Alfred Damon Runyon
(October 4, 1880 — December 10, 1946) was a newspaperman and writer.
He was best known for his short stories celebrating the world of Broadway in New York City that grew out of the Prohibition era. To New Yorkers of his generation, a "Damon Runyon character" evoked a distinctive social type from the Brooklyn or Midtown demi-monde. The adjective "Runyonesque" refers to this type of character as well as to the type of situations and dialog that Runyon depicted. He spun humorous tales of gamblers, hustlers, actors, and gangsters, few of whom go by "square" names, preferring instead colorful monikers such as "Nathan Detroit," "Benny Southstreet," "Big Jule," "Harry the Horse," "Good Time Charley," "Dave the Dude," or "The Seldom Seen Kid." Runyon wrote these stories in a distinctive vernacular style: a mixture of formal speech and colorful slang, almost always in present tense, and always devoid of contractions. A passage from "Tobias the Terrible", collected in More than Somewhat
(1937) illustrates Runyon's memorable prose:
If I have all the tears that are shed on Broadway by guys in love, I will have enough salt water to start an opposition ocean to the Atlantic and Pacific, with enough left over to run the Great Salt Lake out of business. But I wish to say I never shed any of these tears personally, because I am never in love, and furthermore, barring a bad break, I never expect to be in love, for the way I look at it love is strictly the old phedinkus, and I tell the little guy as much.
The musical Guys and Dolls
was based on two Runyon stories, "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure". The musical also takes characters and story elements from a few other Runyon stories, most notably "Pick The Winner." The film Little Miss Marker
(and its remake, Sorrowful Jones
) grew from his short story of the same name.
Runyon was also a newspaperman. He wrote the lead article for UP on Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Presidential inauguration in 1933.