The Sterns (Way Out West, 1993, etc.), pop culture's Boswells, turn their attentions to more blue-blooded purlieus in this deeply satisfying chronicle of a year spent on the dog-show circuit. Some time back the Stems owned a purebred dog, a flatulent bulldog, Richard by name. Richard was entered in a local show. Richard savaged the judge's trouser cuff. So much for Richard's championship season. No matter, the Sterns retained their fascination with the show ring, and this book is the result. Attaching themselves to Mimi Einstein, breeder and shower of bullmastiffs, they sought maximum immersion in the dog show ""subculture with its own roles, lingo, and codes of behavior."" The Sterns tour with Einstein from small venues to large, from the early season Eastern shows, then the grueling summer show in Texas, to the apex of the circuit at the Westminster Dog Show in New York City, with many a stop in between. They detail the competitive maneuverings of the owners and handlers, breed trends, the search for bodily perfection according to the American Kennel Club standard. They delve deep, exploring the ""original intent"" of the breed (bullmastiffs have no white in their coat, for they were bred to be guardians of the night at country estates, where a splash of white might give them away) and how show dogs ""express the soul of the culture at large,"" a Stem specialty for any topic they tackle. There are forays into poodleland (how about a Royal Dutch clip and high-teased topknot?) and Canary Island Gripping Dog turf (they'd as soon be at your throat as look at you), but mostly the Stems lavish their attentions on Einstein's dogs. Readers will emerge with a real feeling of kinship with Sam and Rusty and Mugsy Malone. Droll, warm, and impeccably researched--another Stem treasure.