HIn 24 hours, handsome 27-year-old drug dealer Monty Brogan will enter Otisville Federal Prison to do seven years hard time. His father wants him to run. His drug-lord boss, Uncle Blue, wants to know if he squealed. His girlfriend isn't sure what she wants, and his two best friends know one thing for sure: after he goes in, he will never be the same. In this character-driven crime novel, first-time novelist Benioff dazzles with a spellbinding portrait of three high school buddies confronting the consequences of their carefree youth on the streets of New York. Monty really wanted to be a fireman, but fell in love with ""sway,"" the deference afforded a young man with important connections. For the past five years, he's been selling drugs for Uncle Blue in Manhattan, to moneyed and celebrity clients. His pal, maverick bond trader Frank Slattery, thirsts for serenity, but dreams of avenging old wrongs while fighting his covert lust for Monty's Puerto Rican girlfriend. Despite Monty's dismal future, shy Jakob Elinsky, an ethical, awkward high school English teacher, envies his friend's self-assurance with women as he struggles to control his own secret hunger for a talented writing student, 17-year-old Mary D'Annunzio. The three friends spend one last night together dancing and drinking at Uncle Blue's nightclub. Amid the false merriment, Monty is summoned upstairs to a heart-stopping confrontation with his former boss. Brilliantly conceived, this gripping crime drama boasts dead-on dialogue, chiaroscuro portraits of New York's social strata and an inescapable crescendo of tension. Monty's solution to his agonizing dilemmas will shock even hardened suspense lovers. Film rights to New Line Cinema for a movie to star Toby McGuire. (Jan.) Forecast: With the hip talk and high tension of Richard Price's Clockers, and the assured prose and grasp of character of a seasoned novelist, Benioff's debut may hit the cash registers right out of the gate. It's no wonder that Benioff has been nominated for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award, or that the book carries happy blurbs from George P. Pelacanos, Vincent Patric and Ann Patchett.