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Bill Beverly, read by J.D. Jackson. Random House Audio, unabridged, 9 CDs, 10.5 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-1-101-92357-3

Beverly’s fiction debut is an atmospheric thriller, a crime novel of violence and murder, and an on-the-road experience. The book’s young antihero is a 15-year-old named East, who is standing at a crossroads to his future. His upward mobility through the ranks of his South Central L.A. gang, due primarily to his high-ranking uncle Fin, was halted when he allowed his feelings for a young murdered girl to interfere with his guardianship of a drug house. To reestablish his nephew’s credibility, Fin sends him with three other teen gangsters on a road trip from L.A. to kill a judge on vacation in Wisconsin. Actor Jackson tells Beverly’s granite-hard story in a smooth, almost gentle voice that underscores the pressures East is feeling on the trip. Something in that just-telling-it-like-it-is attitude highlights the boy’s sense of confusion and frustration, saddled with a job he doesn’t think he can do, traveling in unfamiliar surroundings, with boys he can’t control. Jackson has no trouble clarifying the members of East’s teammates on the hit. But his finest achievement is his presentation of East, a too-rapidly maturing boy, confused by his conflicting emotions, uncertain of what to do, how to do it, and where to go to seek advice. A Crown hardcover. (Apr.)