This is unquestionably a young man's novel (David Bradley is 23) and the romance is as thick as the humidity on a hot summer's day in Philadelphia. You may smile from time to time at his protagonist--Adlai Stevenson Brown, sensitive poet, melancholic drunk, tender lover of whores and his fellow man--but then this is also a precocious achievement displaying an acute power of observation. Opening out there's a dedicatory poem to ""South Street""--the garbage, hunger, stench, hatred. It's not awfully good, but the novel fleshes out its ideas with a network of hustlers much larger than any pity you might initially feel. Most of them hang out at a dive called Lightnin' Ed's--Jake the wino, Big Betsy the superannuated whore, Rayburn the janitor whose wife runs off with a smalltime pimp/gangster, and even the Reverend who learns that bars are a more humane institution than his bunko Word of Life church. Their barfly repartee is a damn sight more entertaining than any TV talk show we've seen in a long time. Then there's Brown, the interloper with a college education that's the ticket to cross the river back to his suburban Oreo any time he gets tired of ""Slot Machine 'Nessa"" who's been doing it for small change since the age of fifteen and only becomes orgasmic with Brown. Of course he leaves--wouldn't you? And the result is a surprising, well-turned, sympathetic novel that will be read for some time to come.