A new anthology of American hobo writing edited by Melbourne historian Iain McIntyre will be launched on Sunday November 11th from 3pm to 6pm at the Old Bar (74-76 Johnston St, Fitzroy). The launch will feature readings from the collection as well as renditions of hobo songs from Melbourne musicians Van Walker, Jude Joseph and The Mad Mothers From Hell.  Entry is free and discounted copies of the book will be available.

On The Fly! Hobo Literature and Songs, 1879-1941 is published by Oakland’s PM Press and ranges beyond the enduring stereotypes of merry tramps and hopeless bums to bring forth the lost voices of American Hobohemia. From the 1870s through to the 1940s, hoboes played a crucial and largely neglected role in the creation of not only America’s infrastructure, industry, and agriculture but also its culture, politics, and music. Dozens of stories, poems, songs, and articles produced by hoboes are brought together in a 416 page collection to provide an insiders’ history of the subculture’s rise and fall. Adrenaline-charged tales of train hopping, political agitation and scams are combined with humorous and satirical songs, razor sharp reportage and unique insights into the lives of the millions of women and men who crisscrossed America in search of survival and adventure. This compendium is aided by a glossary of hobo vernacular and numerous illustrations and photos.

From iconic figures such as socialist novelist Jack London, Industrial Workers of the World songsmith Joe Hill and bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson through to little known musicians and correspondents for the likes of the Hobo News, the authors and songwriters contained in On the Fly! run the full gamut of Hobohemia’s wide cultural and geographical embrace. With little of the original memoirs, literature, and verse remaining in print, this collection provides a comprehensive and entertaining guide to the life and times of a uniquely American icon, one which became famous around the world. Dive into its pages to enter a world where hoboes, tramps, radicals, and bums gather in jungles, flop houses, and boxcars; where gandy dancers, bindlestiffs, and timber beasts roam the rails once more.

Sunday November 11th from 3pm to 6pm

The Old Bar (74-76 Johnston St, Fitzroy)

More details about the launch can be found here-

On the fly

Praise for On The Fly! Hobo Literature and Songs, 1879-1941:

“In an era when tent cities spring up in prosperous American metropolitan areas, the lives captured in On the Fly feel less comfortably distant than we might like. That is perhaps why the best of these classic accounts of ‘bumming around’ retain all their simmering anger and desperate optimism.”
Ernest Hilbert, The Washington Post, 24/7/2018

“On the Fly! is a brilliant introduction to the subject, and more than that, a moving tribute to the creativity of men and women at the margins of society.”
Paul Buhle, coeditor of Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World

 “A wonderful and definitive collection of hobo prose, poetry, and song. Iain McIntyre has painstakingly collected a rich array of hobo writing that together speaks to the rich and varied lives these itinerant travellers inhabited along the iron highway.” 
John Lennon, author of Boxcar Politics: The Hobo in U.S. Culture and Literature, 1869–1956

“On the Fly! gathers and reassembles forgotten fragments of a lost counterculture that was once so vast it practically defined the working-class experience in the United States. Its call was so alluring to young men of all classes that the hobo became the most commonly depicted character in American popular culture between 1900 and 1920. This collection represents the view from within, the stories and perspectives of those who lived the life of The Road, carrying its burdens and glorying in its freedoms. On the Fly! is indispensable for understanding not only the hobo life but also the on-the-ground history of our urban industrial order.” 
Todd DePastino, author of Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America




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