This once-famous noir novel (by the author of They Shoot Horses, Don't They?) was originally published in 1948 and inspired an excellent (and long neglected) James Cagney film. In a grating and deliberately stiff style that reflects his arrogant egotism, college-educated ``Ralph Cotter'' (his alias) relates the story of his escape from a prison farm, involvement with willing and dangerous women, and complicity with a corrupt establishment dominated by crooked cops and lawyers that he thinks he can bend to his own invincible will. Cotter is a pugnacious, violently sensual Middle American Raskolnikov, and his remorseless amorality resonates as chillingly today as it must have 50 years ago. Aficionados of hard-boiled fiction who think that Hammett, Cain, and Jim Thompson set the standard ought to take a look at Horace McCoy.