Again, the Texas Panhandle where Mr. Estes saunters through a pre-WW II childhood and combines it with the melodrama of his third and last book (A Simple Act of Kindness) to assure the double interest of nostalgia cum curiosity. Through Norman Stuart we learn all about Andy Jessup -- all that Norman knew but could never quite explain. Andy was the son of the town madam whose sweet talking covered a brutal streak -- one that led to her murder at the hands of his worthless father. Shunned and shunted aside, Andy never had another friend except Norman and only became valid for the first time when he served in the Army and lost a few inches of a leg to win a Purple Heart. Norman and Andy go their separate ways -- Norman to become a successful lawyer and happy paterfamilias, Andy to marry three times and kill his last wife as inexplicably as once he stole two hundred dollars. Mr. Fates doesn't let him off too easily -- you are not the result of your givens -- but in the last death-row visit, having refused to defend him, Norman realizes they're sending a sick man to the chair. . . . Sentimentality aside -- and it sometimes gets in Fates' way -- this is the best story qua story he's told to date. You'll he there.