Successful novelist Tom Fallon returns to his hometown, Baltimore, to receive an honorary doctorate from his alma mater. During the trip, he reflects on his college days. The bulk of the novel is a flashback to 1965, when Fallon lived with a group of beatniks in a communal house presided over by Jeremy Raines, the ``King of Cards.'' Raines and his crew are partners in an ID card venture, but their lack of business sense leads them into disaster. Fallon, meanwhile, struggles with his identity--is he working class, beatnik, or serious student? Unfortunately, Ward's narrative also struggles for identity. Seemingly unsure of the tone he should take, Ward shifts from a beat prose to more standard English. These shifts don't work, and the novel's unevenness, even if intentional, makes it unengaging reading. There may be demand from fans of Ward's Red Baker ( LJ 5/1/85), however.-- David Dodd, Benicia P.L., Cal.