Mr. Willeford (The Burnt Orange Heresy) is a rolling stone storyteller and even if you think cockfighting is a dirty sport which couldn't possibly interest you, you'll find that it's kept somewhat clean and that it probably will -- from the time when Frank Mansfield manufactures a crack in the beak of his last gamecock and is left with only ten dollars and a dead bird on his hands. A professional cocksman determined to be the best in this business (and there's a lot of cash on the line at every pitting) Mansfield has also taken a vow of silence and never speaks -- to the girl back home who's been waiting for him for years; to his brother whom he now turns out of the old homestead in order to get some money to return to the game; or to the new young widow woman he meets en route. Finally Frank is back with a new line of chickens including one favorite, Icarus, whom he is sure will win for him at the Southern Conference Tourney. Willeford knows how to hustle his story along but it's the particulars (the conditioning, dubbing, handling of the birds) and the not so sporting blooded excitement of the matches which he promotes with a lot of enterprise and aplomb. Even where you well might flinch at the malevolent gleam in the eye of the bird who's about to lose it.