Second thuggishly pulp-styled novel by Ridley, whose Stray Dogs (1997) was filmed as the Oliver Stone dud U Turn. As James M. Cain found and Jim Thompson later confirmed, the female is the deadlier of the species. Jeffty Kittridge, a scriptwriter who has written only one unsubmitted script (A Kick to the Heart), which the various lowlifes here read and pronounce ""beautiful,"" is a con man who adapts short-change ruses out of Thompson's The Grifters until he runs into the big con that can change his life (a turn also out of The Grifters). In the novel's first sentence, two of Jeffty's fingers are broken to spur him to round up the fifteen grand he owes bookie Dumas. Jeffty is an alky who hangs out with other heavy boozers at the Regent bar, but his boozing's unconvincingly detailed and the bar is like a badly lighted movie set. Jeffty notices that Mona, a street beggar forever asking for change, is a ringer for Pier Angeli, once the love of James Dean, and he remembers that big producer Moe Steinberg still carries the torch for the late Pier. If he can clean up Mona and wave her in front of Moe, chances are he can get the bolus he owes Dumas out of Moe and save more fingers from getting broken. So he takes in Mona, pulls some low seams to get her done over by beauticians in the manner of Pier, and begins planting her in a bar Moe frequents. At last Moe shows up and bites on the bait. Meanwhile, vice cop Duntphy (a name hard even to think) locks up Jeffty to get him to put the skids to Dumas. The climax is a cat's-cradle of cons and deceptions. Good Cain novels are pleasures to reread, their turnings ever fresh. Each page here, though, has inky fingerprints smudging the original. May Ridley look into his soul next time instead of his bookcase.