Gelett Burgess and Will Irwin. The Picaroons: A San Francisco Night’s Entertainment (1904) 284 pp.
On the thirteenth of October, three men, down on their luck in San Francisco, meet by chance at Coffee John’s restaurant. After feeding the men a hearty meal, Coffee John, who speaks with a heavy Cockney accent, tells them the story of a man whose luck had changed from bad to good in that very room. He then gives them each a dime and challenges them to turn it into a fortune in twenty-four hours. After they leave the restaurant, the men fall into a variety of adventures including gambling, fraud, opium smuggling, and murder. A “picaroon,” as explained in a prefatory note, is “a petty rascal, one who lives by his wits, an adventurer. The Picaresque tales, in Spanish literature of the beginning of the seventeenth century, dealt with the fortunes of beggars, imposters, thieves, etc., and chronicled the Romance of Roguery. Such stories were the precursors of the modern novel. The San Francisco Night’s Entertainment is an attempt to render similar subjects with an essentially modern setting.” Originally published serially in Pearson’s Magazine in 1903.
Setting: San Francisco (including Chinatown)
Baird & Greenwood 354