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The remarks of Agnes Perkins: Smith, Leon Garfield's scruffy, undersized, ignorant hero of his 1967 novel, is a twelve-year-old pickpocket in 18th century London. Smith (he seems to have no other name) is clever and quick-'a rat was a snail beside Smith, and the most his thousand victims ever got of him was the powerful whiff of his passing and a cold draught in their dexterously emptied pockets." The chance selection of a country gentleman as his victim leads to a maze of threats and betrayals, for after skiHfuHy rifting the contents of the old fellow's pocket, Smith ducks into a doorway and sees the man murdered and his body searched. After mingling with the crowd and escaping, Smith looks to see that his prize is a document, valuable enough to be murdered for, which he cannot interpret, being illiterate. Because no one of his acquaintance who has sklH with letters can also be trusted, Smith sets about trying to find someone to teach him to read. Before this can be accomplished, Smith is fingered as the holder of the document, and, pursued by the murderers, two sinister men in brown, he runs through London's back aHeys and sooty courts, finally eluding them and bumping into a lost bund man, Mr. Mansfield, magistrate, whom the boy in pity leads to his home. Set up in the Mansfield household as assistant groom, with the magistrate's daughter teaching him to read, Smith is accused by an attorney of having killed the old country gentleman, and Mr. Mansfield, whom the boy caDs "Old Bund Justice," regretfully sends him to Newgate Gao). From then on their lives are inextricably bound together, with Smith escaping from prison, saving the magistrate in a blinding snowstorm on Finchley Common, and later refusing to abandon him when the real villains discover them in the cemetery at PricWer's HHI. The story has a breakneck pace, with tense scenes and melodramatic flourishes. Besides following the conventions of the eighteenth century novel, rich in language and labyrinthine plot, it skilrfuly enlists the reader's sympathy for an initially unsavory hero. Scenes of the grimy area of London around St. Paul's and Ludgate Hill, as well as the prison itself, are strongly sensory, particularly in smeH, and the biting cold of Smith's nights in the streets and on the common is equaJy vivid. The novel also unsentimentalry demonstrates the theme that blind justice must be tempered with compassion. Smith has been chosen by the ChHdren's Literature Association Phoenix Award Committee as the best book published twenty years ago which did not at that time receive any major award but which has stood the test of the passing years, it is certainly one of his best novels, showing him as a skillful plotter, a brilliant stylist, and an author capable of inventing a protagonist to whom a reader is drawn emotionally set In a story that considers a theme of depth and complexity. Garfield was bom in Brighton in 1921, studied art, and, after serving from 1940 to 1946 in the Royal Army Medical Corps, worked as a biochemical technician for more than twenty years. His writing, which began in 1964 with Jack Holborn, a sea story, has been prolific and varied. Among other honors, he has won the Whitbread Award, the Guardian Award, and the Carnegie Medal; two of his other books have been on the Carnegie Commended Hst, three have been honor books for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and seven have been included on the Horn Book Fanfare Hsts. He has written biography, picture books, retellings of myths and Bible stories, ghost stories, and novels that range from the grim and melodramatic Drummer Bov to the high comedy of the Bostock and Harris books. Two of his novels that have much in common with Smith are Black Jack, first published in 1968, and John Diamond, published in 1980 and reissued in the United States under the title Footsteps. If Smith can be viewed as a study of the conflicting demands of justice and compassion, Black Jack might be said to be about human bondage, the fears, obligations, and...


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