A literary American Graffiti set in a preternaturally decaying housing project in the Bronx, circa 1962 -- in retrospect an innocent era where gang wars were more likely to involve fists and rocks than knives or guns; when a girl's vagina was still relatively sacred territory; and who ever heard of the Beatles? Vietnam? or LSD? This is the story of the Wanderers -- an Italian greaseball gang led by Richie Gennaro: their run-ins with other similar-minded groups of blacks, chicanos, and Chinese; Saturday ball games in the park; parties where the guys try to slip their hands under the girls' bras; the camaraderie and braggadocio as authentic as the teased hair, acne, and "going steady" that we thought we had forgotten. All idylls must, by nature, end, and with graduation the guys sing the lyrics of Dion's hit song one last time ("I roam from town to town/ I go through life without a care/ I'm the Wanderer/ Whoo-oa/ I'm the Wanderer") before they embark on their various dead-end journeys -- to shotgun marriage, the merchant marines, JFK's army -- leaving Richie sitting alone in the deserted playground of his project, still fighting with his chick "C," wondering where his youth has gone. This is a fine first novel -- gritty, incisive, unpatronizing, authentic in its detail, able to recreate a dead era and deal with the American male myth (city-style) while somehow managing miraculously to avoid both pomposity and sentimentality.