Friday, November 13, 2015

Web Of The City!

Web of the City by Harlan Ellison is a surprisingly compelling read. I picked up this tome published by Hard Case Crime out of curiosity about what Ellison's style was like on his very first outing. I found a book brimming with energy and very stylistically fresh. Generally I appreciated Ellison's work, but sometimes he can leave me behind as the story meanders away from me. Not in this one.

First published in 1958 as Rumble, this is a short novel that looks unblinkingly at the juvenile delinquency problem which plagued U.S. cities in that decade. We meet Rusty Santoro, a former gang member who is trying to break away from his past ways. Ellison wrote this novel he says while stationed at Fort Benning  Georgia as a member of the U.S. Army. Ellison had previously gone stayed with street gangs to gather details for the story before his turn in the military.

Rusty though finds that leaving behind his old gang The Cougars, who don't seem yet to understand his desires for a world and a life outside the inner-city streets the gang all live on. Rusty is forced to fight or more bravely at times choose not to fight to try and  navigate through this dangerous world. There are adults in this story, and some seem to want the best for Rusty and his companions, but others are just using the gangs for profit. Rusty has to choose ultimately when tragedy strikes, but it's a choice rife with consequences.

I found as I read Web of the City that the violent world described by Ellison sounded not unlike the barbaric societies so eloquently imagined and described by Robert E. Howard. Rusty is no Conan by any means, but he is a lonely traveler ripe with his own conscience but willing ultimately to do what must be done.

Web of the City is a light read and I recommend it if only for the flavor of Ellison's language. The volume I read came with some short stories in the back, but to be honest I never got around to reading those. Maybe someday.

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