Dallas' Book Report: The Warriors by Sol Yurick (1965)

I should confess that I did not even know that the 1979 cult classic movie, The Warriors, was based upon a book. The Warriors movie was goofy and had an overall heroic tone to it. A gang of young rebels are caught in a gang war and framed as prime targets for the murder of a head honcho. The film is more of a wish-fulfillment for young men. The rough and tumble adventure where the misunderstood heroes get the girl, beat all odds, get the respect of their peers, and ultimately live happily ever after. 

Instead of power fantasies for young men, The Warriors novel is closer to the brutal reality of slum life and the subsequent gangs that sprout from such dangerous soil. I can see why the film took some significant liberties. The 1965 book written by Sol Yurick is more akin to a bloody crossover between A Clockwork Orange and Last Exit to Brooklyn. Well, maybe not as extreme as the latter—but you get the idea. Sure, there is the machismo posturing still present in the main leads. Yet, where the movie presented The Warriors (called The Coney Island Dominators in the book) as rogue heroes, the book knows better. The Dominators are broken kids, and calling them troubled youths is an understatement. Maybe it hit a little to close to home because I remember growing up around teens like that in the neighborhood of my childhood. 

Theft, brawling, murder, drug usage, prostitution, and gang rape are all acts that The Dominators observe or take partake in. Sol Yurick writes the destructive escapades with an amoral sense of observation. Still, it would also be a mistake that this book is all about sick kicks. Several parts of the novel were, in reality, not engaging. There were entire chapters dedicated to the inner workings of gang politics as well as discussions between The Dominators on subways. Unlike the film, the book takes a frank look at the problems of inner-city youth of New York—the hometown of Yurick. Where the author does shine is how well he paints a scene; the descriptive style—while at times dry—does lend itself making me taste the grime, blood, sweat, and most importantly, tears of New York City. The more I read, the more I understood why these gangs stuck together so much, like family; because their lives were so dismal that the thug life was all that was keeping them sane. If Yurick wanted me to feel helpless, then he did a good job. Especially with the ending. 

I won't spoil anything, but the ending is bleak. Very bleak. No triumphant battle cry of masculine joy or respect from fellow gang members—just the stories of sad children who have no hope in the future. Rarely this would happen, but this is one of those times when I like the film more than I do the book. I want to clarify that the book is well written and worth reading; it just felt like a slog at times to get through. 


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