For generations of migrant workers Imperial County has held the promise of paradise - and the reality of hell. Sprawling across a stinking artificial sea, across the deserts, date groves and labour camps of south-eastern California, it is a land beautiful and harsh, enticing and deadly, rich in history and heartbreak. Across the border, the desert is the same, but there are different secrets. In "Imperial", award-winning writer William T. Vollmann takes us deep into the heart of this haunted region, and by extension into the dark soul of American imperialism. Known for his penetrating meditations on poverty and violence, Vollmann has spent ten years doggedly investigating every facet of this bi-national area, raiding archives, exploring polluted rivers, guarded factories and Chinese tunnels, strip clubs, churches and sweatshops, talking with everyone from farmers to border patrolmen in his search for the fading American dream and its Mexican equivalent.