A certain man’s name was Barney Kadesh, and his nerves were shot, he knew it. He was on the run, he knew that also. Why, he was uncertain.
Meet Barney Kadesh. Nihilist and visionary.
Cocksman and celibate. Con man and savior. Whose secret terror of his own mediocrity has begun to affect his mental stability. Barney’s mad hegira carries him to the relative sanctity of a small San Bernardino town. There, his fracturing mind invokes a calming hallucination: the mythic Civil War hero, Tobacco Brown, who assures Barney that he is a genius, and, in fact, elected of God. Barney shares his spiritual awakening with a growing ecclesia of the townsfolk and captivates them with his tales of the hero turned outlaw, Tobacco Brown, and his starcrossed love, Melinda.
And he finds here, as well, the love of his own life, Pilgrim Fletcher.
Then Barney’s sublime madness is detected. Electroconvulsive therapy robs him of Tobacco Brown. And the sweet delusion that he is God’s chosen.
Staggering under the burden of sanity, Barney cynically begins the building of an enormous church founded on the heresy Isaac Newton covertly embraced: the teachings of Arius of Alexandria.
Which is not the more reckless plot line the Author-Narrator of the book has in mind for Barney.
Looking, himself, to avert a visit to an ECT unit, the Narrator slips the fourth wall and engages his errant character in a nasty struggle for control of the book. When he can, the Narrator shoves Barney out of the story and replaces him with the Candidian adventures of St. Rover of Galilee, a talking mongrel dog canonized by Pope Stephen VI; cognitive scientists held in an asylum in an Oliver Wendell Holmes story; computer-solitaire color commentators...
So stand back, friend. Or step into Barney’s lunatic world... if you dare.