| Like the powerful stories in "The Magic of Blood," Gilb's first novel evokes the heat and dust, poverty, lassitude and passion of the urban Southwest. With an undivulged past and an uncertain future, rugged, itinerant Mickey waits at an El Paso YMCA for a change in fortune. A dime Western is his bible, working out and desultory hanging out his pastimes. Caught between the chronic malaise of shiftlessness and the spark of mischief, competitiveness and libido he still possesses, Mickey watches the pathos of his neighbors even as he senses his own. At times, the narrative drifts perilously close to a too-accurate reflection of the resignation and pointlessness it limns, but Gilb buoys his tale with sensitivity, acuity and humor.