When his songstress wife Randi Tripp, the 'Bama Butterfly, runs out on him with $47,000 he's been holding for Lunch Pumphrey, sodden patriarch John X. Shade takes off with his ten-year-old daughter Etta for St. Bruno, home of his cop son Rene (Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing). If you think Rene's going to upstage the father who begot the first of his brothers when their mother Monique was 14, think again--this is John X.'s story, and Lunch's, all the way--although you could also call it a Shade family story describing how Rene, brothers Tip and Francois, and their women (Rene's wife Nicole, Tip's very pregnant sweetheart Gretel Hyslip) pass the time with the old man (``Say, ain't you fellas sons of mine?'') while they're waiting for Lunch to come for him. Along Lunch's way, there'll be a tender interlude with Rodney Chapman's wife, Dolly, and a funny/nervy post-flagrante conversation with the happy cuckold; a laid-back, menacing interlude in which Lunch, temporarily grounded by a sick car, plots to hijack John and Mary Smith (``and we ain't kiddin'!''), a pair of giggling Ioway rubes too ripe to believe; and a midnight episode with a prostitute whom Lunch pays to pretend she's his sister Rayanne reading from the Sears, Roebuck catalogue (on awakening next morning, he'll set fire to her hair). John X., not to be outdone, rekindles an old feud with Stew Lassein--over Stew's late wife, naturally--which will end abruptly when the old man responds to Stew's tormented requests for more dirty details. Characters as screwy and dangerous as any in Elmore Leonard, and a sense of pace and language that never warns you whether a scene or sentence will end in a burst of poetry or bullets.