Picks and Pans Review: Spidertown

updated 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Abraham Rodriguez Jr.

After his much-praised autobiographical story collection, The Boy Without a Flag: Tales of the South Bronx, it's no surprise that Rodriguez has gone back to his home turf for his first novel. Spidertown, which was optioned by Columbia Pictures, is an inside view of teenage angst in a world where one wrong move can lead to murder.

Miguel is a 16-year-old drug runner in the South Bronx. He owes status and material wealth to the local crack lord, Spider, who "can grab a 10-year-old kid and turn him into a successful businessman faster than IBM or ITT." Miguel's life is one long party of sex, drugs and driving around in "Baby," his '68 cherry red Impala with a string of blue Christmas lights blinking under the dash. Everything is dope until his innate intelligence and the women who love him compel him to make some dangerous and far-reaching choices.

While the repetitive street dialogue grows tiresome, Rodriguez uses the repetitiveness of life in the ghetto itself to make the tension and desperation of Spidertown achingly palpable. (Hyperion, $119.95)

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