This ""story of many people in many places,"" by the author of Dutch Shea, Jr. and True Confessions, fictionalizes much of recent American history in hard-boiled prose that's wholly appropriate to its mainly Californian setting. Dunne writes about Scotch-swilling Republicans at Bohemian Grove and death-row dementoes at San Quentin with the journalistic edge he first sharpened in books on the Hollywood studio and the California grape strike--both of which also figure prominently here. Dunne's thick tale, narrated by the ostensibly neutral Jack Broderick, finds this self-described ironist instead thrust onto a collison course of rich and poor, left and right, sacred and profane. For rich, there's his father, the sort of moneybags ""whose wealth was of such a dimension that it had to be diagrammed with a cartoon"" when magazines estimated his fortune. For poor, there's Onyx Leon, the Caesar Chavez-type labor leader who, after being discarded by the radical chic, is murdered by a death squad in his native Cristo Rey, a thinly disguised El Salvador. For left, there's Leah Kaye, a young lawyer for whom ""social activism was a narcotic."" Her effectiveness as a troublemaker catches the attention of journalist Jack, who eventually marries and divorces her, and also attracts his elderly father, whose one-nighter with the firebrand suggests he's above just about everything, including class loyalty. For right, there's Richie Kane: interviewed by Jack in Vietnam for his oral history, Grunts, Kane reappears as a disgruntled local politician in San Francisco, a shanty Irish-American from ""the Mission"" and a deadly-dark alter ego to lace Irish Jack. For sacred, there's Bro. Jack's celebrity-priest brother, ""a Richelieu of the atomic age,"" who uses the media for his congregation. For profane, pick any of the Hollywood Sleazoids here, such as Marry Magnin, the movie executive, whose definition of good taste is ""tits and ass, but never bush."" Master of the quick take and the long view, Dunne proves worthy of his vast historical subject. He looks the American madness in the eye, and doesn't flinch, but then flashes a well-earned smile.