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Loft-dwelling middle-class radicals (soon known as the Soho Six) decide to execute monster cop Willy Stella, who offed a hippie kid for no good reason last year and recently critically wounded a Bedford-Stuyvesant dude called Prince Malta. A tatty, implausible premise, especially considering the credentials of first-novelist Chevigny, civil-liberties lawyer and veteran muckraker of police abuse and provocation. However, if you buy the Soho Six--their feeble motives and fuzzy thinking--you'll certainly go for the unspeakable police practices that turn up as social worker Charlie Davis (the Six's best buddy), Legal Aider Ricky Carmona, and news-hound Si Rosen all investigate. Elaborate entrapments, syndicate buy-offs and blackmail, a cornucopia of harassments climaxing with Charlie's split-second escape from (cop-OK'd) murder in a prison cell--Chevigny, risking a cartoon, packs all the sins of the pigs in blue into a few people and incidents. ""The State is just no good at punishing its own crimes."" That's the facile message echoed by all of the good guys here, and it's backed up by the solidly detailed venues of cop-cars, stationhouses, jailhouses, ghetto streets, and slanted courtrooms. And, except for the craftlessness that leaves him with twenty pages of awkward wrapping-up to do, Chevigny is a strong, stinging narrator--almost strong enough to make you forget those unconvincing rebels and those unlikably self-righteous crusaders.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1977
Publisher: Pantheon