There's been, with one exception, a novel a year out of Mr. Crews' native Georgia or Florida where he's been staging a Southern Gothic freakshow of gospel singers and midgets and half-wits. A Feast of Snakes is in line with his earliest, strongest books; the made-to-order symbolism you might question is still there but it's not as elliptical as in Car; in fact how can it miss with snakes? This one's about Joe Lon Mackey of Mystic, Georgia, a former All-American with real troubles--not what the others around here call ""miseries."" He has a wife he beats up, two young ones, and on the plus side the ""honeylegged"" Berenice, a great little baton-twirler of any kind. The novel focalizes around the annual rattlesnake round-up leading to castration and mass murder along with other, lesser venial sins which make everyday life in Mystic look as tame as a picnic of nuns. Crews is a true regional writer out of the heart of the redneck rural south and besides the brutality (""I don't know karate but I know kaRAZOR""), there's the humor, the dynamite dialogue, and the real despair--all tetched with talent.