The file on Allerd Pennington, atom bomb scientist, begins with his disappearance from an Army installation in the south after Hiroshima, ends some years later with his arrest in California on a charge of two deaths and several lesser offenses, and in between attempts to resolve the possible political, criminal or insane motivation behind his acts of disloyalty to his country and his family. To Usez, who is assigned to the case, and who follows him intermittently, his is a dissonant personality- and the nihilism of his viewpoint jars with his sense of social mission, his perverse mannerisms with his apparent charm for many people. While to those in the San Francisco department store where he takes a job in the stockroom under the name of Al. Barker, there are the friendships which do not falter with the revelation of his identity and the many unpleasant events which take place there. And it is there too, having attempted to run away from the guilt of Hiroshima and its betrayal of civilization, that he finds he can run no further-love and compassion and his own humanity- ""the hound of earth"" -- have caught him.... A first novel, this follows the offbeat of a sick civilization and a sick mind, and the department store Santaland where Pennington ends his days of freedom is an equally unhealthy habitat. But there are moments here, sad, shabby and sordid as they may be, which provide a speculative commentary on the way of the world.