In The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, the author had alternating chapters from the journals of a father and son. In this, the chapters alternate between the journals of two brothers, Sam and Blaine Shelby. Sam's entries are those of an untutored 15-year-old, uninhibited and pungent. In contrast, his older brother Blaine writes a self-consciously cultured prose. Both are volunteers in a Missouri regiment raised to take part in the Texas border disputes of 1846. They served under Doniphan and Kearny (actual officers, fictional brothers). The author researched the long and tiresome campaign against Mexico and if he had confined himself to the observations of the two brothers on Army life, officers, Mexicans and volunteers, he would have had an infinitely shorter, better book. Unfortunately, the picaresque is burdened with a torturously intricate plot, worn out in every media -- from comic books to movies. The most villainous Mexican, Don Narcisco, is really their long lost brother, Dirk, whom they had been hoping to find and were forced to shoot. Blaine's persistent lady friend joined the volunteers and disguised herself as a boy so successfully that Blaine never tumbled, although in daily association. (Guess whose clutches she falls into?) There's some fun under this fat but it's an epic length effort to find it.