Peter Maas C. H. Rolph

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C. H. Rolph

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[King of the Gypsies, a] violent and shocking book about the sixty-odd American gypsy clans could do much to rehabilitate our native ones by throwing up comforting comparisons. The murderous and tyrannical "King" Tene Bimbo, whose obese and squalid figure overshadows the whole scene, is about the most odious character any writer could choose for a subject. And yet it can be said that such gypsies, any gypsies, are largely what Western society has made them. Through the ages the persecutions and killings have been appalling, not even stopping with the murder of half a million gypsies tricked into Hitler's gas chambers by the promise of relief….

King of the Gypsies comes across as the story of a cruel, hated, and seemingly hateful American minority; though I am not entirely sure that this is what the author intended, and some personal knowledge of gypsies in this country inclines me to the belief that there must be hardworking and kindly ones in America too. In America, it seems, they escape the "computerized surveillance" of a credit card economy by having no fixed address, being unable to read or write, accordingly filling in no forms, and stealing what they need….

Despite all that modern detection and police methods can do, an American gypsy who doesn't want to be traced will not be traced—except by an American gypsy; and when that happens the motive, apparently, is murder, torture, arson, robbery, or the kidnapping of a young girl for compulsory marriage. Gypsies, says Mr Maas, and he really ought to know after all his work on American police methods, "do not exist in the US outside the police files"; and no one in the official world knows where they are for two days together. Yet the Bimbo tribe gets most of its income from "settling out of court" for fraudulent claims and accusations brought...

(The entire section is 464 words.)