A striking debut collection from a journalist whose articles for the Village Voice and Esquire portray people--some famous, some obscure--hovering somewhere around the edges of pop culture. In Reno, Nevada, on the trail of the heavy-metal band Judas Priest, whose albums allegedly caused the suicide attempts of two very troubled teens, Solotaroff captures the weirdness of this metastasizing ``town for losers'' and the leather-clad bandmen who love golf more than Satan. In the Yankee Stadium bleachers, he finds cheery, beery, foul-mouthed fans who tell macho stories of sports bonding. On a Yugoslavian island of Sveti Stefan for the renegade chess ``championship'' between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, he concludes that the surrounding war--the ``anarchy of freak individualism run amok''--absolutely fits Bobby Fischer's chess history. Trailing ex-footballer Mark Gastineau as he chases elusive glory in boxing, Solotaroff finds an overbearing stage father. He poignantly probes the lost dreams of playground hoops legend Earl Manigault, whose few personal effects include a dog- eared notebook and a photocopy of his Hollywood film option. He observes legendary musician James Brown, in perpetual trouble with the law, manically referring to himself in the third person--it sounds like ``Jamebrown''--amidst ``global/biblical self- pronouncements'' not entirely without foundation. A few short pieces--on the subculture of trick bikers, cracked-up comedian Charlie Barnett, and toilet-head comic Andrew Dice Clay--could use some more depth but are still arresting. Despite the unfortunate subtitle, a collection full of powerful descriptions and memorable moments. Ivan is the son of Ted Solotaroff, literary critic and former Harper editor.