A feature writer for the San Francisco Chronicle debuts with a multigenerational Texas-set saga--partly realistic, partly fablelike--that centers on the energy and recklessness of Hiram, a wildcatter and larger-than-life figure. ``Texans are strange animals--huge as giants and angry as children.'' This sort of comment and others like it are delivered so flatly throughout that it's never quite clear how seriously Nix means for us to take them. Hiram is from a mythical family, and, surrounded by women, he carries on the tradition. In a landscape of alkali flats and oil rigs, he and the various branches of his family (and his wife's) are remembered by his granddaughter, who, she tell us, was 15 when he died. It's rumored that Hiram killed his mother, Lee, who ``sometimes when she looked at him...saw her own death.'' His first love is for Nakomas Sorrel, an Indian who brings an unborn child to his house. Meanwhile, the mother of his first wife, Anise, is simply known as Big Mother, and her husband as Big Joe. The story heats up and begins to take on some force and logic of its own when Hiram, sick, is nursed back to health by Big Mother; Anise returns from a year in New York City, where she'd gone to ``learn the things that writers needed to know.'' Hiram begins to wildcat for oil, and the rest of the narrative works out the complicated soap-opera details--Big Mother's death in 1976; Anise's cancer; Hiram's marriage to Francine, a preacher's widow; a financial struggle between Hiram and Drake (who married daughter Amelia), etc. Hiram lives long enough, at last, to appear on horseback in Ronald Reagan's inaugural parade. Dallas meets Twin Peaks. Nix overreaches, but, still, this is an ambitious entertainment for popular-fiction fans.