Edward Hyams (Tillotson, The Unpossessed, etc.) is a good writer of serious intentions and concerns, but this is not one of his more interesting books perhaps because it is so deliberate. It deals with engagement and evasion, in both private and public lives, and the several stories are affiliated. First, there's Paul Tapper, a photojournalist, married to a woman he has never loved. Now there's his affair with Myrtle met on an assignment involving an Arthur Sowbin, the ""last poor man"" of the title who is defending his land against a new housing development. Sowbin, whose recorded rights to the property go back to the Domesday Book, is actually a ""lumbering hominid,"" a degenerate-- uncouth and illiterate. And last, there's Paul's old schooldays friend, now involved in a political-homosexual scandal. All of this is handled with civilized intelligence, but it is so unemphatic in the way that it is told that it seems to have been spoken in an undertone.