A first novel, The Plum Explosion is both a serious and humorous account of a young man who tries very hard to beat the system. As a California law student, Raymond Moss found his chief source of comfort and quiet in a nearby plum orchard, an oasis in the midst of ever-widening highways, shopping centers, soulless housing developments and related forms of modern vandalism. He determines to somehow save the orchard from its almost inevitable fate. To finance his dream he goes to work for a real estate developer, selling the very kind of houses he despises. But he acquires the know-how and the friendship of a developer named O'Malley, a witty, self-destructive, soft-hearted con-man who takes a protective interest in Moss. Aided by O'Malley, Moss secures the orchard property (from a man whose own dream is to be a garbage collector) and the services of an architect and planner, Peter Outchinnitov, super-cultist and high-priced utopian, whose model for Moss's subdivision, incorporating the plum trees, is too beautiful too work. From this point on Moss's dream cracks up as the three try to sell their idea to the town's planning commission, fend off frontage lot buyers, and haggle with contractors. Outchinnitov is uncompromising and departs, O'Malley dies, and Moss is left with a chopped up realization of the ""plan"" and a lot of plums. He gives in: he has the trees cut down, but he does not give up: ""I persevere because life's possibilities will not subside."" van der Zee can afford that final grandiloquence: he has skillfully blended a smooth mixture of entertainment and message.