Lamar Pye is the meanest white boy in McAlester State Penitentiary, but when he suffocates Junior Jefferson in the showers with a bar of Dial soap, his only chance for survival is to break out before they find the body. With his retarded harelipped hulk of a cousin, Odell, and Richard Peed, the timid artist who draws pictures of Lamar's fantasies in exchange for protection, Lamar designs a quick escape, hooks up with Ruta Beth Tull, a misfit farm girl, and begins a bloody rampage of murder across the state of Oklahoma.
Pye meets his match, however, in state trooper Sgt. Bud Pewtie, who eats lead like it was birdseed and relentlessly tracks Lamar from one horrific confrontation to another between taking his wife and kids out for dinner, and quickies with his slain partner's widow.
Pliant, devoted women supporting superhuman but emotionally vulnerable men locked in gun battles: The premise is compelling. The movie deal is set. While the violence is extreme, it is matched by tingling suspense. Hunter (Point of Impact) scores big with this testosterone-laden sixth thriller. (Random House, $21)