Jailhouse Tattoo Billy Cook John Gilmore and Hard Luck, Two Fisted Writing NOT for the Faint (or Kindle)
Every picture tells a story, but this one didn't have one for me. I found it at a flea market. It is a small original glossy press photograph dated on the reverse 1951, with a brief note that the hand belonged to one William E. Cook. I never tried to find out who Mr. Cook was, nor why his apparent jail number was written in the margin of the photo. Obviously, his jailhouse tattoo had been embellished with a pen before publication to make the letters, and the drama, more clear...I knew I could find out who he was when I needed to.
Imagine my surprise a few years later coming across a different picture of THE SAME HAND in a book by John Gilmore! John Gilmore is one of those guys who seems to have been everywhere. I mean, everywhere. Name me anyone with a sleazy Hollywood connection from the last 50 years and I'll bet you Gilmore either met them at a party, slept with them or knew their murderer. He met Kerouac. He met Bettie Page. He met James Dean and may have even boffed him. He knew Hank Williams, Janis Joplin, Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Brigette Bardot, Jean Seberg and Jayne Mansfield. I can't even begin to describe him to you, but if you think James Ellroy is tough, if you thought Hunter S. Thompson had a pair, if you imagine Charles Bukowski let his hang low on the pavement and scrape it a bit with each step... get a load of Gilmore. There are a half-dozen books and I have read them all. Real books though...his work is too good and graphic for Kindle.
Gilmore's Wiki entry calls him a Gonzo Journalist. True, but you might find his official website a bit more entertaining. This is some dark stuff, my friends. Be fearless...Gilmore is.
By the way, the hand gets its own page on Gilmore's site, it was indeed Billy Cook's claw and he was a no good drifter. The site has an excerpt...and leads you to Gilmore's other books. You are warned.
Anonymous Press Photograph, embellished by hand, 1951 Collection Jim Linderman