Mostly my musings on things vintage hardboiled and noir, literary and filmic and other things that take my fancy. Down these mean streets this man must go...

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Juvies by Harlan Ellison (Ace D-513)

A strong collection of JD short stories culled from increasingly elusive 1950s magazines or crime digests like Trapped, Terror, Guilty and Web Detective Stories, with the introduction, Ten Weeks In Hell, being the only original writing.

All nine of the stories deal with the 50s sociological phenomenon of the juvenile delinquent, male or female (such individuals had previously existed, but this was the decade they were first labelled as such). All of the stories are stark and realistic in their depictions of blighted social backdrops, ritualistic gang violence and bleak moral outlooks. The gang violence, with its reliance on switchblades, home-made zip-guns or bricks is conveyed with a verisimilitude that places you in the heart of the action, something that Ellison's punchy prose has already drawn you into.

The story Matinee Idyll (which originally appeared as Rock And Roll - And Murder in Trapped Detective Story Magazine in December 1958) is essentially a dry run for Ellison's later Gold Medal original novel Rockabilly and features the same protagonist, but most of the tales will only be familiar to collectors of the increasingly obscure and tough to come by digests in which they first appeared. All of them are recommended both to the author's fans and JD fiction fans alike, although this edition is seemingly as elusive as some of  the original publications in which the stories first appeared.

VERDICT: Gangtastic!

AFTERWORD: I wish I'd reviewed each story rather than just written this seemingly hasty overview. However, this means I'm more tempted to go back and read the stories again, and this shouldn't be too much of a chore as I clearly enjoyed them first time around. Since I wrote this review several years ago, this collection has been reprinted as Children of the Streets (London: Severn House, 2004). Cheap used copies of the Severn House reprint are currently readily available from the likes of Amazon and other sellers at the time of writing, and they will certainly be far cheaper than any copies of the still somewhat elusive paperback original.

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