THE LOST WORLD by Edwin McDowell


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With a nod to Conan Doyle's classic adventure tale, New York Times reporter McDowell (To Keep Our Honor Clean, 1980) spins a sentimental yam of a modern-day Prof. Challenger exploring the weird fauna of New York's Times Square. McDowell's hero is a middle-aged newspaperman rather than a scientist, and the beasts he encounters are human rather than dinosaur; but the dangers Alex Shaw faces as he researches his column on Gotham's urban jungle for the fictional Free Press weekly are every bit as fierce as those that Challenger met in the primeval South American jungle. It's his being mugged by a wolf pack of homeless boys, in fact, that propels Shaw into the colorful but predictable events of this slim novel. Incensed at the theft of his wallet, Shaw tracks down one of the culprits, Dingo; an appealing if foulmouthed waif, Dingo snares Shaw's heart--especially when the reporter learns that the kid is helping poor black southern preacher Rev. Willis Robeson track down his teen grandson Noah, vanished into Times Square. Can Shaw and young colleague/ lover Jill save Dingo from being flushed down the Times Square sewer--or retrieve the missing Noah? Not in McDowell's three-hankie world; but before Dingo gets his, the two reporters walk down some vividly detailed mean streets (""chicken hawks propositioning their youthful prey in video arcades""); moralize about live sex shows, the Mob's grip on Times Square, and the plight of the area's kids; tangle with a host of bizarre locals--including Dingo's addicted, prostitute mom; her gold-toothed pimp; a street photographer whose work Shaw promotes; two street-wise cops; and an army of beggars, slashers, crack smokers, transvestites, and miscreants. McDowell's rampant good intentions--save the kids!--sugarcoat and smother what should have been, with his canny grasp on the Times Square nether-life, a forceful indictment. Still, a snappily paced if contrived read and a grittily accurate tour of an urban hell.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's