From first-time author Hawes, one of the most endearingly caustic--yet still deftly sincere--novels to come out of Britain since Martin Amis's The Rachel Papers. It's been a while since the wildly self-conscious and cynical musings of that novel's narrator lit up literary London. Recent English tastes in fiction have tended toward reports of low-life travails smattered with references to American pop culture, and Hawes's debut is no exception: His sliding-from-the-middle class, twentyish slackers are marking time in the lower depths. The narrator, a 28-year-old former heroin-user living in a shed in his sister's backyard, has practically no means of achieving his drastically limited ambition to own a house with tall windows and a garden. So, while working a temp job that puts him inside a private bank, he naturally concocts a master plan to heist a cool million. And what a plan it is. Lacing together an unshaven femme fatale, a noble bruiser, and the IRA, among other ingredients, he calmly and deliberately turns to profitable crime. Meanwhile, what makes the book vastly more entertaining than the Coupland/Tarrentino clone it might have been is Hawes's strategy of having his narrator filter every nuance of the story through his hilarious personal perspective. Not surprisingly, the boy's a romantic at heart, and it soon becomes clear that he's really doing it all for girlfriend Suzy, a woman whose primary passion in life is driving with the wind in her hair. With running commentary along the way on everything from gay lifestyles to the Apocalypse to the glories of smoking, the bank job comes together, culminating in two conclusive chapters of wonderfully gleeful chaos. Hawes has leapt fight past the callow grousings of Self, Welsh, and Fischer into a comic league all his own. Good to the last drop.