BOOKS: SINNING FLAMBOYANTLY

BARNEY PANOFSKY IS A WRY SCOUNDREL, A POSSIBLE MURDERER AND MORDECAI RICHLER'S BEST HERO YET

If Saul Bellow had remained in Quebec, Mordecai Richler would be Canada's second best Jewish novelist. That would be nothing to agitate a stick at. Most of Richler's 10 novels, which include The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and St. Urbain's Horsemen, are inspired comedies about Montreal's Jewish community, of which the author, now 66, remains a member.

The writer's close, conflicted ties to his birthplace give his work its special flavor, not to mention its distinctive sense of the not quite familiar. Richler's raffish characters could be from New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, except that they are nuts about hockey,...

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