A first novel following an expatriate American, hiding from the draft and regular employment, through a lazily unspooling reel of intrigue in 1972 Mexico. When his money dwindles, Cotton Waters, late of sleepy Lo De Marcos, comes up for air in the richer, murkier waters of Puerto Vallarta, looking for some fast gringo bucks to finance another year in his village. Like a sinister jack-in-the-box, a pretty-boy drinking buddy named Ramon pops up to steer him into the clutches of scuzzy film mogul Johnny Finch, who offers him $500 (``a small fortune'') to tail beautiful, wayward Yancy De Line for a few days. Seems that the neighbors' niece, Judith Tramman, has been putting ideas into Yancy's head--trips along the coast together, Yancy's unlikely affair with Prof. Frank Chambers--and Finch wants to know just how far this declaration of independence has gone. His brain aswirl with Out of the Past notions of forbidden romance, Cotton sets his sights on Yancy's Mercedes and climbs into Finch's Karmann Ghia--and into a sucker role he won't figure out for a hundred long pages, until the bushwhacking of his inoffensive sidekick El Cuate awakens him to his danger (suddenly he realizes he could rot in a Mexican jail) and makes him vow revenge on Finch and his toadies. Add a dose of the standard south-of-the-border plot twists--drugs, gunplay, sunken treasure, and plenty of friendly, helpful, no-questions-asked natives--before Cotton settles back into the shoals of village life. Well-worn storytelling with a nostalgic counterculture feel, all as comfortable as your old pair of Weejuns.