Again set in San Francisco, the author's second novel (The House of Blue Lights, 1987) is narrated vividly and obscenely by cut-rate con man Jack Squire, who runs an ancient Checker cab for eating money between hustling freebies at conventions and looking for scams unobtrusive enough to keep him on the right side of his parole officer. Jack thinks he's found a safe grift when he gets word of a container shipment from Hong Kong up for grabs. It turns out to be packed with rubber Buddha dolls that scream when punched. It's also packed with trouble for Jack, who is soon under suspicion for the murder of customs clerk Ray Bailey. In the nearly incomprehensible events that follow, Jack becomes a messenger for a shady customs broker; breaks into various offices and warehouses; gets beaten up a few times; tries the patience of his weirdo friends, especially foul-mouthed photographer-girlfriend Gina; and finally succeeds in uncovering the operative dirty dealing. Jack's persona, meant to be charmingly picaresque, comes off closer to repellent, though never mean-spirited. A goofy plot, some sputtering comedy, and lots of street tours through the city's seamier by-ways don't help. Hard-working, but hard to take.