Vaguely in mind of a ""quest""--maybe the merchant marine--Blake Pasque drops out of college. First stop is Charleston, S.C., to pay a call on his actress-mother, Jess, a beautiful but much-institutionalized widow leashed tightly by her powerful brother Cross. Jess says she's got a part in New York awaiting her, if only Cross will let her go: Cross has hired two ""birddoggers""--debt-collectors--to keep her from fleeing. One of these gunsels, Raphael, happens to be bonkers, given to the live dissection of monkeys and men--and Blake finds himself plop in the middle, with both his life and Jess' life at stake, Their flight from the stalking Raphael, Blake's ceremony-of-manhood by killing the maniac, and the resultant acid family scenes all take place on Halloween eve--a stagy touch to an already spectacularly stagy novel. But Greet (Slammer) writes with wonderful authority, strong, cadenced, and projective. When they can step forward from the lurid backlighting of those outrageous Gothicisms, Greer's scenes and Jess' sexuality and Blake's resolve are memorable, built up by distinctive blocks of excellent prose. A little too wound-up for its own good, then, but a novel of true atmosphere and fine isolated execution.