Racial politics, ethnic hatreds, crime and crack tear apart the multihued fabric of New York City in this hardboiled first novel, which reads more like straight reportage than like satire or fiction. Black activist lawyer Herbert Whiffet, self-appointed champion of the people, uses inflammatory, racially divisive cases to further his career. One of his clients is a homeless black man whose habit of defecating in front of a delicatessen forces the owner into retirement. Whiffet also represents the family of a young black woman shot to death by a Hispanic cop in a drug raid; she was a gang leader's girlfriend, also said to be an informer who slept with police. . In this glum, scathing study Goldstone lambastes white liberals, black rabble-rousers, the media and a colossally inept legal apparatus for creating a system where criminals' rights count more than those of victims. He is also unsparing toward the white, idealistic assistant DA who sleeps with Whiffet, a Jewish TV reporter posing as a WASP, a ghetto drug lord and sundry others. (Mar.)
The murderous undertow of urban poverty, homelessness, racism, police brutality, political and media hucksterism, celebrity seeking and self-advertisement, drug-dealing ganglords, a welfare system that demeans those it serves, a legal system blind to its own injustices, all come under satiric scrutiny in this first novel. Its premise is that the rights of decent, hardworking people, many just a notch above poverty themselves, are being violated and mocked by clever criminals, self-seeking lawyers, issue mongers, and irresponsible broadcast journalists. Goldstone has darkly etched the despair and corruption of blighted urban life, but his tone is often too shrill and his satiric targets too often just sitting ducks to give the book the emotional depth it deserves. It does have an undeniable readability, and even the book's somewhat predictable plots have a certain fascination.--Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.