This is a long, depressing Depression novel about the very poor people living in New Orleans in the early 1930's. Dove is a country boy from Texas - he goes to the city to 'rise in the world' and ends up as a pimp. It's filled with vivid description and Algren occasionally breaks into song with long alliterative passages evoking the rhythm, bustle, and heartbeat of city life.
It's a hard life that he describes, and hard people in it. There are moments of humour, but they are drowned by a fierce hopelessness. His characters are trapped by their origins and their situation, but they are also emotionally doomed, unable to genuinely connect to one another without causing crippling harm.
Masterfully written - but very grim.
In a moment of literary coincidence, the whores of this book work on Perdido Street. I read recently a horror/science fiction book called Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. Perdido Street Station is a study in the life of a futuristic city, and I am sure that the title was a reference to Algren's work. And as I think about it, there are more similarities...which I won't discuss because of spoilers. I highly recommend it.