The mind and soul of an assassin are plumbed to a fare-thee- well on a bare Nevada mountain in this startling debut novella by poet and essayist McCord. Fifty-year-old ex-Marine William Gasper, a stalker/sniper blooded in Korea, lives alone in the Nevada ranges and for ten years has favored a cheerless mountain called The Moon as his main abode. Though he has secret bank accounts around the world, he lives out of a sleeping bag and subsists on dried foods and tea. He also rents space in the little town of Sterns, 90 miles away, which he visits as needed. Gasper has given up not only his lethal profession but also most of life's usual habits and activities. He's even given up reading in favor of rock-walking: ``The tongue licking the mustache after a sip of tea holds as much wisdom as a distich by Herakleitus.'' Whether that's true or not, someone with a scoped rifle has been tracking him for days, and along with this shadowy figure Gasper believes he can sense the presence of Cerridwen, the Celtic White goddess who first appeared to him at 18 in Korea and promised to appear to him again, very likely at his death. Gasper traps and kills his stalker, whose ID suggests that he himself was an assassin. Who, among the agencies Gasper worked for, would most have wanted him dead? Although Cerridwen does appear again, it isn't for Gasper's death--though he would hardly care: ``There was the body's delight in itself as long as that lasted, and there was death. Nothing else. Nothing was forbidden, nothing bidden.'' The bloody climax strives to mingle melodrama with essentially believable, albeit unexplained, events. But an atheist and stone killer chased down the labyrinthine ways of the Nevada ranges by the White Goddess? Definitely spacey. And yet also, often, very good. A distinctive, allusive, and highly idiosyncratic novella.