A weird current pulses through this book. The tale of a heroin deal gone very bad, it’s also a merciless picture of America at the ragged end of the Vietnam era. John Converse is a journalist preparing to head home from Saigon when he’s persuaded to join a dope-smuggling scheme. Once back in California, he’s ambushed by a pair of ex-cons in the service of a corrupt federal drug agent who wants to pocket the drugs. The hapless goons, who also indulge in occasional sex with each other, drag Converse on a trek across the Southwest in search of the strung-out intriguers who are actually holding the stuff. Those would be Converse’s wife Marge, who’s blandly stupefied by prescription drugs, and his sad-sack confederate Hicks. Do we need to tell you it all ends badly? Or that the heroin is a stand-in for Vietnam? It’s the poison that came home, like the war, to pollute an already bleak and sawtoothed social landscape. Bleakness is all in Stone’s world, which is unrelenting and unforgettable.