Gores, author of a strong mystery series (Dead Skip, Final Notice, etc.) and the intriguing Hammett (1975), now offers a disappointing novel about an ex-con trying to go straight, the hooker who loves/betrays him, and the villains who nearly kill him: something like an Elmore Leonard thriller without Leonard's cutting style and black-comic wit. The less-than-engaging hero is handsome Runyan, who was the fall-guy in a big diamond heist some years back--and has just emerged from San Quentin after eight years of numbing incarceration. His plan? To dig up the $2 million in stolen diamonds that he buried; to make a deal with slimy insurance-investigator Moyers (his company insured the gems), who's been monitoring Runyan's every move ever since the robbery trial; and to avoid any violent encounters with his one-time partners-in-crime (who still want those diamonds). Quite soon, however, Runyan discovers that the diamonds are gone forever, buried beneath a new housing development--and he has no way of proving the truth of this ironic disaster to the shadowy assassins who keep following him. So he must hide out in and around San Francisco, trying to figure out just who is the deadliest of his enemies. Is it one of his old heist cronies? Apparently not: they all get killed by a ruthless hit-man. Is it sleazy shamus Moyers--or some other greedy creep who knows about the diamonds? And who is the mastermind behind gorgeous Louise, the tart-turned-writer who so rapidly seduces Runyan, betrays him, but then (much too predictably) falls in noble love with him? There are a few taut action sequences here: in the best of them, Runyan--aided by Louise--steals a small fortune in bearer bonds from a seedy crime-king. (They use the cash to appease some of Runyan's enemies and comfort one of the mayhem's innocent victims.) And, though a bit gimmicky, the final revelation--the identity of the primary villain--packs a certain punch. Otherwise, however, this is an earnest, run-of-the-mill, slightly pretentious serving of underworld pulp--with a humdrum plot, stock characterizations, and a crudeness of narration (with both sentimental and vulgar extremes) that will surprise fans of Gores' much crisper, smarter fiction.