A haunting, intimate, though diffuse account of a black-youth- on-black-youth drive-by shooting. It was a crime both senseless and preordained: Three drug- dealing East Oakland (Calif.) teenagers, seeking to avenge the theft of a bicycle, piled into a '67 Chrysler and fired a Colt .45 semiautomatic pistol at a group of teens ``harmlessly flirting beneath a streetlight.'' Two of the loitering teens were injured and a thirdthe innocent 13-year-old brother of the bike thiefwas killed. Rivlin (A Fire on the Prairie, 1992) succeeds in showing how this stupid, minimally motivated act had deep roots in the murderers' family histories and in their crack-infested environment, ``the closest thing to hell on earth'' the author ``could possibly imagine.'' Drawing on his own extensive interviews, other journalists' newspaper articles, and the studies of unnamed ``experts,'' Rivlin creates richly detailed portraits of the murderers, the victims, and their families. His portrayal of the crack kingpin known as Fat 'Tone, the ``oversize'' 17-year-old who pulled the trigger, is unexpectedly sympathetic, but the book is most memorable for its depiction of Junebug Jones, an academically promising ``nerd'' who sold crack and drifted into murder just to ``fit in.'' You know from the start that this hypersensitive, frail child will not survive East Oakland's mean streets, despite the best efforts of his hardworking mother. (Today he's serving seven years in California's Youth Authority, having pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.) Junebug is remarkably humanized; but Rivlin's decision to humanize every character, however tangentially related to the shooting, results in a sprawling narrative that becomes somewhat precious. (Do we need to learn that the arresting officer habitually showers before answering a call?) Underedited but powerful: a rich exploration of a surprisingly multifaceted crime.