Cutter and Bone (1976), by Newton Thornburg, is a California novel, and like most California novels, it suggests the promise of American life has turned sour. A poor girl is murdered. Her body is wrapped in a carpet and thrown into a dumpster. On the case are Alex Cutter, crippled, deranged Vietnam veteran, and Richard Bone, gigolo. Together they make an odd crime-solving pair—less Watson and Holmes than Ishmael and Ahab. Two men cheated by America, they decide that, rather than settling down, they will exact revenge on the system. Their quest is to take down JJ Wolfe, millionare, industrialist, possible murderer. But this is misleading, because it’s hard to tell whether Wolfe is a murderer or a product of Cutter’s mind. Anyway, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all Didionesque apocalypticism—Cutter and Bone is a funny book. But more than anything else it’s ugly. Sometimes we forget: California is horrible.