These days magnolias mean misery, and there is plenty of Southern anguish in this first novel, which, nevertheless, carries an honest message, crisply understated and freshly slanted. Ignoring the tumultuous heat of the civil rights struggle, and the predicaments of settled inhabitants, the author picks up the destinies of the rootless rovers across the land, here in the persons of J.P. Winfield, a poor-white folk singer who hits the local big time; Toussaint Boudreaux, Negro boxer; and Avery Broussard, set "free" by the death of his father from a crumpled ruins of a Louisiana aristocracy. By chance, a chance, accepted by the trio with docile resignation, each man is pulled under to death or despair. Winfield, on a slack leash with no inherent sense of direction, is dragged down into drug addiction; Boudreaux, injured in the ring, drifts innocently into crime; and Broussard tries a hand at moonshine running. Boudreaux and Broussard wind up in the state jail- a hell of cruelty and violence- and although both have a glimpse of salvation -- a judgment beyond their ken condemns them all. A drear perspective, and yet, in its absence of sensationalism, its compassion and simplicity, this initial effort merits some attention.