Spoiler alert: This book starts at the bottom of the heap and ends at the, er, bottomer of the heap.
The book opens with violence (get used to it). A ragamuffin named Jimmie is fighting with other Bowery neighborhood urchins to represent Rum Alley—a seriously down-and-out area—against the thugs from Devil's Row.
These kids don't pull any punches, and Jimmie is good to go, though he's outnumbered. Luckily, a bigger kid named Pete come to the rescue… sort of. At least he provides some cheerleading. Pete's too cool for school, with a sneer and a cigar stump, but he helps Jimmie, so how bad can he be?
Another fight flares up with some more kicking and pounding, but this time Jimmie's dad arrives on the scene and gives his son a swift kick to the head.