John Knight was the Philadelphia newspaper heir whose death at the age of 30 exposed his homosexual life among the lowly--a secret, but also a clichÃ‰. Which is why it made the headlines but doesn't make a book. This one is really the story of Bell's obsession with Knight's sexual persona and his own. It starts with a flashback to fall 1975, when Knight, cruising the gay ""chorus line"" on Spruce Street, picked up 19-year-old Felix Melendez and instituted one of his typical ""paternalistic"" relationships--with the difference, this time, that the object of his ambivalent affections became not his blackmailer but his executioner. The mystery of the motive will never be resolved because Felix was killed by two cohorts for bungling their spontaneous rip-off attempt with violence (incited by his first shot of meth?). Bell, on the case originally for the N.Y. Village Voice, comes on like some hard-boiled derivative--""I check into the Warwick Hotel. . . . Room service brings up a Jack Daniels, a ham and cheese on rye""--and, new friend in tow, returns for one cohort's trial: ""I check into the Warwick, call the florist. . . . We ball."" (He elaborates.) The variously redundant and contradictory information on Knight's background and the crime isn't distilled; indeed, Bell weights everything equally, regardless of source or relative importance (from, e.g., the text of Knight's secret diaries as shared with him by a Deep Throat detective to the sexual tension that he, Bell, feels when their legs bump under the table). He beats his dead horse with rhetorical filler (""Behind each doorway, a drama"") and shamelessly talks of himself. And he ruminates inconclusively: ""Knight and Melendez. It's like searching for the lost chord, and I don't know why I'm looking."" Enough said.