An offbeat grab-bag: true tales of ""well-known and obscure people . . . involved in events that were not what they seemed to be,"" by a veteran reporter hooked on ""unsolved journalistic jigsaw puzzles."" Several of these pieces revolve around Howard Hughes (the subject of a Phelan book): the Hughes loan to Richard Nixon's brother Don; the Glomar Explorer mystery; the strange tale of Hughes' last years as an unkempt, drugged recluse; and Clifford Irving's Hughes ""autobiography"" hoax. Cracking the Irving story must have been especially sweet revenge for Phelan, since a major Irving source was an unauthorized copy of Phelan's own draft of the (ghostwritten) memoirs of Noah Dietrich, a longtime Hughes aide. (Not that Irving himself lacked talent--his imitation of Hughes' penmanship looked so good that one respected handwriting expert said the chance of forging was ""less than one in a million."") Otherwise, anything goes: a California chiropractic quack who claimed to cure anything with enemas (Phelan, who feigned a bad heart, was given the treatment); a public utility's sub rosa lobbying campaign in the Long Beach tidelands oil controversy; an airman bullied by military investigators into admitting a murder he didn't commit; and (perhaps strangest of all) the case of Big Pearl Choate, a malevolent ""companion"" to the elderly who more or less kidnapped a wealthy nonagenarian and took him to Texas (and the cleaners). The most chilling piece concerns Jim Garrison's house-of-cards Kennedy assassination case against Clay Shaw. ""His bold pronouncements were those of a prosecutor who had copper-riveted his case,"" says Phelan, who for a while was on good terms with the New Orleans district attorney. But not only did Garrison come up empty--he walked away with ""no outward show of regret over what he had done to an innocent man."" All in all: lightweight, but lively.