Crawford's excursion into genre fiction continues: first the western--Lords of the Plain (1985)--and now a Miami-vice drug thriller. But where sheer descriptive talent could muscle the former into something credibly shaped, here Crawford is so alien to his material that he's forced to stylize like mad to keep it moving--and ends up with something both campy and clumsy. A rich New Yorker, Sid Mehring, has been supporting the daughter of a man he knew who was killed in Vietnam. But suddenly he begins receiving letters from the girl that are obscene and abusive--letters, it so happens, the girl herself never wrote. In love with a boy whose father has intimate connections with the Colombian drug trade, the girl, Jamie, finds herself lending her identity to the drug dealers for a variety of uses, including ultimately the faking of her own death in an elaborate turnaround scheme. Mehring, coming down to Miami to see what's going on, immediately is thrown into the shadowy precincts of crooked cops, murderous Latins, homicidal sexual psychopaths, and Gothic-mansion doings in the Keys. Technically, the book has so much trouble wrapping itself around all this mega-luridness that at least half the time a reader won't have the foggiest notion of what's happening. Worse, the spectral pretensions of the prose gauze things suffocatingly: ""Lex went downtown, into the pit of the city. What had maddened the girl smiled on Lex. The freaks and crazies, the bikers and pimps, the dealers and hustlers, the cannibals and killers, Lex went safe among them. Lex was safe downtown because he had done everything."" Menace, you suppose, is the object of such bassosolemn prose--but still you may feel like giggling. A thorough misadventure by a writer who's proven to be much, much better in the past.