The Warriors (Sol Yurick novel)
|1965 (Original hardcover); 2003 (Paperback Reprint)|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Pages||181 pp (Paperback Reprint)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-8021-3992-2 (Paperback Reprint)|
|LC Class||PS3575.U7 W375 2003|
The Warriors is a novel written by Sol Yurick in 1965. It became the inspiration for the cult classic movie The Warriors. Compared to the movie, the novel takes a closer look at the concepts of sexuality, reputation, family, and survival. Because the movie was produced in 1979, a full fourteen years after the book was printed, certain key traits were rewritten to reflect cultural evolution. The novel is loosely based on the Anabasis by Xenophon.
The novel begins with a quote from the Anabasis. Throughout the novel, the character Junior reads a comic book version of the story.
It is the evening of July 4. Ismael Rivera, leader of the Delancey Thrones, the largest gang in New York City, calls a grand assembly of street gangs to the Bronx. Gangs from all over the city, signaled by a Beatles song on the radio, head to the meeting place at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. As per instructions, none of them carries weapons, except for a handgun – a peace-offering to Ismael.
Among the gangs are the Coney Island Dominators, a black (African American)/Hispanic gang who are the central characters of the novel. The Dominators are Papa Arnold, the leader, Hector, second-in-command, Lunkface, the strongest and most dangerous member, Bimbo, the advisor, Hinton, the gang's artist and central character of the novel, Dewey, the most level-headed member and The Junior, the youngest of the group and the gang's mascot.
At the meeting, Ismael announces his plan, with other Thrones relaying the message to the ones in back who cannot hear. He proposes a grand truce designed to challenge "The Man" (society, otherwise called "The Others"). After a stirring speech, the assembly dissolves into chaos as several dissident gangs begin fighting. When the police arrive, having been tipped off about a big "rumble", many gangs, believing Ismael has set them up, turn their peace-offering handgun on Ismael, killing him.
When Arnold disappears amidst the rage of Ismael's gang members, it is up to Hector, the new leader of the Coney Island Dominators, to lead the remaining delegates from the Bronx back to Coney Island, passing through enemy ridden gang turfs. When Hinton suggests removing their gang insignia – Mercedes symbols stolen off cars and converted into stick-pins from shop class at school which the gang wears on their hats – he is severely chastised. As Hinton is more familiar with the neighborhood, having lived there before, he is given the task of leading the gang out of Woodlawn Cemetery, where they have escaped the cops in the chaos.
The gang decides to call Wallie, the youth board worker assigned to their case, to come and drive them home. While waiting for him to arrive, the gang gets restless and jumps the subway. After a while, the train is stopped due to track work and the gang must take a different route.
En route to the other subway station, the gang encounters the Borinquen Blazers, a Puerto Rican immigrant gang. Hector meets the leader to parley for safe passage and all goes well until a girl, one of the Blazers’ debs, desires one of the Dominators’ insignia pins. When they refuse, the girl chastises the Blazers’ leader, challenging his manhood. The leader then demands that the Dominators remove their pins in exchange for safe passage. Things escalate into an argument with the Dominators heading off to their destination and the Blazers not retaliating because their reinforcements have not arrived. Angry, Hector riles up the gang into a violent mood, deciding to spite the Blazers by going through their turf as a “war party” – an act performed by a gang ritual of changing the positions of the cigarettes in their hat brims.
The Dominators realize they’re being tailed by the deb and a scout from the Blazers. They ambush them, taking away the scout’s switchblade, then chasing him off. Lunkface convinces the girl to stick around on the promise of a pin and a rank (of “sister”) in the gang. The Dominators then encounter an individual and start a fight, the girl cheering them on while they take turns stabbing the man with the stolen blade. The Dominators turn on the girl and gang-rape her, abandoning her in the street as they rush off to the subway.
Throughout the novel, the gang plays games of "manhood", either to relieve boredom or to settle disputes: waiting for the train, the Dominators have a contest as to who can urinate the farthest. Later, on the train, Hector passes out pieces of candy bars he has bought to the gang. When they start teasing Lunkface with a piece that’s fallen on the floor, he gets so angry he quits the gang right there. Hector eases the situation by selecting a member for punishment – Hinton – and Lunkface "insults” him by puffing on Hinton’s "war cigarette". Then Hector holds another "manhood" game involving the gang sticking their heads out the train window until it passes into the subway tunnel. Hinton wins, nearly killing himself in the process.
Arriving at the 96th Street and Broadway station, the Dominators encounter a transit cop eyeing them suspiciously. Aware that the police are trying to round up all the gangs in the city, and that they are still holding the knife they used to stab the (possibly) dead man, The Dominators evade the transit cop by jumping off the train just as he boards, but more police show up and they flee: Hinton jumping onto the tracks into the subway tunnel, Dewey and Junior jumping an uptown train and Hector, Lunkface, and Bimbo running out of the station.
Hector, Lunkface and Bimbo run into Riverside Park. Now, without the other gang members to see them, the trio removes their insignia pins so to avoid arrest. They encounter a large, fat, alcoholic nurse sitting on a bench and Lunkface takes an interest in her. The woman is only interested in Hector, referring to Lunkface and Bimbo as "niggers". Hector lures her to a secluded spot where they jump her and she accepts them willingly. When Bimbo starts rifling through her purse, she reacts angrily. When Lunkface, frustrated, hits her to keep her still, the woman retaliates with unexpected strength and starts screaming "Rape!". The trio, unable to overpower her, flee but are promptly caught by the police.
Hinton, inside the subway tunnel, takes time for reflection. Feeling like an outsider and resenting the gang, he unleashes his contempt by writing on the wall, putting the gang down. Feeling guilty, he rubs out his insults and replaces them with the gang's "tag" (he has been doing this throughout the novel).
Hinton arrives at Times Square station, the meeting place. While waiting for the gang he enters a public bathroom (unknown to him) re-purposed as a sort of brothel and is forced into sex with a teenage prostitute, shakes off a homosexual and a young junkie offering sexual favors for money, travels back and forth on the shuttle to Grand Central and, overcome with an inexplicable hunger, eats incessantly. When he comes to an arcade, he plays a shootout game with a dummy sheriff, winning twice, reflecting his resentment of authority. Before he knows it, he has achieved everything he usually does with the gang, and wonders why he needs them.
Dewey and Junior meet up with Hinton and the trio head off to complete their journey. Although Dewey outranks Hinton, Hinton takes over the role of leader as he has an unexpected knack for the job. A pair of jocks, returning home from their senior prom with their dates, eye the trio challengingly but Hinton doesn’t back down, feeling a sense of moral victory as he does, and the jocks depart.
Hinton, Dewey and Junior finally arrive in Coney Island. After a brief moment of celebration, Hinton, all riled up with anger and the sense of victory, impulsively calls out a rumble against the Lords, the rival gang to the Dominators. Rushing to the Lords’ regular hangout, Hinton calls them out. They don’t respond and Hinton celebrates this victory by drawing a huge mural on the hangout wall, insulting the Lords and celebrating the Dominators.
The trio then venture back to where the Dominators’ debs have been waiting. Learning from the girls that Papa Arnold made it back hours ago, Hinton regretfully tells the girlfriends of Hector, Lunkface and Bimbo that they didn’t make it back and Dewey and Junior walk off with their girlfriends.
Hinton, not having a girlfriend, goes home. There his mother, Minnie, is in the midst of sex with her boyfriend, Norbert. Hinton tends to the baby who was being neglected, then has a futile talk with his junkie older half-brother Alonso about life in general and the future. Hinton crawls out onto the fire escape and falls asleep, his thumb in his mouth.
Differences between the novel and film
- The film focuses on nine members of a Coney Island street gang actually named the Warriors; their names are Ajax, Cleon, Cochise, Cowboy, Fox, Rembrandt, Snow, Swan and Vermin. They are racially mixed (three black, five white, one Hispanic). The novel focuses on seven members of a Coney Island youth gang named the Coney Island Dominators; their names are Papa Arnold, Bimbo, Dewey, Hector, Hinton, The Junior and Lunkface. All are either black or Hispanic. Director Walter Hill initially wanted the Warriors to be an all-black gang but Paramount vetoed that idea.
- Throughout the novel, the character The Junior reads from a comic book, a classic-comics version of the story Anabasis by Xenophon, on which the book is loosely based. There is no reference to that story in the film, although the film's plot line is much closer to the plot line of Anabasis than the novel. Walter Hill originally wanted a comic-styled introduction and transitions, but Paramount rejected the idea. Hill also wanted Orson Welles to do a narrated introduction about Greek themes, but the studio did not like the idea and refused to pay for it.
- The gang uniforms of the two gangs are complete contrasts: the Warriors' gang uniform simply consists of a red pleather vest embroidered with the Warriors' logo (a skull with a Native American headdress shaped like eagle wings) on the back, while The Dominators' uniform is a complete ensemble consisting of blue paisley pattern button-down shirts, black chino pants, high-topped black shoes, "short" jackets that are "monkey-jacket" tight (except for Bimbo, who wears a raincoat in order to carry the gang's "supplies"), and high-crowned, narrow-brimmed straw hats bearing both their "war cigarettes" (black-papered, hand-rolled cigarettes put in the hat brims that signify the gang's current status: at war, at peace, etc. depending on their position) and the gang's insignia (Mercedes-Benz symbols which the gang has broken off of cars and converted into pins in their wood-shop class).
- Rembrandt (Warriors) and Hinton (Dominators) share the role of the artist in their respective gangs; however, they have totally different personalities. Rembrandt is portrayed as being level-headed but weak when it comes to fighting, whereas Hinton is a lot braver and has a rep for going "psycho" every now and then. Hinton ends up being the focal point of the novel, while the film focuses more on Swan, the gang's field leader.
- In the film, the Warriors encounter a gang called the Orphans who try to prove they're tough by showing the Warriors newspaper articles of incidents and crimes done by their gang. In the novel, the Dominators encounter a gang called The Borinquen Blazers and exchange newspaper articles with them of their doings in an attempt to avoid trouble from the gang.
- In the film, the gang conclave (assembly) is called by Cyrus and the Gramercy (Manhattan) Riffs; in the novel, the conclave is called by Ismael Rivera, whose gang's name is the Delancey Thrones. The name Cyrus is an allusion to Cyrus the Younger, the character in the Anabasis on whom Ismael is based.
- In the film, Cyrus is shot and killed by Luther, leader of the Rogues, who then blame the Warriors (because Fox caught Luther in the act); Luther later states he killed Cyrus for no reason, adding "I just like doing stuff like that!". In the novel, when Ismael's conclave is broken up by the police, several of the gangs take it for a trap; their leaders pull guns (meant as peace offerings to Ismael and the Thrones) and shoot Ismael, a less nihilistic reason for his death.
- The Dominators' ages are between 14 and 17. The Warriors' ages are never specified, although the actors playing them were mostly in their twenties at the time (Marcelino Sanchez, who plays Rembrandt, the graffiti artist, was the youngest of the Warriors at 19).
- Both the Warriors and the Dominators have themes to their gangs, however they are very different. The Warriors have a Native American theme, calling their leader and second-in-command Warlord and Warchief respectively, using Native American motifs as their symbol and some members (such as Cochise) wearing Native American-style bead necklaces, armbands and jewelry, whereas the Dominators base their gang on a family, calling their leader and second-in-command Father and Uncle respectively. The rest of the Dominators are "brothers" to each other, with the third in command being "Eldest Son".
- In the film, a girl called Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) leaves the Orphans and follows the Warriors after their encounter, eventually starting up a romance with Swan. In the novel, a girl who was with the Borinquen Blazers decides to follow the Dominators after an encounter, but the Dominators end up gang-raping her and leaving her behind. In both of these situations, the girl initially tries to stir up the gang by asking for their insignia: Mercy asks for a Warriors' vest, and the Blazers' girl asks for a Dominators' pin. In the film, Swan threatens to have the gang "pull a train" on Mercy at one point (a possible reference to the novel).
- Both the Warriors and the Dominators get split up into three separate parties at West 96th Street: one party heads toward Riverside Park (Hector, Lunkface and Bimbo in the novel, Ajax, Snow, Cowboy and Swan in the film) ; another jumps onto another train (Dewey and Junior in the novel, Vermin, Cochise and Rembrandt in the film); the third enters a subway tunnel (Hinton in the novel, Swan (after doubling back) and Mercy in the film).
- In the novel, on one occasion, the Dominators murder an innocent bystander for staring at them. In the film, the Warriors never directly kill anybody, even in self-defense: however, in the video game, the Warriors kill many gang leaders and gang members. As a contrast, in the novel, the Dominators never encounter a rival gang that they have to fight, as they spend the bulk of the novel on the subway, which is neutral territory, whereas the Warriors get into multiple violent situations.
- In the film, after the Warriors fight and defeat a rival gang named the Baseball Furies, one of them, Ajax (James Remar), attempts to rape a woman (Mercedes Ruehl) who turns out to be an undercover cop. She handcuffs him to a bench and arrests him. The Baseball Furies do not appear in the novel; instead, three of the Dominators: Hector, Lunkface, and Bimbo attempt to rape an aging, alcoholic nurse, who has all of them arrested.
- Six of the Warriors make it home; only four of the Dominators make it home. In both cases, three members are lost, but only in the film are any members killed: Fox is thrown under a train while fighting with a policeman and Cleon is (apparently) beaten to death at the breakdown of the conclave.
- The film's ending promises the potentiality of happiness (but after the ending in the game, it is shown that the Warriors are both happy about their heavy rep on the news and sad about the deaths of Cleon and Fox), but the novel's ending shows the coming of age for the now broken Dominators.
- In the novel, at Grand Central Station, Hinton plays an arcade game of "shoot it out with the sheriff", consisting of a moving mannequin sheriff and a fake gun (which the player must draw before the sheriff does). Hinton plays this game a few times and wins twice, indicating his hatred and rejection of authority in general. In the film, Swan (Michael Beck), at the Union Square station, is being tailed by a rival gang (called the 'Punks' in the films credits), and, acting nonchalant, stops in front of a nearby arcade, standing right next to a "shoot it out with the sheriff" arcade game. This was possibly director Walter Hill's tip-of-the-hat to the novel.
- In the film, Warlord Cleon (leader of The Warriors) is jumped and (apparently) beaten to death by the Gramercy Riffs while checking on the dead body of Cyrus after Luther (David Patrick Kelly), who really shot Cyrus, blames the murder on The Warriors after Warriors scout Fox (Thomas G. Waites) caught him in the act. In the book, Papa Arnold (leader of the Dominators) is also jumped for checking out Ismael's dead body but it is revealed at the end of the novel that he made it back "hours ago" before the three remaining members of the gang (Hinton, Dewey, and The Junior).
- Maslin, Janet (1979-02-10). "'Warriors' Creates Visual Style That Is Stark". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-04.