The theme of this unrelievedly grim novel, set in the present day tobacco town of McCloud, Virginia, is the disintegration both of personality and of a way of life. Angus McCloud, the last of his line of ineffectual gentility, was, at 35, an uninfluential lawyer whose practice was confined to drawing the wills of elderly ladies. For years he had been hopelessly in love with the beautiful though perverse Caroline Gainer, who had married Angus' childhood friend. Unwilling to accept the prospects his dreary life afforded, Angus, an alcoholic, had taken the cure and, in a last desperate attempt to salvage his career, had accepted the case of Edwin Trent, whose children had been killed in a car accident by the son of McCloud's most powerful citizen. In winning the case Angus regains his self-respect, his position in the town and, he believes, Caroline's love. But a disastrous real estate venture, the revelation that Trent, an articulate Negro who made a cause of his race, had used him and Caroline's defection, demolishes Angus' facade of self-confidence. Penniless, his practice destroyed, spurned even by the woman he considered beneath him, Angus McCloud retires to his family's home, begins drinking again and spends his days staring out of windows. An explicitly annotated history of disappointments and desperations written in a style which can only be described as relentless.