A first novel that follows an old man, a kind of Old Testament prophet full of books and anger at the age, as he wanders-- sometimes violently--through the modern urban world and into his own past. Perdue writes convincingly and iconoclastically about a misanthrope who is frightening in his complete contempt for anyone who has not ``held on to their soul.'' Lee, who ``liked to pile up his books and lie in them,'' returns, at age 73, to his hometown, where he ``felt he was a stranger on shore while the town itself had taken ship and was bobbing out to sea.'' He's on a mission: ``The world was abounding in rumors of a Great One, a new doctrine just around the corner, and so little time for seeing it ushered in before he himself must needs depart.'' With the proceeds from the sale of his last 75 acres, he rents a room and tours the town, taken over by people of the ``new type.'' Lee ``now thought of himself as the unacknowledged prophet of the crumbling of the West.'' Influenced by his reading, he views late-20th-century life from the viewpoint of an alien: ``Everywhere, it seemed to him, the female principle was in the ascendant, from literature to men fretting over clothes....'' With a thick cane, he beats a boy almost to death, each blow ``on behalf of some great man the new age ignored.'' The story then quickly settles into a visionary journey and a series of encounters with ghosts both real and imagined--his Judy, long dead, appears to him at frequent intervals. When the cops appear at his lodgings, he moves to a tenement room and continues to brandish his cane like a Jehovah until he's finally captured--whereupon he escapes and makes his way to the forest, strips and waits for his death. While Lee's critique of modernity seems to be deadly serious, Perdue offers a marvelous black comedy that is sometimes as astringent as John Yount's Toots in Solitude. A promising debut.