This novel about prison life is replete with stunning characterizations, moment-by-moment dramatics and minutiae that could only emanate from the acumen of someone who has been there. It also gyrates wildly into the type of fantasy that could only have come from a stir-crazy mind. For example, one of the major characters, a psychotic Naziesque youth, eventually almost succeeds in flying out of prison...no, not with the wings of an angel but in a balloon his cellmate had been stitching together. Because of this, Frank Elli's The Riot has a more realistic charisma. But the reader won't soon forget the men, particularly Manny, ""the baby raper,"" a gentle soul who truthfully was sent up on a bum rap; Paul Juleson, a reader condemned by the court and by himself for the murder of his wife; Chilly, the 25-year-old operator who was ""born old,"" and could manipulate everything except his own feelings. Then there's Society Red, a man who has found a home behind bars and freaks like Gasolino, killer who finds an unusual way of obtaining a high, and Candy Cane, ""stuff,"" the perfect cell and bed partner. Mr. Braly is an extremely effective and talented writer. One could only wish that his imagination were as disciplined as his prose.