Friday, August 15, 2014
Review of Little Caesar by W.R. Burnett (1929, Dial Press)
Little Caesar is considered to be the first American gangster novel, highly innovative for the time for its social realism in depicting how a gang was run and organised, their crimes and on-going struggles with the law. He subsequently converted the book into a screenplay and it was made into a movie (1931), also considered the first classic Gangster film. In total he wrote over 40 novels and the screenplays for over 50 movies. The plot for Little Caesar is very linear, telling the story of the rise and fall of a hardnosed, ambitious gangster, who quickly moves up the ranks due to his daring and ruthlessness. The prose and storytelling is tight and expressive, the pace kept high, and the reader is quickly hooked in through the action sequences punctuated by Rico’s manoeuvrings. The story lacks the depth and sophistication of later gangster tales, but is nonetheless an interesting and engaging read.