A Pickpocket's Tale

The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York

Timothy J. Gilfoyle (Author)

Overview | Inside the Book
 

"A true story more incredible than fiction." —Kevin Baker, author of Striver's Row

In George Appo's world, child pickpockets swarmed the crowded streets, addicts drifted in furtive opium dens, and expert swindlers worked the lucrative green-goods game. On a good night Appo made as much as a skilled laborer made in a year. Bad nights left him with more than a dozen scars and over a decade in prisons from the Tombs and Sing Sing to the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he reunited with another inmate, his father. The child of Irish and Chinese immigrants, Appo grew up in the notorious Five Points and Chinatown neighborhoods. He rose as an exemplar of the "good fellow," a criminal who relied on wile, who followed a code of loyalty even in his world of deception. Here is the underworld of the New York that gave us Edith Wharton, Boss Tweed, Central Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • August 2007
  • ISBN 978-0-393-32989-6
  • 5.5 × 8.2 in / 480 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“A remarkable tale…What is surprising about the book is how much Gilfoyle cares about this small-time crook. And how much he makes us care.” — Ann Fabian, Chicago Tribune

“An instructive and somewhat chilling depiction of life in New York's underside during the 19th century.” — Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

“Appo is captivating. Despite a Dickensian childhood, institutional sadism and bad luck, he remains honest, in his own way, and is rightly transformed into an American hero.” — Tara McKelvey, New York Times Book Review

“Terrific…a fine history that makes for a riveting read.” — Peter Pavia, New York Post

“A spectacularly detailed look at the evolution of crime (and especially punishment) in post-Civil War America.” — Whitney Pastorek, Entertainment Weekly

“For the first time in our history, a distinguished scholar has opened up the previously undiscovered world of the common criminal in the nineteenth century. What an impressive and unforgettable story.” — Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor of History and Social Science, Columbia University

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