The latest of Garfield's full-blown 18th century novels, and the closest yet to the traditional picaresque comic romance, tears back and forth along the coach route between Chichester and London, and then follows the more erratic path of a traveling Shakespeare company, with never a false step or a lag in pace. Sam, the hero, is the next thing to a foundling; born on a stopover at The Red Lion in Dorking to a nameless unmarried young woman who dies on the spot, leaving only a pistol and ring she says were his father's, he is adopted by Chichester, the dour coachman named for his route, and his wife who rides with him as guard. As the ""tiddler"" grows Chichester hopes that his own gift of a coachman's whip will balance Sam's uncertain inheritance -- represented by the pistol, from his ""other pa."" But Sam is not yet eleven when his first hangover keeps Ma Chichester caring for him at the inn while her husband goes off with a substitute guard and is shot and paralyzed, never to drive again -- and when at sixteen Sam takes over the coach he wrecks it on his first run and leaves his parents in disgrace. There is much rambuctious roaring about, related with Garfield's usual vigor and virtuosity, and a little discreetly implied wenching (he later marries the resolute barmaid) before it is dramatically revealed that the drunken lead actor in the touring company Sam has joined, the insufferable genius who coaches and competes with him and cheats him of his money, is not only Sam's ""natural pa"" but also, begad, the man who had shot the coachman. It all seems to tumble effortlessly from Garfield's head as Sam hurtles along in Tom Jones' wake driving a more streamlined vehicle.