Benjamin Appel has been writing about the heyday of Hell's Kitchen since his Brain Guy was widely acclaimed in 1934, and he continues here in that tough/ sentimental vein, pitting four ""toity-eighth street"" kids, who happen to be non-Irish in a solidly ""mick"" neighborhood, against a voracious gang culture that threatens to swallow them whole. Georgie, a little guy too smart for his own good, and his stolid follower Dutch graduate from street fights to speakeasy wars; Angle, the quietest, slips imperceptibly into his father's shoemaking business; and Paulie Bolkonsky, once the scrappiest, survives to become a kind of saint, supporting his cancer-ridden mother by working at three jobs and courting Angie's beautiful sister, a nice girl in a milieu that enforces sharp distinction between that and ""the other kind."" All four boys are scarcely more than genre portraits--especially Dutch, whose life is bracketed between a rooftop confrontation with ""de bastids"" over some peppermints and his death, years later, in a shootout on yet another tenement roof. Unfortunately, there's nothing dated about the boys' discovery that crime is the only convenient outlet for their intelligence. And however dated the sensibility, Appel's view of a period when only the nationalities and the mores of street life differed has the texture and kitchen table humor to make his tenement tragedy a full-bodied indulgence.