I think if it were told by anyone else, this story could’ve been pretty damn dreary. But Alan Parker turns out to be a hell of a good author (of course, he wrote the screenplays for a few of his movies, but he’s better known for his visual flair than way with words).
The story follows a young pickpocket through, basically, most of his life: how it started, where it took him, who he met along the way. It’s mostly, though, one of those great journeys through chunks of American history – it starts in 1906 with the San Francisco earthquake, which proves to be Tommy’s (the hero) first taste of thievery … it goes on, for a long stretch, through Prohibition … and ends back in San Francisco, shortly after the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. Other clear interests of the author find their way in too: a lot of talk about wine-tasting, which always bugs the hell of of me, this was my least favourite part of the book.
It seems inevitable to me that Parker will one day develop this into a movie. I hope I’m not wrong, I’d love to see these characters brought to life onscreen.