Who was Ashby? A man of incredible adventures—incredible in both the accepted senses. Cynical realist. Romantic idealist. Peerless painter of nudes for profit, but also an artist driven to seek and express his own truth in painting. Womanizer nonpareil, and helpless to overcome one woman's highly original conception of virtue. Dedicated fortune-hunter, distractible by the first good war to come along. Man-of-the-world verging on sage, with an unerring eye for a fix to get himself into. And an epitome of the energy, imagination, and brio of the 1930's, the era of the Great Depression, when things were looking up. Ashby's instincts seem to put him solidly in the group that Plato called the lovers of gain. But he tosses a coin, and it marks him unmistakably as one of the lovers of glory. Then begins a picaresque pilgrimage: From Union Square to a French chateau, and thence to Santiago de Compostela at the very outbreak of the Spanish Civil War-in search of a fitting immolation. The Ashby we begin to know in Valency's beautifully structured and involving novel was the kind of genius that needs no apology for chameleon-like changes in mood, direction or focus, nor for a rather ethereal earthiness that was as enigmatic as his passions.