The choice between youthful ambitions and loyalties is a proving ground for young Peter Quick, while New Athens, Nebraska, at the turn of the century, lends a plain if unprepossessing realism to his story. Peter's childhood, in a rigid preacher's home, is a cheerless one, and he escapes its confines with Ginny, who remains constant, and Duffy Skinner who saves his life at the swimming hole. Peter, under the influence of Upton Sinclair, decides to become a crusading newspaperman, but Duffy, in the bad company of Zack Beasey, is involved in the murder of farmer Collins and draws 20 years. Peter, now at the State University with Ginny, uses every influence to secure Duffy's release- but he is also working for himself. And when Duffy, paroled, gets a second chance under a new name, it is Peter who betrays him in print- and Duffy is sent back to the penitentiary. A prison break gives Peter his chance to make amends- and he enables Duffy to make a safe getaway to another state and another life.... A novel, by the well known critic, has a firm base and is honest in its derivation and intentions.