Thursday, 30 December 2010

Steampunk Review: The Gangs of New York

The Gangs of New York ( An informal history of the underworld) By Herbert Asbury,
First published in 1927. ISBN 0099436744

Showing the darker side of of New York's history, so much so that street names and places have been renamed, and corrupt Politicians and Police have been forgotten!
From 1838 up to 1925 with foot notes about the 1700's as well, full of colourful characters that New Yorkers have unnoticed for to long. Looking at the rise and fall of the district known as the 'Five Points' a dismal slum.

Charles Dickens who visited and chronicled his observations for publication in 'American Notes' wrote:-
“Let us go on again, and … plunge into the Five Points….We have seen no beggars in the streets by night or day, but of other kinds of strollers plenty. Poverty, wretchedness, and vice are rife enough where we are going now.

This is the place; these narrow ways, diverging to the right and left, and reeking everywhere with, dirt and filth. Such lives as are led here bear the same fruits here as elsewhere. The coarse and bloated faces at the doors have counterparts at home and all the wide world over. Debauchery has made the very houses prematurely old. See how the rotten beams are tumbling down, and how the patched and broken windows seem to scowl dimly, like eyes that have been hurt in drunken frays.”

White-chapel in London features in Charles Dickens's novels 'Oliver Twist' and 'Pickwick Papers' is upstaged by the 'Five Point' for its slum and villainy!

The Martin Scorsese film 'Gangs of New York' centres on only a small period of time around the American civil war Riots in New York, with a lot of characters based on real historical people.

The colourful history was by and large gained from the Newspapers of the time, and thus prone to sensationalism, but there is no getting away from the rottenness and vile depravity of New York's slums and their gangs with their political masters.

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