More muddled sound and fury as perceived by poor addled Custard, who thinks in songs and snatches. In King of the Sticks (1979), Custard was kidnapped by a gang of tough kids because of his rumored ability to find gold by dowsing, then ""rescued"" by the kids' father, Preacher Tom. Now Tom, renamed Prospector Tom, is dragging Custard through the 1850s Australian outback, praying for gold. In pursuit are Tom's sons, out for gold and wanting their father; mobs from the rum shanties who have heard of Custard's powers; others who seek either Custard's gold or the 200-pound reward now offered for him, or both; and Custard's imposing mother Rebecca, ""the Amazon,"" embarked with two troopers in tow to fetch her kid home. Tom, aware of other campfires in the desert, lies low, aware too that ""the minute I digs the hole that shows the gorgeous gold they're gonna do me in and steal me little chum."" But it's not until Tom is shot dead--by one of his own sons, to everyone's confused dismay--that the lads, digging his grave, find gold. Then the frenzied mob converges, and Rebecca follows, just in time. Custard, with his dowsing stick, knows where he would find a good chunk of gold, but wisely determines to keep mum, pass it up, and go home with his mother. By now it's clear that Custard can be as canny as the best of them--though at other times he's the typical folklore fool. (""The kid's dead,"" he hears at one point, and wonders, ""Am I dead? I didn't feel it happen."") The whole adventure has the air of being wildly comic, yet you may never be moved to laugh. Still, you'll tumble along, impelled by the vitality and momentum of Southall's breathless style and story.