24 July, 2015

Billy Bathgate

BY E. L. Doctorow 
Book Information1Trade/1/0/US/RH/1989/?  •  242x170x37  •  749  •  NBCCA'89  •   James Tait Black'90  •  Pulitzer'90(F)  •  NBA'90(F)

"Billy Bathgate" is a picaresque coming-of-age story set in 1930s New York City that Doctorow described in detailed vividness throughout the novel. Billy, a neighbourhood kid in the Bronx caught the attention of Dutch Schultz, a real-life mobster, who took Billy under his wings. So started Billy's life lessons in a mobster classroom. He received instructions mostly from Dutch, a man who evoked in others an urgency to placate due to his brutality and proclivity to kill. I am reminded of a similar relationship between the Kid and Judge Holden in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, but Doctorow, in his historical novel approach, made it easier for readers to identify with Billy. A reviewer suggested that Billy is a more poetic (Billy used  some very difficult vocabulary) Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, and a more spirited Holden Caulfield. To those I add the Kid and Saul Bellow's Augie MarchPublished in 1989 by Random House, this book won the 1989 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 1990 William Dean Howells Medal, and was finalist to numerous literary award as well. 


This is the first trade edition first printing with first state dust jacket that is unclipped, showing the correct price of $19.95. The book is bound in brown clothed board with gilt lettering, including Doctorow's facsimile signature on the front board, and has no topstain. The copyright page should state "First Trade Edition". 

This book is not particularly rare and a VG copy can be purchased from eBay or Abebooks for as low as $20. This is a VG+ copy with a VG+ dust jacket with minor scuffs and slightly curled flaps, and a NF book that is tight and clean.


There are two official signed editions. Franklin Library's signed first edition is likely the true first edition, and currently sells at around $100. Random House also issued 300 copies of signed first edition housed in a slipcase and without dust jacket. This edition sells at around $150.

















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