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FICTION : VENDETTA by Steve Shagan (Perigord/Morrow: $17.95; 298 pp.).

September 21, 1986|Harry Trimborn

Pop thriller writer Steve Shagan is off on another safari into violence, bloodshed and sex that takes the reader to the jungles of Los Angeles and Colombia where the villains are beset by money problems. They have so much of it they are forced to build a warehouse twice as long as a football field to house money piled up to the rafters in sealed glass containers to keep the rats from eating up all those $100 bills.

The money comes from sales to satisfy America's insatiable desire for cocaine. The billions are amassed by a network masterminded by a messianic Colombian cocaine king "with movie-star good looks" who's out to destroy white power in North America and give it back to the Indians by hooking WASPs on coke. He is deeply annoyed at his business partner, the Mafia, for refusing to take more of the growing piles of money off his hands and launder it through its various American enterprises, chief of which is its lucrative L.A.-based pornography business.

Their deal comes unraveled through the death of a teen-age porn star whose greatest physical asset is her eyes: "They project a quality of a helpless carnal sacrifice." The Mafia and the Colombians begin bumping each other off--to the delight of U.S. authorities. Among them is a hero of a previous Shagan thriller, Lt. Jack Raines, now assigned to a police unit known by the acronym NIFTY--Narcotics Intelligence Force Tactical.

The plot, spiced by lurid writing, is timely and moves along swiftly and smoothly enough, but it doesn't take much to figure out the who in this whodunit. Delving into its world of mountains of money, beautiful women and opulent settings, Shagan adds a touch of glamour to the cocaine trade, despite all the gore and the novel's clucking about its evils.

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