A slight, sweet first novel spinning out a pipe dream of a scare. A blizzard in Queens brings kindly, ineffectual handyman Dave Winger into the Green Leaf Tavern--and into the velveteen clutches of con man Al Croppe, who offers to put up $50,000 to set Dave up in business. Dave backs down but then, smitten by one of his clients' gold-digging nieces, looks Croppe up to ask about it again. But now the terms are different: Dave's got to put up half the money himself. In fact, when the two leave the bank in Croppe's limo, they've got a check for $50,000 made out to Dave, who accidentally leaves the check with Croppe, who uses it to open an account of his own and then insists he can get the money out only by having Dave launder it through an Atlantic City casino--in a scheme that will end with Dave accused of larceny and dependent on Croppe and his vampirish lawyer Donnie Grenlily to rescue him. As hapless Dave falls deeper and deeper into Croppe's pocket, Israel pulls off some beautiful scenes--especially Dave's dinner in Philadelphia with Croppe, Kathy the gold-digger, former clients Mr. and Mrs. Blitnis, and the narrator, Russ the cabdriver. But Israel's winsome invention flags when Croppe sucks Dave dry and proceeds to run the same scare past Russ, whose worldly wariness doesn't do him any more good than Dave's saintly ignorance. A tasty slice of Damon Runyon-iana. As for Brenda, she's Russ' wife. Forget her.