The long, lively, but essentially unconvincing life story of artist Nicholas Grayle--a grand-scale romantic figure who is much more believable in his action-suspense moments than while painting. Illegitimate son of a Corsican painter and an American woman (who commits suicide), Nicholas is raised on his aunt's New Jersey farm, is given drawing lessons by married artist Rita Moser (his first lover), and is ""awakened"" by the 1913 Armory Show. He earns money by rum-running, goes to London and Paris, and fails in love with his own half-sister Nora--a married photojournalist who eventually submits to the incestuous passion. But Nora's jealous husband arrives on the scene, resulting in fire, death, and Nicholas' trial for murder: he goes free (""crime of passion"" defense), joins the Foreign Legion (as ""Ishmael Moser""), rages in his loss of both Nora and his career, deserts to join the Berber enemy (hoping to gain fortune and a new life), and finally manages to get back to France with a new identity and a bag of diamonds. Will he now--it's circa 1939--find happiness with Nora (who has borne his child) at last? Yes, but not for long: when France falls, the now-married lovers set up an underground escape line, are forced to turn against the Resistance in order to save a church-ful of village hostages, and end up freezing to death while attempting escape through the Pyrenees. Plot, plot, plot--delivered with zest and lots of physical detail. But Nicholas is an unlifelike super-hero, and-despite Albert's obvious strivings--the portrait-of-the-artist and the historical backgrounds are the stuff of sheer paperback-romance. Not for even half-serious art lovers, then, but it's another satisfactory adventure-melodrama from the author of The Gargoyle Conspiracy and The Dark Goddess.