Maverick Lange (Vandenburg, Red Snow, The Devil at Home) offers, as usual, something unexpected: a gritty tale of an ex-con's desperate efforts to go straight--efforts that seem doomed until the disturbingly happy ending. Unpolished but sincere Jeremy Wurm is paroled at age 30 after spending most of his adult life in prison for armed robbery (""They only nicked me for one outa fifteen an' that was because I went for the no contest""). Determined to build a new life, he starts an uneasy romance with Berenice (Bee) McSweeney, a checker at the local Safeway; and when he finds out that she's pregnant, he's content with the idea of marrying her and settling down, even though he misses the buzz that he gets from a successful robbery. But Loomis Pickens, his schizoid fundamentalist/homosexual parole officer, has other ideas--and to avoid the certainty that Loomis will ruin his life with Bee, Jeremy plans an escape financed by a robbery at her store. Over Bee's frantic objections, he pulls off the job. but an unexpected interruption leaves two people dead. So far, everything is routine--properly intense, though a little drawn-out. But now Lange's story takes a crazy turn: Loomis is killed in a car crash; the police can't turn up any leads; and Bee, after spending a griefstricken year apart from Jeremy nursing her dying mother, agrees to marry him. preparing for an epilogue in which the two of them are seen raising a fine family and an impressive orchard out in God's country--and Jeremy having made it indeed. Not as ambitious or well-integrated as The Devil at Home (1986), this reads almost like a sketch for one of Lange's iconoclastic books instead of the real thing. But you'd never take it for anybody else's work.