When sticky darkness sinks over the metropolis and the air enfolds you like a warm dishrag soaked in urine, the murder rate rises hand in hand with the humidity count."" Anyone wishing to read beyond this opening line should have a taste for blood and for tabloid sensationalism. John Godwin sets the stage with a look back at such violent heroes as Wyatt Earp and Butch Cassidy. Then we get chapter after chapter of murders--among family and friends, among women, gays, and gangsters--and through it all, Godwin tries to wax poetic. In the chapter on ""Crimes Passionnels,"" he writes that the Manson massacre was ""an act of romantic nihilism, a fist shake at civilization at large, the attempt of a reeking, unwashed outsider to imprint his personality on the dry-cleaned exurbia that wouldn't recognize him."" Interspersed among the murders are some worthwhile statistics: juvenile crime has risen 1600% in the last 20 years, we learn. Unfortunately, Godwin's attempts at analysis are less successful. Scoffing at the ""myth"" of the political left that alleviating poverty will help reduce crime, he points to repressive Haiti as one of the world's poorest countries, but also among the safest. He calls for some ""ultimate punishment,"" concluding that ""it doesn't matter greatly whether it consists of solitary confinement for life or execution."" Meat for the bloodthirsty, and a soap-box for the author, but no real point.