Russian life as Harrison Salisbury never saw it. Brokhin, a former Soviet filmmaker and artful dodger among the pickpockets, card sharps, racketeers, pimps and whores of Moscow's underworld, has written a sleazy, raunchy, often hilarious account of crime and debauchery in the Workers' Paradise. He introduces the most engaging bunch of crooks this side of Damon Runyon--but then, since the Soviet bureaucrats, police and party hacks are the bad guys it follows, as the hangover follows the vodka, that the criminals must be the good guys, the last free spirits in a regimented state, dedicated entrepreneurs and cockroach capitalists all. The tireless efforts of Grandfather Schmuck, Abram Scarface, Zhora the Engineer and Alex the Louse are directed at fleecing foreigners and peasants from the hinterland--anytime, anyplace. Brokhin dates the rise of the fartsovshchiks--the black marketeers--back to 1957 when the First World Festival of Youth was held in Moscow. Because of the chronic shortage of consumer goods, the demand for Western-style clothes, books, records, even drugs, is insatiable and the Russians' hunger for Western decadence supports an army of quick-change artists and shysters among whom Yan ""Cross-Eyes"" Roktov, a man ""with the body of a pigmy and the drives of a Napoleon,"" reigned supreme until he was arrested as a millionaire money speculator. According to Brokhin, ""Cross-Eyes"" was so big that Khrushchev himself sent down the order that Soviet law was to be amended so they could shoot him. Brokhin himself never came so close to the big time. His own career in crime started at fourteen when he stole the costumes from a local theater company's production of Vanity Fair. Later on he ran a ""bordello on wheels"" in the back seat of a Russian cab. The cast of characters may remind you of the Three-Penny Opera with Russian-style MacHeaths and Polly Peachums proving once again that ""greed: the universal, eternal, human emotion"" will triumph over Karl Marx and the Commissars.