A workmanlike novel with a promising start that soon becomes melodrama. After more than a year in jail for a drugstore holdup, about which he remains unrepentant, Michael Carver, age 18, must live with his father and stepmother, whom he bitterly resents, for the first time since his parents' divorce nine years before. Mike is drawn to and repelled by the solidly middle-class, fat life-style of his father, and is eager to be on his own. Quickly he finds work as apprentice to a 17-year-old girl with her own landscaping business; and he moves in with Merriweather, a charming loser who talks of himself in the third person and is clearly bad news. For one thing, Merriweather's antics cost Mike his job. And by the time the easily hoodwinked Mike realizes that Merriweather has involved him in a scheme to rob one of the landscaping clients, he is in over his head. During a nocturnal showdown with Merriweather on the decaying estate of the aged Polish actress Granowska, like something out of Sunset Boulevard, Mike's father is shot; but it's only a shoulder wound of course, and Mike at once grows up and becomes full of self-insight and understanding for everyone. Granowska generously refuses to press charges against Mike--and from the looks of things, he's going to get his job back and a girlfriend besides. Very tidy stuff.