Andrew Winer, Author . Washington Square $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-7434-3990-9

Although coming of age on the mean streets has been done to death, this debut by a Bay Area novelist/screenwriter puts an interesting spin on the genre. Fifth-grader Conrad Clay lives in a seedy neighborhood of Alameda, near the San Francisco shipyards and naval station. The son of an abusive, alcoholic welder, he is one of 14 white boys at Jack London Primary, though he fits in pretty well because he avoids "comin at it on the honky-ass tip." His father has just lost his job (but is keeping it a secret), his mother is slipping deeper into depression, his beloved grandmother is in failing health and they are all facing eviction. He finds some solace with his black best friend, Loop, but even that relationship is tumultuous: at one point his father mistakes Loop for a burglar and nearly shoots him. Characters and plot lines range from the mundane (a bully, some adolescent sexual fumbling) to the bizarre (a pair of gay pro wrestlers, Conrad's plan to kill his father with a pipe bomb), but Winer's take on boyhood, with its attendant spasms of bravado and insecurity, always rings true. He errs toward the obvious when it comes to symbolism (Conrad is partially colorblind, for starters), but his imagery is often arresting and he manages to infuse the various domestic upheavals with a dark, damaged lyricism that is deeply affecting. Agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. (July 2)

Forecast:Blurbs from Geoffrey Wolff and Aimee Bender suggest Winer's literary credentials; the novel itself speaks for his street cred. Sales should be strongest on the West Coast, where Winer will embark on a five-city author tour.

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-7434-3992-3
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