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The Amboy Dukes Hardcover – March 30, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Buccaneer Books (March 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568497350
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568497358
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,132,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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1st book I ever read.
Pauline Wildman
That however neglects the many dimensions to the book, including some very fine writing by the author.
Douglas Doepke
Kids who took the book to school had it confiscated by the faculty.
Jim Cain

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Doepke on June 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
In 1945, teenagers were visible as individuals but not as a group. The subculture would come later, with rock and roll, Elvis, and portable radios. Meanwhile there was a depression to work through and a big war to win. Small wonder that kids of that era passed quickly from adolescence to adulthood with hardly time for a coke along the way. The Amboy Dukes is a milestone youth novel of that era. Though not as self-consciously literary as its middle-class competitor Catcher in the Rye, Dukes vividly dramatizes urban despair in a crowded working-class precinct of New York City, and its effect on the Jewish youth gangs spawned there. It was then and remains a classically gritty tale of modern America.
Because Shulman portrays the sexual escapades and pot smoking in candid fashion, it's easy for critics to stigmatize Dukes as a trashy novel. That however neglects the many dimensions to the book, including some very fine writing by the author. Instead, I take it as an honest depiction of what Shulman knew and chose to set out in unusually forceful and unpatronizing terms. Coveted by teenagers of the time for its daring assault on censorship, the language and events may seem tame compared with today's non-existent standards. Yet Shulman's characters and their dramatic narrative remain as fresh and timely as ever, the murder of the teacher standing, in retrospect, as an opening shot in the youth rebellion to come. Substitute Latino or Black for the Jewish Dukes, add a level of drug trafficking, and the story (including the awful conditions that spawned them) remains essentially unchanged from then to now.
Also, author Shulman goes into vivid detail describing the youth fashions and moral behavior of the day, or what kids then considered 'cool'.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jim Cain on July 26, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was in junior high school outside New York City when this book made the rounds. (I'm now in my early 70's.) It was a paperback with a racy cover. The word was out in my school: "Wow, this is a great, dirty book." In those days, even George Orwell's "1984" was considered on the border of being racy; so obviously, times were far different then. Kids who got the book (including me) kept it hidden from their parents. I think there may even have been allegations that there was some communist conspiracy behind the book, because it showed the gritty and harsh world of youth gangs in New York--not a flattering picture of America. And it ended tragically. (In those days of the McCarthy hearings and blacklisting, anything that showed anything American in a bad light was believed to somehow be mixed up in communism--at least that's my recollection today of the way things were then.) I still remember, 60 years later, the horrifying last paragraph of the book--but will not divulge it here in case some plan to read the novel.

I kept my copy hidden in my closet, always fearful that my parents might discover it and raise hell with me for reading such "smut." Kids who took the book to school had it confiscated by the faculty. That fact alone increased the desirability of the book--much as the old 'banned by the Catholic Church' or 'banned in Boston' boosted sales of novels and movie tickets.

Amboy Dukes appealed to the sexual interests of we then-adolescent boys who read it. The characters routinely "felt up" their girlfriends and occasionally had sex--much as we hoped to do when we were a little older.

Of course, the social implications were lost on most of us kids. We were more interested in the sexual capers of these 1940's gangbangers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Videonut on February 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Douglas Doepke did a great job with his concise review. Another reviewer feels the book is outdated. This is clearly a mistake, because the only thing that really changes from one generation to the next are clothing styles and slang. I personally grew up with a similar bunch of thugs in the Bronx during the sixties, and just about every incident mentioned in the Amboy Dukes was replayed at least once. The locations and clothing styles may have been different, but all else remained the same. This book is a must for anyone interested in learning what it's really like to be an urban Juvenile Delinquent.

The Amboy Dukes was also made into a movie (City Across the River), which was Tony Curtis' first major role.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pauline Wildman on February 28, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
1st book I ever read. This started my reading experience. I am 79 years old and still reading anything I can get my hands on. My favorite past time..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Crown Heights Kid on March 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book, author Irving Shulman shows himself to be quite an adept and capable story-teller. He definitely captures and conveys the flavor of Brownsville, the gritty East Brooklyn neighborhood where his story takes place, He writes in such a way so as to grab and hold the reader's attention. What is more, I must say that the book has a powerful tragic, surprise ending (that it would be wrong and unfair for me to give away). The Amboy Dukes come across as decent, average kids who were destroyed by the horrible neighborhood they had to live in.

Having grown up in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, not far from Brownsville, where the story takes place, I must say that author Shulman very much captures and conveys the atmosphere of 1950s Brownsville. I believe this story has the makings of a good movie. I therefore would highly recommend it, as it really stays with you!
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