This long (450 pages or so) suffering second novel covers the four years spent by Dan McDermott, in medical school, in L.A. after the suicide of his mother. Suicide is very much on his mind as well as the author's: he broods over his cadaver's at first undiagnosable cause of death--he swallowed Lysol; on the last page in a jam session at County Hospital, there is another Lysol applicant; in between, the girl (waitress-artist-alcoholic) he meets, sleeps with, later marries therapeutically to stabilize her, takes an overdose of barbiturates twice--the second time irretrievably. Other terminal incidents--a co-medical student with a fatal cancer; the druggist, for whom he works nights and with whose wife he sometimes plays nights, on the table--open heart. Nothing lightens the case load here but the novel is written with good intentions and a steady interest in an attempt to reconcile Dan with an acceptance of the fact that people die. The novel could have used some contrast, moving as it does through a depressed area of misfits, indigents, tramps, pimps, leaving them with little alternative between the river and the knife.