A reckless newspaper columnist exposes mobster coddling and official corruption in Depression-era St. Paul. Chicago wasn't the only jazz-age crime capital and Al Capone wasn't the only crimelord. St.Paul, Minnesota, was as wide open and rotten in the Twenties and early Thirties as any place in the country. St. Paul was where John Dillinger went when things got too hot farther south. It was never too hot in St. Paul. Thayer's fact- based thriller pits a gas-ravaged WW I veteran against the entrenched rot. Grover Mudd writes for the St. Paul Frontier News, a daily on its last legs. Furious that the city in which he grew up has succumbed to rule by the unruly, Mudd uses his column (``Grover's Corner'') to twist the noses and bloody the eyes of the mobsters who operate openly. Alone at first against the gangsters, Mudd is eventually joined by one of J. Edgar Hoover's first and best agents, by an honest top-level cop, and, finally, by his own editor. The criminals are as mean and relentless as the Minnesota winters. Mudd's only comforts are his black lady-friend and an alcoholic buddy at the paper. And there's a gorgeous, opium- smoking, gangster girlfriend drifting in and out of the scene. Also drifting: Baby Face Nelson, Ma Barker's boys, and a legendary midwestern madam. This entertaining and well-researched book has its own history. After 40 publisher rejections, Thayer took matters into his own hands and published it himself, selling Saint Mudd out of his car trunk at the Twin Cities parking lot where he worked. Some four years--and 10,000 copies--later, Viking bought the book and will issue it now for national distribution. Good for them.