The Amboy Dukes


The Amboy Dukes by Irving Shulman

The Amboy Dukes, written by Irving Shulman, who went on to pen the novelization of West Side Story and the screenplay for Rebel without a Cause, is the quintessential novel of midcentury American juvenile  delinquency. The Amboy Dukes of the title are a gang of teenage toughs in Brooklyn who, while their parents  work long shifts in the defense plants, run amuck in the streets. The violence is exquisite.  

The main character is Frank Abbott, a decent young man who is led deeper and deeper into a web of reefer, booze, dames, zoot suits,  zip guns, and trouble.

Shulman takes a somewhat clinical and slightly superior tone, clearly intending this as a morality tale, designed to instruct and warn wayward youths and turn them into model citizens. Clearly, crime does not pay. War does, though.

The Amboy Dukes does do an excellent job of presenting accurately just how people lived in WWII-era Brooklyn, and how their lives were affected by the war. A tough and gritty book, It is a “gripping picture of a whole generation of boys and girls running wild.” Grade : A-

The book was first published in 1946, but my copy is a tattered Avon paperback reprint from 1949, a movie tie-in copy to City Across the River, the film version of the book.


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