Kirkus Star


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Sparkling Runyon short-story selection, featuring the guys and dolls of Broadway in the late Twenties and Thirties, with two tales from the Forties. In all, the Runyon ear for cynical Broadway wisdom is in top form, though readers must reaccustom themselves to lightweight plots fit for a musical comedy or The Saturday Evening Post (Runyon's stories, of course, are the basis for the Swerling-Burrows-Loesser classic, Guys and Dolls). ""It is only human nature to be deeply interested in larceny,"" muses one Runyon narrator, probably thinking of Mafia king Frank Costello, lightly disguised as Dave the Dude, or of other fabled Broadway gamblers, burglars, reporters, horseplayers and their dolls (usually chorines). Among such figures as these, many of them better known by their real names along the Great White Way, is Waldo Winchester--Runyon's newspaper buddy Walter Winchell. (As for the chorines, they are usually outfitted in barely enough costume ""to make a pad for a crutch."") Of the 20 stories here, the standouts are the title piece, plus ""Butch Minds the Baby"" (Butch being a safecracker who takes the baby along on one job only to find baby gnawing on the cork to his nitro); ""Little Miss Marker"" (the Shirley Temple tear-jerker); and ""The Melancholy Dane,"" in which Mansfield Sothern, panned mercilessly on Broadway for his Hamlet, gets back at his critic, Ambrose Hammer, when Hammer is wounded in North Africa as a war correspondent and Mansfield discovers him bleeding on the battlefield. ""Does it hurt?"" Mansfield asks. ""Are you suffering greatly? . . .Hammer. . .are you really in great pain? . . .Hammer, all my professional life, I am hoping to one day see a dramatic critic suffer, and you have no idea what pleasure you are now giving me, but I think it only fair for you to suffer out loud with groans and one thing and another."" A sweet, sweet companion to The Bloodhounds of Broadway.

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 1985
Publisher: Beech Tree/Morrow