A compact death sonata--played in the mind of top-money freelance journalist Tom Hazard (on a late-Sixties assignment in Mexico), who has reached the age when ""death begins to appear on all our lists of things to get done."" Suicide runs in the family: his sister did it twenty years ago, his father is now dying of selfinflicted wounds back home, and Hazard is distancing himself from both past and present by ignoring the family crisis and touring the motels of the Southwest in the company of ex-chambermaid Micaela. This opportunistic Scheherazade distracts him with porno-comic-opera tales and reenactments of hotel seductions; he distracts himself with hallucinations and his least painful memories of wife, father, mother, stepmother (a lust object), sister, family friend Ned (his father's lover?), and favorite interview subjects. But variations on that inevitable theme intrude--his sister's yellowed but still-accusing suicide note, the reported deaths of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, his father, and others--and Hazard is left staring at a dark blue automatic pistol, contemplating the ""obvious solution with an old sense of trust."" Unlike most free-associating characters on the fringes of madness and the brink of self-annihilation, Hazard doesn't alienate us with his alienation or bore us for an instant. The mind-connections are crisp and clear, only one scene--Hazard's violent attack on Micaela--seems staged for effect, and Davis (A Peep Into the 20th Century) has put more fine writing and sense of beginningmiddle-end into these 128 unsettling pages than you'd have thought possible.