It’s 1953, and Pierce Duncan, fresh out of Notre Dame, has decided to see this great country of ours and fill some of the notebooks he’ll be using in his career as a writer. He gets arrested for passing through a Georgia town with a black friend, does a stint on a chain gang that ends with shocking suddenness, gets abandoned in the desert by a lovey-dovey couple who earlier pick him up, tags along to Jua’rez with a brawler who drives off with his notebooks, hitches to Vegas and a job tending a heavyweight contender who’s in over his head, tangles with the schemers who are using the San Fernando Mission of the Priests of Melchizedek to smuggle wetbacks, finds that the girl of his prophetic dreams is a real person named Penny Linden who’s engaged to a quarrelsome lout, and ends up on Gores’s home turf of San Francisco, a town that still has all the seedy glamor of the dying pulps. It’s here in San Francisco that Dunc, seasoned by dozens of acquaintances and scores of anecdotes, settles down to learn the business of skip-tracing—a business Gores (Contract Null and Void, 1996, etc.) knows better than any other writer alive—from seen-it-all shamus Drinker Cope, and here that all the pieces of this beautifully textured picaresque, from a killer Dunc should have remembered to an impossible penance that’s been waiting for him ever since Georgia, finally fall together. Though this autobiographical pipe dream has been gestating so long that parts of it were published in the long-dead Manhunt, Rogue, and Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine, it all seems as inevitable in retrospect as a Judas kiss.