Books: Elegy

ORGANIZED CRIMES by Nicholas von Hoffman Harper & Row; 274pages; $14.95

Nearly every journalist believes he has a novel in him. But if he manages to produce the work, it often bears a disquieting resemblance to journalism. Nicholas von Hoffman's first novel, Organized Crimes, is a happy exception. This is no self-absorbed memoir of How I Broke the Big Story or of backstairs city-room intrigues; indeed, its only journalist of consequence is in the pay of mobsters and is introduced to the narrative at the moment he is shot dead.

The book's setting is Chicago...

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