While analyzing Damon Runyon's work in terms of historical contexts, popular culture, and of the changing function of the media, Schwarz argues that Runyon was an indispensible figure in creating enduring images of New York City culture, which spurred an interest in the demi-monde and underworld exposed in The Godfather films and The Sopranos. In lively and exuberant chapters that include a panoramic view of New York City between the World Wars - and its colorful nightlife - Schwarz examines virtually every facet of Runyon's career from sports writer, daily columnist, trial reporter, and Hollywood figure to the author of the still widely read short stories that were the source of the Broadway hit Guys and Dolls. As part of his discussion of Runyon's art and artistry of Runyon's fiction, he skillfully examines the special language of the Broadway stories known as "Runyonese" and explains how "Runyonese" has become an adjective describing flamboyant behavior.

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