FOR AMERICA — Synopsis
For America, set in the long aftermath of WW II, dramatically explores the failure of traditional beliefs and political systems and the rise and fall of counter cultures and sects. Folk music, hippie and “Jesus Freak” communes, the Manson family, the People’s Temple, Biblical prophecy, and spiritualist cults all participate in the story.
Otis, the narrator, born the day the atom bomb destroys Hiroshima, is mentored by his grandma, a poet and painter who teaches him to believe in the implausible, and his father who coaches him in baseball so well, he becomes a big-league pitching prospect.
But wicked conflicts visit in the person of Cynthia Jones, mother of Casey, Otis’s best friend and catcher. Either paranoid, prophetic, or both, Cynthia believes that Henry Tucker, adopted son of her sister, will use his prodigious scientific mind and occult knowledge to abet the downfall of western civilization.
Otis and Casey are eighteen when Cynthia sends them on a mission to locate Tucker, an MIT dropout and now a U.S. Army deserter. No sooner do they find him than he and Casey vanish. And when Otis confronts Cynthia, she tells him Casey has killed his cousin.
While attempting to make a new life without Casey, Otis attends a Billy Graham crusade and is inspired by an invitation to follow Jesus for the sake of America.
He finishes college, becomes a high school teacher, and opens to friends the large old home he has inherited. Then Casey arrives and confesses he didn’t kill Tucker but instead helped the fugitive fake death and go underground. Now, in Berkeley, Tucker is a thriving producer of LSD and an inventor of explosives.
When Tucker and a gang of his followers show up at Otis’s home, escaping to Mexico after a police raid, the old house catches fire and Casey perishes.
Casey’s death persuades Otis to accept Cynthia’s view of Tucker as a demonic force she calls The Enemy.
Otis and Cynthia travel to Mexico, first to Copper Canyon where Cynthia believes Tucker and followers are prospecting for uranium. When Otis learns they are long gone, he leaves Cynthia behind and follows a rumor that leads him to a Tucker associate, a desperate junkie he uses to set up a meeting as a trap.
In Mexico City, Otis captures Tucker and is poised to shoot when a familiar voice distracts by calling his name. He shoots Tucker then futilely chases after the voice.
Back at Copper Canyon, he compels Cynthia to quitclaim Mount Shasta property she had promised him for killing The Enemy. But soon, wracked by guilt, he walks into a police station.
Tucker barely survives the shooting. His followers steal him out of the hospital. Yet the authorities convict Otis of murder and remand him to an island prison because the warden has requested Otis as part of a plan to create a pro baseball team.
Meanwhile, Tucker dies but revives. He and his followers are established in a hacienda owned by a Tucker MIT roommate, a Mexican oligarch, when cult leader Jim Jones, a Tucker associate since their Berkeley years, orchestrates the massacre/suicide of over 900 devotees at the Jonestown compound in Guyana. Tucker’s college roommate advises him that, because his Jones connection has been revealed, the Mexican oligarchy has turned against him. Tucker and his followers flee
The Jailbirds baseball team tours northern Mexico playing established teams, and Otis earns such a reputation, professional scouts from Mexico and the U.S. attempt to secure him a pardon. But when he gets word that Daniela, a dancer who enchanted him before he left to pursue The Enemy, has been raped and gone missing, he escapes and makes his way north, first to San Diego where he enlists a private investigator, then to Mount Shasta to sell the land Cynthia quitclaimed to him, in order to finance his search for Daniela and the rapist.
In Mount Shasta City he encounters Nancy, Casey’s lover at the time of the fire, who now reveals that in Mexico City she had distracted him by shouting his name. Nancy, Tucker, and followers are living in nearby Dunsmuir, in the spiritualist community where Tucker was raised.
Soon Cynthia arrives. Insisting the land she quitclaimed doesn’t belong to Otis because Tucker isn’t dead, she demands they climb Mount Shasta together, to a showdown at a site where Tucker will be waiting.
Otis agrees after Nancy convinces him that Casey would want him to go and finish his mission “for the sake of America.”