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A hip, lavishly padded romp through an imaginary underground railroad, by former West Coast cult-writer Dodge (Fup, Not Fade Away)--who aptly subtitles this effort at a fat page-turner an ""alchemical potboiler."" Daniel Pearse is born in 1966, of an unknown father and a beautiful, headstrong teen-age mother. Determined to escape a bleak Catholic home, his mother, Annalee, then kidnaps him from the hospital and hits the road. Fatefully, mother and infant snag a ride with a free-lance singer and philospher named Smiling Jack. Smiling Jack offers the pair his dilapidated northern California ranch, and in no time they agree to run the place as a safe house for a mysterious stream of amiable outlaws. Studying astronomy and nature with his mom, Daniel grows up sensitive and boundlessly inquisitive. One day, however, an alchemist-outlaw named Shamus blows up their whole world. Tracked to the ranch by feds (after a failed uranium heist), Shamus manages to get the ranch burned down. He explains that Annalee and Daniel have unknowingly been working for a mysterious underground called AMO--an acronym for ""Alliance of Magicians and Outlaws"" or ""Alchemists, Magicians and Outlaws,"" and ushers the two of them into the outlaw life. Years later, When Annalee gets killed planting a decoy bomb for Shamus (during an aborted plutonium heist), a leader for AMO--a magician named Volta--steps in and provides Daniel a magical education. Spending years apprenticed to a string of wise men, drug dealers, safe-crackers, and gamblers, Daniel prepares for the ultimate lesson. Volta teaches him how to vanish--literally--and Daniel soon surpasses his teacher. In the end, however, he falls prey to a magical power much greater than his own. A sloppy but spirited book. Full of metaphysical nonsense, loose threads, and a shamelessly bloated ending, it should nonetheless appeal to the countless armchair magicians and outlaw hippies who gobble up Tom Robbins.

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 1989
ISBN: 0802135854
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown