The adventures of Billy Byrne, thug and gunman, in the underworld of Chicago and San Francisco, and on his mysterious cruise to the unexplored islands of the Pacific, make a yarn as strange and as vivid as even the famous Tarzan tales. A woman–“one o’ them high-brow skirts”–taught Billy the real meaning of the word “coward”. And the most astonishing thing in the book is the development of character of these two whom fate threw together in the strangest of circumstances.
BILLY BYRNE was a product of the streets and alleys of Chicago’s great West Side. From Halsted to Robey, and from Grand Avenue to Lake Street there was scarce a bartender whom Billy knew not by his first name. And, in proportion to their number which was considerably less, he knew the patrolmen and plain clothes men equally as well, but not so pleasantly.
His kindergarten education had commenced in an alley back of a feed–store. Here a gang of older boys and men were wont to congregate at such times as they had naught else to occupy their time, and as the bridewell was the only place in which they ever held a job for more than a day or two, they had considerable time to devote to congregating.
They were pickpockets and second–story men, made and in the making, and all were muckers, ready to insult the first woman who passed, or pick a quarrel with any stranger who did not appear too burly. By night they plied their real vocations. By day they sat in the alley behind the feedstore and drank beer from a battered tin pail.