The 1960s: news of riots, war, unheard-of behavior, and rampant crime crowds the papers and the airwaves. Spurned by his wife at home and by superiors at work, Earl Summerfield hunkers down in his cramped San Francisco apartment and keeps a diary that is a scratched record of a world going to pieces. The words he overhears, the words he wants to say, swim in his head, turning into fantasies of ambition, love, and retribution. He is sorry for himself. He is angry at everyone. He takes to going out at night, slipping into other people's houses. He is looking for something, and he fixes on one woman.