To the natives, Shady Bend, Texas, is a dead town, long before they reach the Sweet Dreams Funeral Parlor; to the spectators however, many of the goings on seem pretty lively-even reminiscent of a certain sex sump further north- and added to the everpresent escape, there's the encroaching problem of desegregation raising an even uglier head. And if black and white are not on speaking terms, parents and children are not much closer. Among them are Tommy Evans, the weak- or is he really worthless-son of the local banker, the end product of a fatuous mother; Cerise, the Judge's daughter, whom he is expected to marry- a hopeless nymphomaniac who eventually disgusts him (unaware- as is the Judge- of her octoroon inheritance); Jill, just 17, romantically in love with Tommy, an outcast in the town where her mother runs a diner inherited from her ""jew"" lover; and finally Harry Morgan, editing the local paper with his father- a hopeless drunk- not knowing that his father had been gutted by an earlier tragedy. And in the background- along with the ""Niggers"", there are the ""Meskins"" living under equally submerged conditions. During the months here which are filled with all kinds of racy incidents, Cerise, abandoned to begin with, becomes available to any man; Tommy, having seduced Jill but failed to make the offer of marriage her mother demands, leaves town; Morgan's father dies- and he gets his chance to make something of his paper- and himself; and Jill learns the value of the steadier love he offers her. While by no means highminded, Mrs. Gallagher, in her first novel, never forgets she has a story to tell and she keeps it readable. Publisher promotion may well make it saleable.