Little Caesar by William R. Burnett

220px-LittleCaesarPSome people call Little Caesar the first modern crime novel. That may be. I read it for another reason: it was written in 1929 from the point of view of gangsters in Chicago, the site of my next mystery. I learned a lot I can use in my story.

What interested me most was the language. My story is set in 1924 and Little Caesar was written in 1929, but that’s close enough for me to rely on the language. Here are some phrases I’ll try to work into my narrative: 

*What’s the dirt?

*Hand the boy some dough and he’ll spill the news.

*swell people (for rich people)

*gangsters look down on “saps” and “softies”

*dame (I wasn’t sure this term was in use quite that early)

*She’s an up and up girl

*She’s the real thing

*a cup of Java


Edward_g_robinsonI also picked up a few tips on gangster clothing. One of the gangsters, Rico, was described as wearing a striped suit, “dead black with a narrow pink stripe. The color scheme was further complicated by a pale blue shirt and an orange and white striped tie adorned with a ruby pin.” Gives me some idea about how they dressed.

The book was made into a movie of the same name in 1931, starring Edward G. Robinson and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. I watched that too.

Published in: on January 30, 2016 at 8:49 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very interesting from your dear Dad!!

  2. Didn’t know this was also a book. I have to track it down 🙂

  3. If you are out and about, there’s a gangster museum I have been to in Hot Springs, Arkansas – The Gangster Museum of America. It’s a small but great museum. Hot Springs, Arkansas was a huge gangster hangout and is rich in history.

    • No kidding?!? I never knew that. Not that I’m passing through Arkansas any time soon, but you never know . . .

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