Willard Motley's 1947 best seller shocked the nation with its harsh depiction of the dark underbelly of the American dream. Knock on Any Door dramatizes young immigrant Nick Romano's struggle to survive when his father's business folds, leaving his family with no choice but to move to a poor neighborhood across town. A series of petty crimes land the former Catholic altar boy in reform school, where forceful "rehabilitation" only creates a hardened and resistant spirit among the inmates. Once released, Nick returns to Chicago, where family conflicts and a brief, tragic marriage spiral him further downward, culminating in his arrest for the murder of a police officer. The whole city watches the thrilling legal battle unfold as Nick takes the stand to fight for his life.
Motley researched his novel on the streets of his native Chicago, talking to immigrants about their experiences and visiting juveniles in Illinois's youth detention centers. In Knock on Any Door, Motley creates a painfully vivid picture of poverty, the struggle for ethnic identity, and the flaws of the penal system in urban America.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am 29 and I doubt I will ever read a better book than this. This is not a pleasure book for the beach, but the story is compelling and extremely thought-provoking. Motley is (was) a sensationally gifted writer, and I long to read each sentence twice, as most are composed so beautifully. Also provides powerful anti-death penalty images.
The most gripping novel I have ever read. It really captured the pulse of Chicago, my home town. Although the hoodlums were depicted as decent, the novel touched on loyalty and friendship. The street people offered friendship and sympathy that his family didn't. I feel Knock on Any Door was and is a literary touchstone for me. I enjoyed Motley's other novels, but none measured up to Knock on Any Door. Alan Ross