After the steady action of No Cure for Death and Baby Blue Rip-Off, sleuth-writer Mallory has a more leisurely outing, with most of the emphasis here on chat about the mystery-writing biz and its literary history. This time, you see, Mallory (from Iowa) is at the ""Bouchercon"" in Chicago, a convention of mystery-fiction types. And the murder victim is legendary, Spillane-like Roscoe Kane, Mallory's mentor--""a cantankerous self-pitying old bastard whose private eye books I read as a kid had made me want to write mysteries when I grew up, and so he was my hero. Still."" Who drowned old, bitter Kane in his hotel bathtub? Was it his ex-wife, his estranged homosexual son. . . or perhaps one of the publishing-bozos involved in a scheme to fake a long-lost Dashiell Hammett manuscript? (Kane wrote the fake, then decided to expose it.) Well, the mystery's a limp one; the action is slight; and Mallory is less enjoyable company than usual. But mystery-story buffs may enjoy the roman Ã clef crowd at the Bouchercon here (including a vicious sketch of a pompous Robert B. Parker type), even if Collins' defense of the greatness of Spillane-style pulp is never very convincing.