Books: Jovial, Middle-Aging Man

THE CONTENDERS (278 pp.)—John Wain—St. Martin's ($3.95).

Novelist John Wain, 33, is identified by his British critics and his U.S. publisher as one of the Angry Young Men, but his second novel to cross the Atlantic does not look back in anger. It is a lively, funny story, essentially an American-style narrative about how men make good in a bad way in the big city and learn that success in the end is nothing but dust and ashes.

The publishers describe The Contenders as "a novel of character," and there they are right. The narrator...

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