Fletcher was hiking along the Colorado fiver one day in 1968 when he came across an old trunk, then a cave which its owner had apparently inhabited years earlier (1916, as it turned out). Curious about ""Trunkman,"" Fletcher published an article asking for information--and was contacted by an 80-year-old woman who had once lived in the desert with a man she was sure was Trunkman. From colorful Grace Mazeris' vivid memories Fletcher went on to track clown her Bill Simmons in the National Archives, in Simmons' Pennsylvania home town where a few relatives still remembered Uncle Bill, and in various desert towns where oldtimers spoke of the prospector/cook/desert rat/great guy whom they had known as Chuckawalla Bill. Fletcher traces his own near-obsessive search for the independent wanderer with whom he increasingly identified, then switches (once the major pieces are in place) to a biography he was then able to piece together from oldsters' recollections, records of Simmons off-and-on military service from the Spanish-American War to World War I, and other bits and pieces. Simmons' identity as Trunkman is never absolutely proven but all the evidence supports Fletcher's gut feeling. Fletcher's occasional attempts to place the life in a general historical frame are uninspired, but his stronger, more concentrated interest in old Bill has a way of getting to his readers--who may also, as Fletcher does, stop every now and then to question the point of it all.