A pebble-smooth and hard little (198-page) thriller by an acclaimed poet, about a kidnapping gone awry in down-and-out Macon. Bottoms (Any Cold Jordan, 1987--not reviewed) opens fast and tight, with ex-boxer Connie Hotzclaw losing his temper in the awful April heat and taking a swing at the college boy that he and his bullying brother Carl have snatched for ransom, stripped naked, and chained at a hideout deep in the Georgian woods. Connie immediately regrets the blow; having agreed to Carl's kidnapping plan only to get a stake to move to Montana with his hash-slinging girlfriend, Rita, Connie's really okay at heart. So okay, in fact, that he spends the next few hours picking up a tramp outside Rita's diner and treating the old goat to dinner--a gesture the tramp repays by showing Connie his own hideaway, an abandoned grave in a nearby cemetery. Connie passes the night with Rita, then returns to the boy and Carl--who promptly tongue-lashes him for showing up late. That's nothing, though, compared to the physical beating meted out by small-town mobster Tommy Wilcox and his gang, who burst in upon the brothers, looking for money owed Tommy by Carl. And worse: at gunpoint, Tommy commandeers the kidnapping, holding Carl and the boy hostage while sending Connie out in the middle of the night, guarded by hoods, to pick up the ransom at its drop point in the cemetery. There, Connie, holding onto his dreams, takes the money and runs--triggering a suspenseful hide-and-seek that sees him hiding with the tramp in the tramp's re-ruge, then hopping a train back to rescue the boy and Carl, which in turn triggers a nifty plot twist that slides into an ending cloying for its contrived irony. Clichâ€šd in its arc of inevitable tragedy, but memorable for its camera-accurate prose, crisp plotline, and plumbing of emotional depths without sentimentalizing. An above-average literary thriller.