Steve Hadleyman, out-of-work Montana newspaperman, leaves Great Falls for the nasty little town of Marksburg--when he gets an urgent call from bygone colleague Birdie Johnson, who desperately needs a new editor for the daily paper he's publishing: the Marksburg Dispatch. But narrator-hero Steve arrives to find that Birdie has just been murdered, that the previous publisher is suspiciously missing, and that someone seems determined to kill the Dispatch--a pathetic little rag with a staff of surly, creepy incompetents. Who is the anti-newspaper psycho who then tries to poison Steve and blow up the old printing press? And what's the connection to the rooms full of super-modern newsroom equipment that Steve finds upstairs at the Dispatch? Steve is determined to find out--and to keep on publishing the Dispatch no matter what, even when his entire staff walks out amid growing state/national publicity. Stevens, author of a 1967 YA novel, Meagher of the Sword, makes an uneven mystery debut with this hokey, far-fetched yarn, which ultimately depends on a weakly motivated, ludicrously elaborate conspiracy. Alternately earnest and cutesy, Steve's narration never settles into a persuasive groove. (Even the story's period--somewhere between 1950 and 1970--remains annoyingly vague.) So, thickened with folksy digressions and tedious recaps, this is a harmless but shaky tall-tale--primarily for those who share Stevens' feverish sentimentality about newspapering.