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A friend claims that his father said that the movie The Warriors (1979) was based on a book.

Can anyone substantiate that?

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Yes.

The movie is loosely based on The Warriors (1965) by Sol Yurick.

It features a significantly younger protagonist (he's 12-14 if I recall) rather than the late teen / early 20's actors in the movie.

The Warriors is a novel written by Sol Yurick and Illustrated by Frank Modell in 1965. It became the inspiration for the cult classic movie The Warriors. Compared to the movie, the novel takes a closer look at the concepts of sexuality, reputation, family, and survival.

Wikipedia

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