Books: Fastmouth in Babylon

CIRCLE OF WOMEN by Drury L. Pifer. 335 pages. Doubleday. $5.95.

Sometimes Novelist Pifer sneaks glances at his metaphors like a new-hatched press agent admiring his first pair of $60 shoes. But this boyishness is not offensive: he can write almost as well as he thinks he can.

Pifer's literary fancy is a ring of courtesans organized by a shadowy group of sinners to pry cashable secrets out of the military-industrial complex. His hero is a plausible young fastmouth, Tom Habba-kuk—named somewhat pretentiously after a 7th century B.C. minor prophet —who has been recruited to shill for the vestals, as the girls are...

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