Reviewed by TONY BAER:


JOSEPH MONCURE – The Wild Party. [Narrative poem.] Pascal Covici, Inc. hardcover, 1926/1928, banned in Boston. Covici Friede, hardcover, 1929. Citadel Prss, hardcover, 1949. Award, paperback, 1975 (novelization by Terence O’Neill of film produced that same year based on the book). Pantheon, hardcover. 1994 (drawings by Art Spiegelman.) Many/most/all? reprint editions as by Joseph Moncure March. Film: AIP, 1975 (director: James Ivory; starring James Coco, Raquel Welch, Perry King). Two stage musicals, NYC, 1999-2000.

   Queenie and Burrs are a couple. A sodden, soiled couple of handsome gutter rats, dressed to the nines.

   Burrs, most folks agreed “in language without much lace

   They’d like to break his god-damned face”

   â€œOh, yes—Burrs was a charming fellow:

   Brutal with women, and proportionately yellow”

   â€œ[One victim’s] brother had great fun

   Looking for Burrs with a snub-nosed gun”

   Queenie, hungover, pleads:

   â€œBurrsie! pour out a cup for me!

   Said she”

   Burrs, ever the gentleman:

   â€œThe hell I will, you lazy slut!

   Do you think you’re the prince of wales, or what?

   â€¦You rotten bitch!

   I’ll fix you yet!

   She grabbed a knife from the kitchenette

   Her face was white as through newly plastered.

   You touch me—

   I’ll kill you, you filthy bastard!”

   They decide what they need is a wild party to cure the doldrums.

   â€œA grand piano stood in the corner

   With the air of a coffin waiting for a mourner”

   Queenie gets all dolled up:

   â€œMy god, Queenie; you’re looking swell!

   Quoth Queenie:

   I’m feeling slick as hell!”

   Queenie decides to find a replacement man at the party. And finds a suitable suitor, named Mr. Black.

   â€œBlack said nothing, but he thought hard…

   So she lived with Burrs!

   He was somewhat jarred

   He looked Burrs over, and he liked his looks

   About as well as a fish likes hooks…

   His smile grew knowing:

   His drink grew small:

   Just a good-looking harlot, after all!”

   Burrs gets a bit jealous of Queenie and Black:

   â€œYou’re jealous!


   He gave her a glittering stare:

   You’re crazy!

   What the hell do I care!”

   â€œThe bed was a slowly moving tangle

   Of legs and bodies at every angle”

   â€œWho yer laughin’ at, you tart!

   I’ll break yer god-damned face apart!”

   â€œHis face began to twitch:

   I’ll fix you plenty, you son of a bitch!”

“Some love is fire: some love is rust

   But the fiercest, cleanest love is lust.”

   Burrs catches Queenie and Black in In flagrante delicto.

   â€œThe gun flashed—


   Staccato, and vicious it spoke.



   The air smelled sharp with smoke.”

   â€œJes’s Christ!—I’ve hurt my shin—

   The door sprang open

   And the cops rushed in.”

   It’s alright. No need to run out and get a copy or anything. But it is an interesting document of its times and shows that the hardboiled style knows no bounds, poetry being a perfectly fine setting for a street vernacular told tale of alcohol, sex and vengeance.

   A copy of the book is currently available online here: