"Now one time it comes on Christmas, and in fact it is the evening before Christmas, and I am in Good Time Charley Bernstein's little speakeasy in West Forty-seventh Street, wishing Charley a Merry Christmas and having a few hot Tom and Jerrys with him."
Damon Runyon (1880 – 1946) is an American journalist and author, best known for his short stories about the colorful gamblers, gangsters and hustlers of New York City
in the early part of the twentieth century. His stories are narrated in the first person by an anonymous narrator with a distinctive slang-laced style that avoids past and future tense
Notable adaptations of Runyon stories include:
Damon Runyon's stories provide examples of:
- ...And That Little Girl Was Me: In "Dream Street Rose", Rose tells the First-Person Peripheral Narrator a lengthy story about "a friend", which is all but stated outright to be her own life story.
- Big Eater: Nicely-Nicely Jones in "A Piece of Pie".
He is a horse player by trade, and eating is really just a hobby, but he is undoubtedly a wonderful eater even when he is not hungry.
- The Butler Did It: Parodied in "What, No Butler?"
- Card Sharp: The Lacework Kid ("Lacework" refers to his skill with cards).
- Delusions of Eloquence: The theme of mooks talking over their heads is a mainstay.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Runyon's characters are criminals, but there are lines they will not cross. For example, in "Gentlemen, the King!" the protagonists are hired to assassinate the king of an unnamed Ruritania, but balk when they discover he's only a kid.
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: The anonymous narrator (or narrators — when he is so anonymous, who can tell?).
- Hypocritical Humor: Near the beginning of "Dream Street Rose", the narrator remarks that in his opinion anyone who bets on horse races has something wrong with their head. Near the end of the story, he buys a newspaper so he can check the racing results and see if his latest bet has paid off.
- Laser-Guided Karma: In "Dancing Dan's Christmas", Dancing Dan decides on a whim to borrow a drunken Mall Santa's outfit and deliver Christmas cheer to some poverty-stricken persons of his acquaintance. This whim saves his life.
- Leave Behind a Pistol: In "Dream Street Rose", the protagonist is described doing this for the man who ruined her, though at least one of the listeners in the frame story doubts that the confrontation went down quite that way.
- Load-Bearing Hero: The title character in "Earthquake".
- No Doubt The Years Have Changed Me: In "Dream Street Rose," the protagonist is ruined by her good-for-nothing husband as a young girl. She waits a couple of decades, when he's remarried and is on top of the world, and confronts him as her wrecked old gin-soaked self:
'Well, Frank,' she says, 'do you know me?'
'Yes,' he says, after a while, 'I know you. At first I think maybe you are a ghost, as I once hear something about your being dead. But,' he says, 'I see now the report is a canard. You are too fat to be a ghost.'
- Present Tense Narrative
- Princess for a Day: Apple Annie in "Madame La Gimp".
- Professional Gambler: Many of these, including Sky Masterson, Big Nig the crap shooter, and Regret the horse player.
- Ruritania: "The Big Umbrella" and "Gentlemen, the King!" both feature kings of countries like this.
- Take Me Out at the Ball Game: The climax of "Undertaker Song."
- Those Wacky Nazis: In "The Lacework Kid," the Kid outwits a POW camp commandant who is addicted to Gin Rummy, and the scheming of the commandant's disloyal subordinates leads to all the prisoners going free.