A snarling, when not groveling, story of three small-time criminals--welfare wino Harry Lum, 57--it's really his book--and two younger delinquents, a pimp and a pill-popper, who are ready to give Harry a little of their action after a nineteen-year-old hooker/junkie is killed. Their first job entails holding up a stone salesman who carries lots of jewelry on him and when that fails, Harry is left to pick up the chit and his only alternative is the reluctant refuge available in his stepsister's rooming house where she almost nags him to another kind of death. Harry collaborates on a second unsuccessful heist, is again the one that's left behind, but at the end--after one of his confederates has been shot down by the dicks--he's nursing a small wound, anticipating what's to follow. . . . Former police-reporter Brashler (also author of The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings, 1973) knows the crotch of Chicago in the '60's where and when this takes place. He is now compared to George C. Higgins, though Higgins has both more humor and likability going for him. Brashler's city dogs have less to redeem them even if he does very well in verifying the pathos and losing odds of their existence, calcified at the lowest level.