Gilford, author of both fiction and nonfiction (An Unfortunate Woman, 1984; A Day at the Races, 1988; etc.), takes a driving tour of the South in this short (176-page) novel (a film version is in the works), with an ex-con at the wheel and a dark-haired beauty, Lula Pace Fortune, babbling inanities in the seat next to him. Sailor Ripley (with no tattoos and little character besides a certain sexy sweetness) has just finished a two-year stint at the Pee Dee River work camp. Lula meets him at the gate in her Bonneville, and off they go, headed toward the golden sunset, touching down in garden spots like Top Hat, Louisiana, and Big Tuna, Texas. These kids are happy, even if money's low; Lula can't quite settle on a cigarette brand (Mores are her current favorite); and the worry that Lula's overprotective mother may be in hot pursuit periodically plagues them. And sure enough, mother Marietta hires a gumshoe named Johnnie Farragut to ""find 'em. . .and shoot that boy."" But Johnnie gets sidetracked in the Big Easy writing fiction, while the kids zoom on to Texas, where Sailor gets arrested for holding up a feed store. So it's back to the pen for Sailor, who on his release ten years later does a noble thing by leaving Lula to her own devices--""You been doing fine without me, peanut,"" he tells her. ""There ain't no need to make life tougher'n it has to be."" Gifford's South is ersatz, tarred up with Forget-Me-Not Cafes and Dixie beer, his Romeo and Juliet more treacly than tragic. And no one's ""wild at heart"" here, only tame and superficial.