Cakewalk, a local New York rock-and-roll band, is becoming ever leaner and better with its funky R&B-style music. But the band pretty much expects to play the small suburban clubs (""Please remember to tip your waitresses"") forever--because one record company after another seems on the verge of signing them, then mysteriously backs off. The mystery lies in lead guitarist Alan Landreaux's past poor judgment: once, out of desperate frustration at not getting a contract, he privately accused a super-producer (and ex-Mafioso) named Wayne Harmon of being a tape-counterfeiter. But now Harmon has devised an even subtler form of revenge: he engineers for a label to pick up Cakewalk, make them into stars, and then dump the rash Landreaux (whose motto is ""the berserker the better""). And so it goes--as Eskow shows how the lavish big-time rock monies that buy coke, groupies, and limousines also can be used for seamier, often violent purposes; there are two murders of innocent people here, the hip offing the hip. Landreaux is finally forced out; Jimmy Caine, Cakewalk's lead singer and songwriter, goes on to lead the group into fame with a personal lethargy of self-disgust--in contrast to Landreaux's return to basics, playing small clubs, still pure after everything. This ending reduces the novel to predictable, soppy symmetry--but everywhere else Eskow writes with more novelistic panache yet no less specific knowledge of this world than Lawrence Gonzalez did in Jambeaux (1979). Imperfect, then, but a readable, expert look at the glossy, ugly world of rock.