Thomas Pynchon meets Hunter S. Thompson (stylistically) in a novelistic account of the US government's secret air base known as ""Area 51."" Area 51 is a chunk of desert in the southwest the size of Belgium. Beside it lies a nuclear testing site. Both are products of the Cold War, when it was believed air power and nuclear power would combine to keep America safe. Area 51 is a secret place, it exists on no maps. It came into being so aircraft, like the U-2, that could spy on the Soviet Union and China might be tested and perfected. It's so secret that it is in effect a black hole that draws to it the paranoid, conspiracy buffs, the just plain loony. There are the ""youfers"" who search for, and find, UFOs flying above Area 51; there are the ""black-plane watchers"" who search for ultra-top-secret aircraft. This is the world Patton (Made in the USA, 1992; Open Road, 1986) takes us into. He travels beyond the physical location of Area 51 to the psychic location of those who must believe that in the sky exists a world we are not meant to know. He travels to Roswell, N.M., the birthplace of UFO conspiracy theories, to conventions of alien abductees, to a bar in the desert called the Little A 'Le' Inn, where sky watchers share their stories. Why do they believe what they believe, ""see"" what they ""see""? Patton ponders the Jungian notion that flying saucers are ""symbolical rumors."" Or perhaps in a Cold War world that, as he writes, would ""routinize Doomsday . . . bureaucratize Armageddon"" (and this world is not long gone), it takes mystery and the unexplained to give us a sense of common humanity. Patton allows us to question who is loony and who is not. A fascinating meditation on delusion and desire, this is an American tale.