Web of the City was the first book written by Harlan Ellison. He began writing the story in 1956 and it was originally published in 1958 under the title, Rumble. Web of the City has now been republished by Hard Case Crime with an introduction by Harlan Ellison himself and three previously published short stories by Ellison: “No Way Out” (originally published as “Gutter Gang”), “No Game for Children”, and “Stand Still and Die!”Web of the City is about 17-year-old Rusty Santoro. Rusty was “Prez” of the Cougars for three years, but now he wants out of the gang. However, as the new Prez Candle says, “Nobody checks out on the gang, y’unnerstand?” Trying to leave the gang life behind turns out to be only the start of Rusty’s troubles. Tragedy strikes and Rusty is forced to turn to the familiar streets of New York City for answers. And revenge.
The first short story in the book, “No Way Out,” also follows Rusty’s exit from the gang. Only, this time the story has a very different ending. My personal favorite of the three short stories is “No Game for Children” which tells the story of a meek professor who has to deal with being terrorized by his teenage punk of a neighbor. The final short story, “Stand Still and Die!” is about a cab driver who learns that no good deed goes unpunished when he tries to help a man who is being beaten to death by a group of teenage thugs.
Ellison’s writing is dark, gritty, extremely violent, and beautifully poetic in a way that you don’t find in writing today. Ellison is truly a master storyteller and his use of metaphor rivals that Percy Bysshe Shelley. As someone who knows nothing about street gangs or New York in the 1950s (other than what I have seen in movies), I found the stories to be absolutely captivating. I also found myself falling in love with the slang used by the teenage heathens in these stories. Inside my head, I will from now on refer to girls as “debs.” I highly recommend that you go out and buy this book. Or, better yet, just click here.
Rating: 5 out of 5 juvenile delinquents
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