by E.L. Doctorow;
Random House; 323 pages; $19.95
Near the end, the narrator of this riveting novel refers to all that has gone before as "this story of a boy's adventures." Some boy. Some adventures. Both are as far as they could be from innocent visions of Tom Sawyer or Horatio Alger. Even discounting a particularly bloody penultimate encounter, Billy Bathgate directly witnesses two murders and helps dispose of the body of a third victim. In each case, the perpetrator is the notorious gangster Dutch Schultz, ne Arthur Flegenheimer, Billy's self-described "mentor" and as romantically dangerous a father figure...