James John Magner

Author • Artist • Columnist

A Haunting Beauty

John Dillinger and Geronimo

The Dead Man on the Corner

Jim Magner draws you deep into his conflicting worlds, artist and soldier, with crisp writing and a look at combat that fascinates, elates, and, at times, stuns. For the young lieutenant, Nam was where the action was—the ultimate test. For the passionate artist, war was destruction and death.

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It’s 1953 in Tucson. I follow the stories and tall tales of an old man into the Arizona past—the 1890s—to the toughest hombres of the Old West. I drop in on 1934 and Tucson’s much celebrated visit by John Dillinger, Public Enemy #1. Then back to the 50s and a war with the crooked Highway Patrol captain. The Sky Pirates, the raucous and rowdy neighborhood kids, dig their way into the action.


I invite you join me in revisiting a mere blink of time that was, as scholars say, my formative years. The early 1950s in Tucson. This is life as it really was for the neighborhood rowdies, the Sky Pirates. They take on the local hoodlums and it’s all because of the mysterious dead man on the corner. An ancient Apache digs up his father’s grave in Washington, DC to find out if his father really died of pneumonia. It all comes together in the night around a dilapidated chicken coop.


A decorated Vietnam vet, Jim Magner is a writer of novels and plays. He has been the author of a popular art column, “Art and the City,” for the “Hill Rag,” a Capitol Hill, DC paper since 2002. 

He is also a painter with works in private, corporate and government collections. He has won numerous national awards for both painting and creative writing, including a gold medal for his painting “Children in Vietnam” in the Veterans Administration’s annual Creative Arts Festival. 

Additionally, he has been a legislative assistant to a US senator, a government relations consultant and a teacher.