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Fictionalizing the escapades of an actual Victorian villain, Cashman plunges into 19th-century lower-middle-class smalltown British life with a Dickensian density of effects: his page is swollen with immediacy, vivid dialect, and the feel of the grain of existence under your finger palps. ""Kid Glove"" Charlie Peace was a burglar with a crippled hand (masked in a glove) who became the most legendary British criminal since Robin Hood. He was also an accomplished musician (who could stand on his head, blow the bugle, and balance Indian clubs with his feet), a dexterous maker of burgling tools and other handicrafts, and a master of disguises. We are introduced to him here disguised as a granny, his beard hidden, out robbing a rich neighbor so that his wife can buy a house, his brother a pub license--and his old mother needs a couple hundred marks too (he fences his swag in Hamburg). Charlie's main failing, aside from a strange incompetence as a burglar--he's always getting injured or losing his tools while accomplishing a vast number of thefts--is an eye for hefty ladies. This leads him into an adulterous affair with a new neighbor, who's a gin sot, and eventually to two murders. He bugles and bungles and boasts and at last he swings, on a knotted rope, but his name enters the language: in England a ""real peacer"" means a happy villain and dashing murderer. Creamy with the coke smoke of the daily life of a h'industrious burglar.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row