A jokey, folk-flavored roundup of a yakety East Texas family, their maverick friends and foes, lovers and strangers in the past and present, a ghost or two, and the travels of a sawed-off Stradivarius violin--from 1830 Louisiana to present-day Atlantis County, Texas. Grandfather Ray Ed Strait, 90, has just expired as granddaughter Grace Ellen force-fed him grits. The family gathers for the funeral: matriarch Iris Lee, the widow, who's planned on Ray Ed packing it ill before her paid-up Alaskan cruise; Aunt Baby, Iris Lee's fluttery belle of a sister; sodden and sassy Uncle Dearest; and Iris Lee's other son, Charles T., meek and a worrier ever since wife Gloria levitated six inches off the bed. and later took off for the Amazon to study psychic surgery. (But he's silently loved by Maejean, timid widow of dead Bubba.) Then there are Charles T.'s three grown-up offspring: randy Davey and randy Grace Ellen, who hates nice, dull men like her husband; and Boo, apparently a mule, and stupid on top of it. So they're all hanging around wailing for the reading of the will, with a gun-toting stranger, a murderer/lover, and presences from the past (and the Beyond) in the wings. In between sessions at the Straits', there's the chronology of the tangled past of a violin, at first purloined from a Hungarian musician who made love and ran. A violin swan song precedes a suicide, and it's revealed that Elijah, ""The Fiddling Prophet of Jesus,"" seduced the nymphet who'll live a century for conjuring and revenge. At the close, it's mute Boo who fiddles some magic that straightens out most of the Straits--and lays out another. Ostensibly a mythic/folk fiddlin' yarn, but crammed with farcical gimcracks, this doesn't have the bite or depth of, say, the novels of Lee Smith. Still, the goings-on--both spectral and at-the-Straits'--have a sprightly beat.