happy to get removed to a county jail where he can perhaps get rid of the vermin and wash his body. By that time, convicted, and sentenced, he has learned from other prisoners just what the penitentiary is like and just what to do and what to expect. You start doing time the minute the handcuffs are on your wrists. The first day you are locked up is the hardest, and the last day the easiest. There comes a feeling of helplessness when the prison gates wallow you up - cut you off from the sunshine and flowers out in the world - but that feeling soon wears away if you have guts. Some men despair. I am sure I did not.
    • Chapter Nine
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