Once during a concert in Berlin Ella forgot the words to 'Mack the Knife' and bullskated her way through it with some bodacious makeshift palaver. After her performance she was declared the official voice of the Land of Oooh Blah Deee, traveling air mail special and postmarked 'from now on.' "" This sort of high-note ""makeshift palaver"" is the principal satisfaction taken home from Wesley Brown's first novel: his sentences end in unexpected pretzels, they blurt and croon; his gift is improvisatory and brassy. What he's not able to do yet is fit a story to his soloing. Melvin Ellington, jailed as a conscientious objector, is paroled after two years, and is back on the streets of his black Queens neighborhood trying to get all the slack strands of his life together. HIS family is a little wary of him. Memories of prison (in beautifully voiced dialogue) intrude. He would very much like to find and have a woman. And a night-time excursion with a hot-headed old friend who lost an arm in Vietnam turns catastrophic. In sum, a ""sensitive"" story of a young man trying to find his compass points again; but Brown's talent will remain rather stifled, as here, till he either finds an appropriately energetic plot--or decides to just let those verbal gifts take off on their own.