Sweaty with urgency (and the desire to cash in on sticky issues?), this is the story of Arthur Sherman, the number one Jewish tycoon in Mannerville, La., family man and all-around paragon. But then he lapses -- he runs over a little Negro boy and doesn't tell. A man like Sherman in a town like Mannerville can't keep secrets but with luck and largesse he can restrict their circulation. His mistress (a witness), and an unsavory sheriff, and a judge queue up for cuts of the hush money; and the latter two, for their own convenience, plot to pin the crime on Lukie Birdsong, a dangerous buck who makes black power noises. But Birdsong's uncle is Sherman's faithful retainer, and his girl has been shared on the sly by Arthur Junior -- and before long the whole Sherman family is meshugge with anguish. Especially Mrs. S., who is noble to a very irritating fault and whose throat-catching style bleeds over into the narrative. Maybe life is, as a bystanding character avers, ""a shit sandwich,"" but with schmaltz it's no better.