Monday, July 12, 2010

Police Blotter: A Brief Census of Herbert Asbury's America

 First edition, 1940.

Yeah, I read da books: The French Quarter, Gem of the Prairie, The Gangs of New York, The Barbary Coast.  Dis guy, Herbert Asbury, poked around where no one else had the brass. He went back to the old days - my days - and into the shadows.  Talked about dem in dat ol' gang o'mine; jeez, what a parade o' personalities.  It wuz a time when and a world where  a person's name told you a thing or two. I knew 'em all; we wuz friends. I raise a glass and toast to Auld Ang Syne; dese old acquaintances won't be forgot.

First edition, 1933.

Oh, there wuz Big Louise, Big Matilda, Big Lotta, Big Maud, Big Nellie, Big Mary,  Big Jack Zelig, an' Big Nose Bunker; Kate Bunty, Calico Jim, Chew Tin Gop; Dutch Emma, Italian Dave, Dago Frank,  English Jim, London Izzy Lazarus, an' Irish Annie Davis; The Girl in Blue, Happy Hooligan, Shanghai Kelly, Nymphia, One Year Tim, Oofty Goofty Gus, Pigeon-Toed Sal, Rotary Rosie; Spanish Kitty, Spanish Johnny, an' Spanish Louie; Steam-Schooner Ruby, Three-Fingered Jack, Battle Annie, Yakey-Yake Brady, Gold Mine Jimmy, an' Hell Cat Maggie; Kid Dropper, Kid Twist, Kid Jigger, Kid Dahl, Kid Glove Rosie, an' The Lobster Kid; Monk Eastman,  Circular Jack,  an' Crazy Butch; Red Phil Davidson, an' Red Rocks Farrell; Ding Dong, Hinky Dink, an' Dandy Johnny Dolan.

Gangs of New York. First edition, 1928.

An' there wuz Little Annie, Little Augie, Little Kishky, Little Rhody, an' Little Patsy Doyle; Banjo Pete, Dopey Bennie Fein, Mag Gallus,  an' Breezy Garrity; Jane the Grabber, Lizzie the Dove, Gyp the Blood, Ike the Plug, Ike the Blood, Patsy the Barber, Ida the Goose, Sadie the Goat, Harry the Soldier, Louie the Lump, Jack the Rat, Joe the Greaser, Bill the Butcher, Paddy the Bear, Sweeney the Boy, Cora the Blonde, Charley the Cripple, Benny the Dip, an' Johnny the Mick; Itsky Joe Hickman, Silver Dollar Smith, Hoochy-Coochie Mary, an' Hungry Joe Lewis. 

First edition, 1936.

Yeah, an' there wuz Humpty Jackson,  Jewbach, Bathhouse John, Sheeny Mike Kurtz, Scotchy Lavelle, Pickles Laydon,   Cyclone Louie,  an' Lefty Lewis Rosenberg; Blind Mahoney, Bum Mahoney, Stumpy Malarkey, Dinny Meehan, One-Armed Charley  Monell, an' Happy Jack Mulraney; Nigger Ruhl, Nigger Mike Salter, an' Nigger Benny Snyder; Nellie Noonan, Old Mother Hubbard, Lottie "Queen of the Cokies" Hustion, Queen Liz, an' Eugene "King of the Cokies" Hustion;  there wuz Beanie Rosenthal, Greedy Jack Rand, Chick Tricker, Mush Riley, Rags Riley, Razor Riley,  Piker Ryan, Rubber Shaw, Sassy Sam, Tommy Shay, Terrible John, an' Slobbery Jim.

 First edition in paperback, 1950. Avon 263.

Jeez, I miss 'em.  Whuda cast o' characters.

I'm Stosh Gershowitz. But my friends call me Readin' Steve, the Ball-Bearin' Hebe, on account of I once clipped a kid of his Spaldeen right smack in fronta his mother while I wuz perusin' a book at da time. Da mom musta thought I wuz a student, a solid citizen. I wuz. I wuz a student at Onthestreet U.  Got my diploma in The Big Con. 

First edition in paperback, 1962. Ace K-148.

I'm  with Goldman Sachs, now. Feel right at home. There's Mortgage Macher Mike,  Brass Balls Billy Malone, Sub-Prime Pete,  Big Bubble Bob,  Speculator Jones, Arbitrage Arnie,  Dandy Dan Derivatives, Sinkin' Dollar Dave, Kid Quant, Eddie the Gyp Econ, Moe the  Market-maker, an' Slimeball Sammy Sell-Short... These guys; jeez, I thought I knew all the angles. I'm tellin' ya, I'm in grad school.

ASBURY, Herbert. The Gangs of New York. An Informal History of the Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928. Octavo. xviii, 382 pp.

ASBURY, Herbert. The Barbary Coast. An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1933. Octavo. 319, xi pp.
ASBURY, Herbert. The French Quarter. An Informal History of the French Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1936. Octavo. 462, xvi pp.

ASBURY, Herbert. Gem of the Prairie. An Informal History of the Chicago Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1940. Octavo. 377, xix pp. Reprinted as Gangs of Chicago.

All names are real, and found in the books.

Image of Gangs of New York courtesy of Between the Covers. Image of The French Quarter courtesy of Madame Talbot.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe to BOOKTRYST by Email