This book tells the story of Rufus Henry, a teenager who has been sent to a forestry camp in Pine Valley because of criminal acting - gang - fighting, runaway and grand-theft. He is quite an intelligent boy and has enormous leader qualities, he wants to stay on top of others and is not willing to let himself be pushed to the ground.
Some day, the social workers of the camp send "Rufe" home again. He is supposed to live together with his mom, the little brother Curtis and his little sister Janet in a house in Durango - not an elegant part of town. The family is poor, but nevertheless, the living has to be better than in the camp, thinks Rufus. From time to time a social officer visits Rufus's mother to see what he is doing and how things are going. They know that he will sooner or later do something that could bring him back to jail again, although he seems to be wiser than before his visit in the camp.
Extract, page 32 - Rufus talks with his little brother about joining gangs
"I've been thinking about joining the Little Warriors," Curtis whispered.
Rufus seized his arm. "You aren't joining anything!" he snapped.
Startled, Curtis pulled back. "Why not? The Projeck kids have chased me up and down every alley in the Flats. I hate this place. First time they catch me, they'll beat me. I got to join something for protection."
"You got a big brother. That's protection, isn't it? If any of those little punks bother you, it'll be between them and me, see?"
Curtis looked down. "The big kids'll be after you too, Rufus, soon as they see you on the street."
"Don't you worry about your big brother. I can take care of myself. But joining a gang means going to war with the police. Every time there's a crime committed, they'll roust you in off the street and question you. But the unconnected kids don't get bothered much."
"The gangs bother them, though."
Rufus shook his finger under Curtis's nose. "Jus' let me hear about you messing around with a gang, Curtis, and you got big trouble at home. You remember that."
It was ironic to be voicing the same arguments the law and the counsellors had thrown at him for years. What Curtis said was true. But what he said was true, also:
A boy with an older brother who had a reputation had a chance to stay neutral.
Together with his little sister Janet, Rufus leaves the house to buy some milk at the grocers. A car approaches behind them and they hear a voice yelling: "It ain't him," followed by "Get off the street, punks!" They hurl a sack of bottles at Rufus and drive away. The boy is not aware of the "Gassers" gang-members in the car and he and Janet keep going on until they are stopped by another car. This time it is the police, they question them about the broken glass on the sidewalk and want to know where they live. Rufus does not say anything about boys throwing glass at them, but his little sister who can't know better tells the police about the Gassers in the car, where they have gone, what the car looked like and everything. As the police move on, Rufus shakes Janet by the arm, telling her that no one ever tells a cop anything. He knows that they are now in great danger .
Rufus starts to look for a gang called "The Moors" - Now he really has to join something for protection, otherwise the Gassers would beat him to death. After having a fight with the Moor gang's leader "Bantu", who then gets arrested for carrying drugs, he becomes the leader of the Moors and starts fighting the Gassers.
One day, the Gassers catch Janet and cut one of her pigtails off, what enrages Rufus who builds up a plan for revenge. Under the guide of Rufus, the Moors lure the Gassers into their own territory and then beat the hell out of them. War brakes out .
The social worker Alex Robbins tries to prevent these things happen. He invites the Moors and the Gassers to football - training with famous players, but that also causes quarrels and renders his task superfluous.
When the Moors talk about the fact that no one of them has ever been to a dance, they have the idea to start and organize a graduation - dance themselves. Additionally, it would show that the Moors could build up something if they want, unlike the Gassers - people should remember the Moors - dance .
They bring this idea to Alex Robbins, who thinks that the Moors are not aware of how hard it is to control a big event like that. They would have to get money for paying a band, hiring cops for security, hiring a hall and for printing posters.
INVITE YOU TO THEIR
Club Chic Hall Admission One Dollar
First Twenty-five Girls Free!
Although it is not an easy job, Rufus is convinced that they can do it and he manages Alex to find a big hall for them. Finally they succeed, even the Gassers can't disturb the evening and the victory of the Moors.