Six Angels at My Back

by John Bell Clayton. Macmillan, $1.50.
This first novel has been selected to launch an experiment in publishing: the idea is to bring fiction of merit to a wider audience in its original edition by using paper covers and so virtually cutting cost in half. Mr. Clayton’s narrator, Ed Greaver, is a 19-year-old Southerner who shares a shack with the two friends he grew up with, Turkey and his pretty wife Mae. Hounded by trouble and broke, Ed and Turkey become involved with a sinister giant, Bible, who draws them into a robbery in which a man is killed by Bible. Ed — lonely, sexually distraught by Mae’s teasing, and terrified by Bible —gets caught up in “a bad, crazy dream,”which ends in murder. This is a taut, moving little story, somewhat reminiscent of James Cain, but with the accent not on tough bravado but compassion.