The Boys and Men of Auckland's Mickey Rooney Gang, Robert Philip Bolton

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

THE BOYS AND MEN OF AUCKLAND'S MICKEY ROONEY GANG is an unusual undertaking for more reasons than just the title. The story, starting out in 1957, revolves around eight schoolboys, mildly rebellious, obsessed with sex, and anything edgy, they are all attracted to the one bad apple - the only real delinquent in the bunch - Mickey Rooney, whose own obsession is Hollywood fame.

Told in a series of chapters from the different kids viewpoints, THE BOYS AND MEN takes the reader through those heady, fun, mildly dangerous days of childhood extremes. The gang itself doesn't last long, and there's much to be said for the character of the group of boys that it's a tacky practical joke played by Mickey on one of the gang's most vulnerable members that implodes their friendship. Come older age though and you start to see nine adult lives evolve before you. Each life a combination of joy and sadness, success and failure, illness in some, death in others, drugs and vice in a few, violence, crime and onto murder for one in particular.

At the heart of this novel there's a really clever idea, and it's readable and compelling, mostly because it's so easy to form connections with these boys, even Mickey, and it's very easy to care what happens to them. I would have loved to have seen a little judicious editing of some of the repetition, leading to a slightly tighter pace, and less clever ideas that don't necessarily go anywhere, but other than those minor quibbles, I really found myself wanting to finish this one. Possibly slightly less of a crime novel than you'd think given the line in the blurb about death, drugs, vice, violence, crime and murder, but overall a really unusual idea worth a dip into if you're looking for something outside the norm.


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In a working-class suburb of Auckland, New Zealand, in 1957, eight mildly rebellious schoolboys, inevitably obsessed with sex, were attracted to the arrogant and thoroughly delinquent little Mickey Rooney whose fantastic dreams of Hollywood fame were to be his downfall.

It wasn’t a real gang, and it didn’t last long. It disintegrated after an obscene practical joke played by Mickey on the gang’s most vulnerable member. Meanwhile, though, the boys’ thoughts, conversations and actions, which were largely crude and obscene – as the thoughts, conversations and actions of boys and men often are – are faithfully reported here in plain and graphic language.

The book then follows the boys into manhood. Nine men. Nine lives involving love and romance, sadness and joy, success and failure, illness and death, drugs and vice, violence and crime, and murder.

Nine men with nothing in common but the teenage year they wasted in Mickey Rooney’s gang.

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