Books: Prince Valium

THE SOUTH FLORIDA BOOK OF THE DEAD by Robert Merkin Morrow; 299 pages; $15.50 (hardback) $7.95 (paper)

The cast of this acute, disturbing first novel inhabits the Florida of all-night bowling alleys, Cuban diners and lesbian discos, caroming from the back streets of Key West to the tile-roofed mansions of Miami. There is no one to root for in The South Florida Book of the Dead—except the author—but its Me-generation drug pushers are an indelible crew, acting out new therapies while measuring their "interpersonal relationships" in grams.

David Becker, preppie and Viet Nam vet, sees himself as Prince Valium. Becker nobly advises a...

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