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Web of the City (Hard Case Crime) [Kindle Edition]

Harlan Ellison
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"Get it straight right now: these aren't kids playing games of war. They mean business. They are junior-grade killers and public enemies one through five thousand..."

In Rusty Santoro's neighborhood, the kids carry knives, chains, bricks. Broken glass.  And when they fight, they fight dirty, leaving the streets littered with the bodies of the injured and the dead.  Rusty wants out - but you can't just walk away from a New York street gang. And his decision may leave his family to pay a terrible price.  

First published more than half a century ago and inspired by the author's real-life experience going undercover inside a street gang, Web of the City was Harlan Ellison's first novel and marked the long-form debut of one of the most electrifying, unforgettable, and controversial voices of 20th century letters.  

Appearing here for the first time together with three thematically related short stories Ellison wrote for the pulp magazines of the 1950s, Web of the City offers both a snapshot of a lost era and a portrait of violence and grief as timely as today's most brutal headlines.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ellison’s long and award-winning career began with this novel originally titled Rumble and published in 1958 while he was an army private at Fort Knox. It’s the tale of a Puerto Rican kid, Rusty Santoro, who wants to quit his gang, the Cougars, and go straight. But, he finds, despite the tutelage of his kindly shop teacher, Pancoast (surely one of the odder character names in fiction), that quitting is easier said than done. This is a pitch-perfect piece of scare fiction, its tales of wanton youth surely frightening adults as much as it delighted would-be juvenile delinquents eager to learn the finer points of rumbles and knife fights. Does it merit a reprint? That depends on your tolerance for dialogue such as, “Look, don’t goof yaself” and “Lousy fuzz-lover!” In his introduction, Ellison tells how he wrote the book at night, during basic training, while sitting in the barracks bathroom with a typewriter resting on a plank across his knees. That, frankly, is the most interesting part of this story. --Keir Graff


"It’s hard to fathom that one of the most illustrious speculative-fiction writing careers—in addition to ten Hugos, Ellison has won so many other awards that even he probably can’t remember half of them—launched with this gangbanger tale in 1958. Ellison based the action on his own experiences in a Brooklyn gang. Along with Web, the volume includes three related gang stories—”No Game for Children,” “Stand Still and Die,” and “No Way Out.” More fodder for the argument that Ellison may have pioneered what we now call street lit. Classic cover art on this one, too. – Library Journal

“Take a look at Web of the City, you will be glad you did.” – Crimezine

“Hard Case has done an amazing job repackaging Web of the City with three additional tales of violence and dread.” – Bibliodiscoteque 

"It's a great read itself and even more fascinating when looked upon in the context of Ellison's hugely influential career." - Ain’t It Cool Holiday Gift Guide


Product Details

  • File Size: 400 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hard Case Crime; Reprint edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009MYA48I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #493,221 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HIS FIRST NOVEL June 25, 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
After reading this, it puzzles me why Harlan Ellison doesn't write more novels than he did. Especially considering that this is his first novel, he did an amazing job. Before I go on let me clear up one thing: this is a work of FICTION based on FACT. Harlan Ellison ran around with a group of Brooklyn gangsters for 10 weeks to get background for this story. And it shows. Parts of this book make the movie On the Waterfront with Marlan Brando seem tame. Basically it is the story of Rusty Santoro, President of a gang called the Cougars. But he feels that he can do better in life, so he drops out of his gang--they aren't too happy about it. And just as soon as he's about to break loose, he gets snared back in again. This is what Harlan Ellison means by The Web of the City. Harlan Ellison does everything well in this novel: from the distorted language of the lower class, to the atmosphere of the bad parts of town, and the types of people that live there. Although written in the 1958, this book reads as if it were written not too long ago. This book was first published as Rumble, but Web of the City is the title that Harlan gave it. I highly recommend this book, this author, and anything he writes.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ellison writes about his experiences in a gang. April 6, 1997
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Really cool stuff. As a very young writer, Ellison went undercover and joined a street gang as their "war counsellor". He spent a while living this life and then wrote this novel (also published as "Rumble") about it. Reading the book may feel a bit like watching "West Side Story" in its almost quaint depiction of 50's-era teenage life, but once you get past the dated lingo, it's a scary and heartfelt portrayal of very real people. The novel gives us some real insight into Ellison too, as he writes not only about the kids whose lives he describes but also about the ways in which those lives touch his, the decisions he must make during his time with them, and his discoveries about himself. As a story it's not his most neatly-crafted... but then, it's not a work of fiction
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real West Side Story June 11, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Harlan Ellison has been described (and he's personally agreed with the assessment that came from a dust jacket on one of his books) that he's possibly the most contentious person on Earth. But, wow! Can that boy write? Ellison is now only one candle shy of 80 and this book was first published in the early 1950's when he was dipping his toe into the street gang scene in NYC.

Web of The City is the real West Side Story without the singing and the dancing. Puerto Rican Rusty Santoro tries to leave his gang, the Cougars, and finds it's harder than getting off the AARP mailing list.

Fans of Ellison know that he can write with one hand tied behind his back but in this book it becomes apparent that the man had no learning curve. Back in the early `50s with this, his first published book, he hit the ground running with his bad-boy, hard hitting, in-your-face style of lit.

The realism he's crafted in Web of The City makes it a difficult read; the world of gangs is ugly and brutal. It' difficult to comprehend that this setting and chronology where Ellison has placed Rusty Santoro is in the hidden underbelly of America's Golden Age of Ozzie and Harriet. Read it and weep readers: I did.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It is the standard advice for novice writers: write what you know. Long before he was a famous and successful writer, Harlan Ellison took this advice at the age of 20 and went undercover for 10 weeks in a Brooklyn street gang to find material to write about. Taking the name Phil "Cheech" Beldone, he put both himself and his family in danger when he quit the gang.

The result of that experience was his first novel, WEB OF THE CITY, now back in print as a Hard Case Crime work after a long absence. And while Ellison is best known as a science fiction writer, having won 10 Hugo Awards, he has also written mysteries and won two Edgar Allan Poe Awards for his crime fiction.

WEB OF THE CITY is a terrific book, written in almost a documentary style and is filled with the claustrophobic fear of the urban jungle. Ellison's city is a place where there is no escape from poverty, hopelessness and violence. And interestingly, the book almost never made it into print. In an introduction, Ellison writes that he completed it while "undergoing the horrors of (Army) Ranger basic training" in 1957. He sold it to a paperback house, Lion Books, which then went out of business before releasing it, giving the young writer a good introduction to the perilous writing business. It would take another year for the book to come out with a new title the author did not choose, RUMBLE.

The title did not matter. Pulp readers in the 1950s witnessed the birth of a great writer. People often forget it now, but the pulps and cheap paperbacks in the 1950s and 1960s were the training grounds for many great writers, such as Ed McBain, Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Craig
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of the Hard Case Crime imprint (having read 47 of their books) and Harlan Ellison (having read 11 of his books), so I was very excited last year when HCC announced they were going to reprint his long out-of-print first novel Web of the City.

Harlan rather famously infiltrated a real-life Brooklyn street gang at the age of 21 to do research for several short stories and this novel. The result was perhaps some of the most authentic examples of juvenile delinquent pulp fiction ever written. (This was a short-lived sub-genre of the pulps, intended to excite younger readers and shock adults with lurid depictions of teenage violence.)

In addition to this novel, Ellison's street gang short stories were collected in The Deadly Streets (1958), Children of the Streets (1961), Gentleman Junkie and Other Stories of the Hung-Up Generation (1961). He also published a nonfiction autobiographical account of this time in his life, Memos from Purgatory (1961).

This book deserves recognition for jumpstarting the career of a writer who would later go on to revolutionize the field of science fiction, but the truth is it's not very good on its own merit. Ellison has always had a verbose, bombastic, and sometimes almost lyrical quality to his voice. It works great in high concept stories like "Repent, Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman" and "I Have Mouth & I Must Scream", but it fits neither the tone nor pacing of a suspense novel. The detective/mystery elements of the plot were handled amateurishly. While Ellison may have nailed the social aspects of 1950's street gangs, he clearly did not understand drug culture--the effects of narcotics, the economics of the trade, etc.

I would recommend this book only to hardcore Ellison fans who want to see how his career started.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Ellison's First Novel; Gang Brawls In The Fifties
Ellison candidly tells the reader in his prologue that this was his very first novel and that it is a little rough around the edges. He doesn't proclaim it to be his magnum opus. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Dave Wilde
2.0 out of 5 stars Not just bad Harlan Ellison, just plain bad
Like other reviewers, I am a big Harlan Ellison fan, but this book is derivative, unpleasant and cliched. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Aaron C. Brown
3.0 out of 5 stars Moderate enjoyment.
I could only give this book three stars. I tried hard to like it but it was difficult. It was a little rough in places and could have stood the service of a good proof-reader.
Published 11 months ago by Elvin Hughes
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Case Crime + Harlan Ellison=PERFECT!
As an avid reader/collector of all things Ellison, This was an easy sell! Nice to have a Trade sized Hard Case too. Read more
Published 12 months ago by A. C. bard
2.0 out of 5 stars Gonna' give it another try
First off: I LOVE, LOVE ELLISON. I've taught his "'Repent, Harlequin,' said the Tick-Tock Man" in all my college classes. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Elisabeth Altruda
5.0 out of 5 stars Nasty little 1950's Brooklyn street tale! Not to be overlooked.
This is my first Ellison novel and what a story it is! I've always been a big fan of the juvenile delinquent films of the 50/60's and this book plays out like one beautifully, but... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Joseph
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Ellison
I have been a big fan of Harlan Ellison and the Hard Case Crime books but never expected to find the two together. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Stephen V. Kempton
2.0 out of 5 stars Just doesn't work
Sorry Harlan, I tried to be patient; it just didn't work for me. Mostly the language that stopped me up, just didn't feel real.
Published 14 months ago by Jon Khoury
5.0 out of 5 stars Reprinted for Excellence
Rusty Santoro, ex-president of the Cougars, is having it rough. Real rough.

His shop teacher has been helping him break free of his gang. He is one strike from prison. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Erik N. Carlson
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