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Three Street by Will Stevens
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Three Street

by Will Stevens

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213,703,300 (3)5
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This was a fun book in a lot of ways. Will Stevens was an award-winning journalist for the San Francisco Examiner back in the 50s and 60s. This novel was published in 1962. It's a fable-like series of tales about the neighborhood around Third and Mission Streets in San Francisco, where the major newspaper offices, including the Examiner and the Chronicle, were located right up against the city's Skid Row. Stevens' tales are about a group of those Skid Row denizens, with some of the other neighborhood locals mixed in. These Skid Row folks are colorful, and all bear colorful monikers such as Windmill Willie, Loop the Loop Murphy and Friendless Alice. Collectively this group of friends has dubbed themselves The Happy Ones, because they have maintained their ability to laugh and enjoy life amidst the hopelessness and abandoned dreams of their daily lives.

Stevens was shooting for a Damon Runyonesque quality to his novel, clearly, but the book's weakness stems from his over-romanticizing of his characters. He speaks of their poor lot and, to a certain extent, the grimness of their lives, but on a scene-by-scene level that grimness rarely appears. We do not go with them to their tenement slums or bedrolls under highway bridges. We do not smell their unbathed grittiness and only rarely experience the real consequences of their alcoholism. As I said above, the book is more a collection of street-life fables than a real picture of down-and-out street life circa 1962. So one can see why the book has faded into obscurity (although, if we can believe the listings on Abebooks, collectible obscurity, at any rate).

Still, though, even with those reservations, the stories and characters are just loopy enough to be enjoyable, once a reader understands what is and isn't on offer. So I'm happy to have this book in my collection and glad to have read it.

Book note: I am one of only two LT members to have this book listed.

Here's an interesting article I found online about the book and its author:
https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Will-Stevens-One-of-the-great-ones-3111692.p... ( )
  rocketjk | Jun 16, 2018 |
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