Luke Thacker is a drifting hobo in Depression-era America, riding the rails of the nation and surviving by crumbs and hope. Along the way, he learns the iconography of transients—the Hobo Code—better than anyone else, and deciphers a secret that thrusts him into Athanasia, the middle ground of memories.
Here he learns that all around us is the realm of the deadeye, where the deceased persevere by how they are remembered. The memories Luke meets will do anything to never be forgotten, whether by trickery, violence, or daring.
Luke learns, too, that what’s remembered yesterday is not always the same as what will be remembered tomorrow, and he sets off to keep alive the memories of those he loves in the way a ’bo does best: telling tales of old legends, and making up new ones alike.
Now, fifty years later, the tall crossbucks of Luke Thacker are repeated by homeless King Shaw, who’s struggling to keep Luke’s own legend alive and with it, perhaps, his own.
’Cause it don’t matter if you rob banks with a dead John Dillinger, are hunted over the years by vengeful Earp brothers, or go against the monstrous railroad guard Smith McCain: when a story is told, all who are part of it become a little stronger.