Big or nothin' is the credo of Pepper Hotwell, a professional gangster who specializes in armed robbery. Set in the ghetto of Gary, Indiana and Chicago's south side in the late 1960s, his story is a raw, desperate, gun-slinging roll-of-the-dice fueled by drugs, sex, ambition, and pure will to survive. As he swashbuckles his way through a series of high profile heists, he demonstrates his willingness to follow his credo to its ultimate conclusion in his quest for the big score. Pepper moves through a culture that oscillates between extremes of poverty and wealth. Money is made and lost in an instant. Self-indulgence competes with loyalty to family and loved ones. His story vividly depicts the lifestyle of people on the underbelly of society, using every means possible to claw their way to the top. Drug addiction, greed, and violence are shown naked and unromanticized, yet the roots of Pepper's risk-seeking attitude are also laid bare, lacing his self-aggrandizing trajectory with an implicit social critique.