January Publications

Life in prison is the subject of Braly's 1967 classic On the Yard, now back in print with an introduction by Jonathan Lethem. Braly, who wrote the book while doing time in San Quentin, has an uncommon ear for the rhythms of big house speech. The expertly drawn ensemble cast and institutional insight may remind readers of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest—Braly does for prisons what Kesey did for the insane asylum. (NYRB, $14.95 paper 376p ISBN 0-940322-96-X)

A stunning female oil executive sees her best friend killed at the outset of Silent Partners, a slick, overstuffed thriller by Elizabeth Jeffett. Alex Sheridan Blake was devoted to Christine, but since Christine's death, Alex has been haunted by a recurring dream in which oil turns to blood on her hands. Jeffett gives convincing glimpses of the moneyed life in Dallas and Denver, but the mystery plot loses steam early on. (Elton-Wolf, $24.95 393p ISBN 1-58619-032-6)

The young heirs of a pair of Korean gangsters are raised together in California, along with the son of an Irish mobster, in Almer John Davis's Sugar of Lead, an uneven cross-cultural thriller with mystic overtones. Michael "Sugar" Pierce has always considered it his duty to look after his Korean comrades—especially the beautiful Katherine. But when the body count spirals out of control, he settles on an even more arduous task: to fight for peace. (Stoneagle [Xlibris, dist.], $29.69 352p ISBN 0-7388-5206-6)