A first novel, this is a warm and sentimental story, spanning three generations, of life and everyday events in a small midwestern town from 1925 to World War II. Mainly it is an account of two people, Bill Erikson and his nephew Mark, and of how the influence of the older man altered the boy's life and nearly wrecked it. Bill Erickson was a salesman type, a charming rascal who generally meant well but couldn't resist various temptations to risk everything for what he called the ""main chance"". Like the James' character in The Beast in the Jungle he was convinced that something great would eventually happen to him and that he must be ready and free. Mark Erikson is most like his uncle in this respect; he has the notion that somehow he will be able to embrace the full of life's drama at the indefinable time when it will unmistakably present itself to him. It is not until the war, in France, that Mark discovers his idol's essential lack of character, and he reveals his uncle's part in still another scheme -- the hijacking of war materiel. But Bill Erikson has evaded the consequences of his act once again, in a manner typical of him -- in an, apparently, hero's death. To a certain extent the most effective part of the book rests in the recreation of certain characteristics of an era -- from the trappings of bootlegging, the exchanges of Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Sheen, the CCC camps, to Skinny Ennis, Hal Kemp and the school girl phenomenon of the Slam Book. But the book has a basic insistence -- on the essential worth of the morally commonplace. Fortunately for Mark Erikson it seems to work out with mathematical perfection.