Thursday, September 30, 2010

James R. Tomlinson Interview: Part 1

A fellow leftie, James R. Tomlinson (also known as Jim Tomlinson and JR Tomlinson), author of Adopted Behaviors (Motor City Burning Press, 2010) and other works, graciously agreed to conduct a written interview recently. Part 2 will follow tomorrow, with hyperlinks.

Erik: Give us some background on your life.

Jim: I’m not sure where to begin. I made my first appearance in this world in 1963 at the Bad Axe Hospital in Michigan’s Thumb. I was breech born. I came into the world feet first. I’m not sure why this is important, but for some reason I feel it set my trajectory in life. Also, I’m what some people would call an “evil” left-hander. As for my childhood, I can’t complain. My father, an autoworker, taught me how to ride motorcycles and snowmobiles as well as how to handle a gun. I still have my 1978 “Successful Michigan Deer Hunter” patch. I’ll never forget the feeling of shooting something bigger than me. Sleet Magazine published a flash memoir of my first hunting experience under their Irregular section; it sums up my memories of those impressionable years. Susan Solomon, the editor, said it reminded her of Lionel Dahmer’s “A Father’s Story.” I’m just glad my days of killing wild animals didn’t escalate into something far worse.

As for my career, I never planned on being a prison educator. I believe an accumulation of small events led me to where I am today. My grandfather used to tell me stories about working with trustees at Jackson Prison’s old farm system, how the trustees would disappear for short stretches of time to get friendly with the animals. It’s always the abuse of animals and unsavory characters that I remember. I work with plenty of unsavory characters. There are days where, like Davy Rothbart (a former Michigan convict-teacher turned writer), I wish I’d made a clean break from the concertina-wires and gun towers. Nineteen years is a long time to teach the unteachables. I’d like to think of myself as a civilized father-figure giving advice to a bunch of Dexters, someone trying to teach convicts how to uncomplicate their lives, how to reconnect with their positive side. My teaching practices may be a bit unorthodox but how else do you teach a serial killer?

End Part 1.

Today's Rune: The Self.  RIP, Tony Curtis and Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde).


the walking man said...

Entering the world backwards somehow seems appropriate for the times we live in.

Charles Gramlich said...

Maybe a good idea to hit the world on your feet.

JR's Thumbprints said...

You will never catch me holding the gun.