Run, Chico, RunBy: Brown, Wenzell (male)
Publisher: Fawcett Publications, Inc. (Gold Medal Books - 292)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 457: PS3552 .R736 R85 1953
Contributor: D. DiLandro
GeneralEra: 1950s Author as on Cover: Wenzell Brown Geographic Locale: New York City, specifically "Little Spain," Harlem, and the glitzy world of Manhattan, like 5th Avenue (usually from afar or in the mind) Date of Publication: 1953 ¬†|¬† Original Date: 1953 Setting: urban; ghetto atmosphere of Little Spain, Chico's block; some action occurs in Harlem, but the descriptions are always the same: except for the seedy (but shiny) clubs, Harlem is colored in the same depressing, desperate description as Little Spain. One scene occurs in Sylvia Coe's 5th Avenue apartment. While described in terms of the abundance of riches, Sylvia herself is terrible. Other scenes occur in court, but the action really occurs in Chico's mind -- no real description of the scene is given. Motives: gangland crimes; murder, attempted murder, robbery
Francisco Echeandea, "Chico", is a good boy in a bad neighborhood. Growing up in Little Spain, Chico falls under the influence of his father and his peers, involving himself in drug running and petty crime. Soon, his criminal activities land Chico in reform school. Four years later, Chico re-emerges, at odds with himself over the split he feels between Chico and "Frankie Evans" -- a name that Chico feels will separate him from his past, glorifying himself as a real criminal. Searching for Dolores, who had been his blooming love, and her mysterious friend Brad, leads Chico further away from the sophisticated life he longs for and deeper into the dismal world of crime, drugs, and the Mafia. Chico accidentally kills Brad and is sentenced to death. Ultimately, Chico discovers that he always was and always will be Chico -- a scared little boy who "always ran."
Francisco Echeandea "Chico"/"Frankie Evans", adolescent Hispanic male, ages from 14 to 18 during the course of the novel; physically described in rather vague and generic Hispanic-esque characteristics; petty criminal attempting to break into the big time of the Mob; paradoxically he wants to be genteelly wealthy and play the piano
Sylvia Coe adult female, perhaps 45 or 50 years old, superficially pretty but well past her prime; heavy make-up; one of Chico's drug customers, she is murdered during a robbery gone bad
Oscar Echeandea "Oscar Evans", adult Hispanic male, Chico's father, physically past his prime, older, fat, suffering from dissolution brought on by too much drinking, using, and whoring; part-time dancer who uses this to pick up women and rob/sleep with them; drug pusher
Dolores Amapoy adolescent Hispanic female, small, beautiful, dark eyes, long hair; at first a tool in her brother's bait and switch (barging in on Delores and her john, telling him that she's a minor, he better pay up etc.; the "badger game"); she is rescued by the mysterious Brad, but after Chico's release from reform school, returns as a broken down drug addict
Henry Bradfield "Brad", adult male, middle-aged, high cheekbones, thin jaw, sallow skin, good dresser; World War II veteran whose daughter died from a drug overdose; he is determined to find and destroy "Mr. A" -- the prime mover of the Mafia/drug world
Loco (Lopez?) adult Hispanic male, young, petty drug pusher and hood, involved with Oscar and Chico in the Coe murder; shot while attempting to flee
Tomas Perez adult Hispanic male, perhaps 20-ish; general Latino-ish physical description (even fewer here than with Loco); member of the Banditos
Buck Shadu adult male, African-American, 20s, member (or perhaps leader) of the Purple Knights; very dark, muscular; shot by Loco, then attacked by the Banditos, finally he joins Dondero
Charlie Dondero adult Italian-American male, 20s, black, wavy hair; olive skin, slow drawl of a voice; wears "smooth" clothes "that look like Park Avenue"; leader of the Lazy Gents, an Italian clique with growing ties to the Mob
Pinky no surname; adult male, middle-aged, little, rounded shoulders, heavy eyebrows, puckered lips; musician and customer of Oscar's; Chico is enamored of Pinky's piano-playing
guns, knives ("shivs") broken beer bottle, fists
Level of Violence
described in rather bleak terms; no real enjoyment of any type. Chico generally explains it in "it-had-to-be-done" terms or with a real sense of fear that he wants to overcome. Though violence is frequently implied, actual physical confrontation is relatively rare. Violence is often shown in terms of cowardice.
no actual sex is depicted; sex is implied but not shown. There seems to exist a division between "sex" and "making love". Chico's relationship with Dolores is indicative of the latter, but other sexual relations are implied to be of a more base variety.
traditional; women are all essentially molls. While Ylla has a more glamorous job as a singer, she is still merely occupying the lowest status in gangland; Pitcher and Lucy are "kept women". Men are always at the mercy of someone else too: gangland is headed by the mysterious and ultimately unknown "Mr. A." All these traditional roles are seen as corrupt and corrupted. Sexist attitudes are evident. Phrases such as "fag", "fruity voices" and "queen" are used to describe Farnsworth Ebbets, a male homosexual.
three main ethnic groups: Puerto Rican -- everyday activities on Chico's block enforce the stereotype of crowded, filthy living; Italians are referred to as "wops" and "dago punks" by the Banditos when discussions are underway to merge the Puerto Rican and Italian gangs. Chico is impressed by the "smooth" Mafia don look of Charlie Dondero. African-Americans are "Negroes", "coloreds", and "colored cats" who can "boogie", but there is little overt racism directed at them. A fourth class of ethnicity is a sort of superficial Anglo-ism -- for instance, Oscar insists that the use of Evans as a surname is more conducive to getting on in the world because it is obviously non-ethnic
while alcohol is consumed mainly in bars, drug use is widespread, but drugs are regarded with a fairly blasť air; heroin is played for higher stakes, but is, really, the same old thing. Terminology includes "bombers', "a load of tea", "H", "horse" and "dream-stuff". It is heroin's fatal impact on his daughter that goads Brad to action, and it is ostensibly heroin that hooks Dolores.
the only real point of contact between Chico and anything other than generic "nabs" is Joe Lo Prese -- a bad cop who Chico is advised to approach after the botched Coe robbery. Chico is told that Lo Prese will look out for him, and make sure nothing happens to him in jail before Rodney Heald, the lawyer, gets to Chico. Elsewhere, the court system is twice depicted (after the Coe and Brad killings), but these are scantily described. Generic "nabs" tend to cause trouble for Chico and the Banditos/mobsters, but they are generally little trouble.
the narrative follows a time line usual for the genre; opening courtroom scene (meant to grab the reader) followed by flashbacks describing how the character got there, presented in linear time and heavy on the physical action. The novel paints everyone in rather horrid ways. There really is no good, and there is no point to being good. The best characters all become victims of society, but the most glamorous characters are little more than bureaucrats, always dominated by superiors as well. Extensive use of slang: "load of charge on; only then you felt five miles high", "trims," "twists," "tea ride," "muggles," "nabs," "flattie," "jap" (squealer), -- all of these are employed often. "Fag" is a cigarette and a male homosexual. The use adds to the atmosphere, but is employed in a rather frenzied manner.
Gangs/ New York (N.Y.) - Harlem/ Heroin/ Drug Addiction/ Poverty/ Adolescence/ Mafia/ Italian Americans/ Puerto Ricans - New York (N.Y.)/ Juvenile Delinquency/ Crime and Criminals
adolescent insecurity as Chico attempts to find himself and define his role in the world, making a break with childish, past behaviors and trying to discover his independence. Chico's awful environment and his terrible father, as well as the assertion that things might have been different if he "had a father like Brad" might be role modeling, or a "children live what they learn" motif. Psychologically, all the characters seem compromised, if not totally bankrupt; the only real emotion occurs at the end, when Chico realizes that he is only Chico, that he can't be something he's not. In the world of the novel, a Hispanic cannot be anything other than a Hispanic -- even if he has a name "that sounded American", and a human can't be anything other than corrupted.