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When the phone rings in the middle of the night, publisher Guy Mallon learns his book warehouse has burned to the ground. Rushing to the scene, he and arson inspector Rosa Macdonald see a total loss. And a burned body. Guy Mallon Books faces bankruptcy and the probable dissolution of its partnership; Carol Murphy, Guy's lover and business manager, fed up, has already split. But why is her car spotted parked nearby? It all began when Guy had lunch with retired businessman Fritz Marburger. Like the devil himself, Marburger tempted Guy with a proposition: publish celebrity jazz singer Sweet Lorraine Evans' novel, which he will underwrite. It's the first step in a Faustian bargain that finds Guy sniffing the sweet smell of success, followed by increasingly noxious fumes as the crass Marburger becomes Lorraine's agent, rents Guy's warehouse space, and saddles him with an amoral cotenant: pornographer-turned-vanity publisher Roger Herndon. All Roger needs is ace computerist Gracie Worth to help set up his operation. Supported by two Santa Barbara poets with strong backs and by the sometimes puzzling actions of Gracie and her friend/lover Kittya Katz - two strippers forming the core of Roger's stable of porn stars and production assistants - Guy first tries to make a go of the new venture and then, after the murder, to bring Roger down and reclaim his own soul, not to mention Carol.

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