At George Diener's bail hearing for the shooting death of his son Richie last year on Long Island, his attorney called the incident ""a new American tragedy,"" a comment which seems more than apt. Like the case which Dreiser so skillfully translated into fiction, the Diener nightmare was played out in a rush of circumstances created by social forces beyond the control of fallible human beings and their institutions -- the courts, the schools, the social service agencies, the police, the psychiatrists had all had an opportunity to perhaps avert calamity and all failed in their own fragmented ways. It began when Richie, a smallish, introverted youngster of fourteen, was first introduced to dope -- initially pot, then downers, and toward the end experimentation with heroin -- and it ceased one afternoon four years later in the Diener basement -- Richie, ""a stranger with eyes burning, eyes drowning in a crimson sea"" of Secobarbital, insanely threatening his father with a steak knife, shot dead through the heart by a man who was never able to figure out ""Why had his world come to this? Why was this enemy loose in his house, an enemy he could not understand? His seed had produced a son, but where was the son?"" This is an absolutely powerful and moving record of a family in adversity, unique only in that the psychic wounds ultimately caused real blood. The Diener case history shreds our phony liberal/conservative shibboleths about hard-hat ideology, the drug culture, and the easy annunciations of the further deterioration of the American way of life, telling us only that somewhere along the line something horrible has happened to the dream, not only in the cities but the suburbs as well. The book has no answers, but, parent or child, it may save your life.