DIGGER by Peter Burchard


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A bright idea, this--showing Boss Tweed's New York through the eyes of a tough, street-wise newsboy. Digger, ""king of the newsboys,"" admires Tweed but has split with Collins, a former Tweed henchman who still uses other newsboys to do his own dirty work. The story opens with a sail-loft fire at which Tweed makes an appearance, charging Digger with the care of a young girl who has escaped the building and then fainted. Digger takes Millie's care seriously, becomes attached to her, and also becomes involved with a New York Times reporter investigating the fire. Nosing about dangerously on the underside of the city, Digger discovers that the loft fire was set by one of Collins' boys in an unsuccessful attempt to kill a black manager there who had vowed revenge on Collins for a previous murder. (The sail manager escapes this time, but is killed later in a climactic confrontation on the docks.) As this suggests, the 19th-century setting is matched by a worn-down 19th-century approach to plot and character: tough Digger is all virtue, justice, and soft heart; Collins' target is equally upright and compassionate; their enemies are melodramatically nefarious; and the events are stage-managed accordingly. However, there is considerable appeal and color in the staging.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1981
Publisher: Putnam