The past comes to haunt contemporary London in this evocation of the life of the little-known Roman boy-emperor Heliogabalus. The Roman gay world is mirrored in Jim's relations with his duplicitous partner Danny and the contemporary London scene they inhabit. Events take a weird twist when Jim discovers that his partner is living a double life as a member of a Soho cult involving bizarre sex rites on Hampstead Heath. Jim, repulsed by the cult's activities, finds his relationship with Danny at an end and that he has become a target for the leader's reprisals. He is forced to take refuge with a female friend, Masako, with whom he visits Rome to investigate sites associated with Heliogabalus. She leads him to a meeting with a wealthy young man called Antonio who claims to be the emperor reincarnated. When Jim and Masako return to London, Antonio pays them a visit which leads to a conclusion every bit as dramatic as Heliogabalus' own murder. An electrifying poetic recreation of a bizarre period of ancient history, this narrative also dissolves boundaries of gender in the complex relationship of Jim and Masako.