This was written by Clarence Rook, a journalist and writer of fiction. This was published in book form in 1899 but despite the inpression that the author himself gives in his own introduction, this is a work of fiction. So saying though, such things mentioned in this book did and do happen, but the author did not keep bumping into Alf, the main character of this. If you are wondering where most of this book takes place, it is now in the London Boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth.
This was quite popular on its first appearance, and is still a good read today. The author has tried to capture the language and the slang of the area by writing the sayings of Alf in the dialect, and there is also a glossary supplied at the back of the book of slang words used. So who is Alf? In a nutshell the character is a composition of different people, and Alf thus appears much larger than life. The book is slightly comical in places and is enjoyable to read with Alf relating all the dodges he knows about and gets up to, from pickpocketing (although I should point out that the examples given here are not just the skill of a fingersmith, but also mugging), burglary and robbery, and a whole host of other tricks.
Being a South Londoner born and bred I must rather shame facedly admit that I can speak the type of dialect that Alf talks, I already know the slang, and I knew all the cons in this book, although some refer to the days of horse and carts. I have to admit that most people will probably be well aware of all the dodges that go on, and you won't really find anything new here. What is funy though is that Alf, the wideboy, thinks he is quite clever with all his ducking and diving, but you still see his type about today. While he may be making a bit of money here and there, he always has the worry of being caught, and never makes enough to rise above others and make something of himself.