Billy Byrne is a low class American born in Chicago’s ghetto. He grows up a thief and a mugger. “Billy was a mucker, a hoodlum, a gangster, a thug, a tough.” He is not chivalrous nor kind, and has only meager ethics – never giving evidence against a friend or leaving someone behind. He chooses a life of robbery and violence, disrespecting those who work for a living. He has a deep hatred for wealthy society. He trains as a prizefighter but can not stop drinking. When falsely accused of murder, he flees to San Francisco and is shanghaied aboard a ship. Ironically, enforced sobriety, brutal ship’s discipline and productive work improves him. The ship’s secret mission is soon enacted – the hijacking of a specific yacht to take a millionaire’s daughter, Barbara Harding, for ransom. Billy Byrne brutally beats her suitor, Billy Mallory, leaving him for dead. “He knew that she looked down upon him as an inferior being. She was of the class that addressed those in his walk of life as ‘my man.'” After Barbara confronts him and calls him a coward, a change begins in Billy Byrne. He saves the life of one kidnapper, Theriere, rather than letting him be washed overboard, though he cannot fathom his own reasons. After a terrible storm, the ship is damaged and only makes it to land with Billy’s help at the wheel. He rescues Barbara from the wreck and brings her ashore. Barbara is kidnapped by headhunters descended from medieval Japanese. Byrne and Theriere race to rescue her from the daimyo’s hut in the middle of the village, but Theriere is fatally wounded in the escape.
Reviewed in the United States on May 31, 2018
But, here is a hero that climbs from the cess pool of the lowest strata of human existence, to the pinnacle of human social behaviour. Billy Byrne is spawned in the inner city slums of Chicago. He survives his childhood by becoming a “Mucker.” A person with very few qualities that would pass in “Normal” or polite society.
It is interesting to note that Burroughs writings of inner city Chicago dovetail right into Sinclair Lewis’s writings in “THE JUNGLE “. Both were written looking at inner city Chicago at about the same time.
And yet, Billy lifts himself from the slime to become a shining example of what a MAN should be.
An excellent read, filled with action, adventure, cliff hanging moments, and it leaves you wanting to be a better person! I highly recommend this book.