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Author Josh Kelly Visits Shelby to Talk Jack Dempsey

Jack Dempsey fighting Jack Sharkey in 1927. (Central Press/Getty)

Back in 1921, not long after oil had started gushing from our northern Montana fields, real estate sales here in Shelby were declining, dimming our little town’s prospects of becoming the “Tulsa of the West.” Then the mayor’s son dreamed up a marketing ploy: offer to host heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey’s next fight.

What began as a publicity stunt soon spiraled into a civic drama unlike any Montana had ever seen, or would ever again.

Shelby’s Folly tells this story in full for the first time. Famous Chicago author Josh Kelly, an associate editor of the University of Chicago Magazine, will be here in Shelby this Sunday afternoon from 1 until 5 at the Marias Museum to discuss his book “Shelby’s Folly: Jack Dempsey, Doc Kearns, and the Shakedown of a Montana Boomtown”.

Kelly’s book is a GREAT read and he’ll be joining me  Friday afternoon at 4:30 on the Puffman Show. I read the book last year and enjoyed my first interview with Josh last year. Bill Kaufman from the Wall Street Journal says the book is “enjoyable…Mr. Kelly writes sympathetically, not mockingly, of Shelby, and he has a proper appreciation for the brazen roguery of Doc Kearns, whose greed and manipulativeness  made the fight possible — and doomed Shelby’s self-promotional hopes”.

It’s a marvelous read and truly resonates with all of us who live here in the Golden Triangle. “Shelby’s Folly” is a highly entertaining slice of American history using Jack Dempsey’s July 4, 1922 heavyweight title fight versus Tommy Gibbons as a backdrop for brazen American optimism, small town politics, and snake oil salesmanship.

Welcome to Shelby, Josh and we’re looking forward to hearing from you Friday afternoon on the Puffman Show and seeing you this Sunday afternoon at the Marias Museum from 1 until 5. I’m sure that Josh will bring some extra copies of the book for Sunday’s event at the museum.

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