A middle-aged English painter, successful in the fashionable art world, is thrown into existential angst when he turns up an old photo from American Physique that represents all the erotic yearnings of his youth. He resolves to track down the model, Joe Durva, though he can hardly explain to himself why. From Los Angeles to New York, through a trail of seedy porn shops and city gyms, Lewis follows the traces of Joe's seemingly bizarre life. Was Durva really abducted by aliens? And what hold over him do the DeMarcos have, a couple of "psychic healers" that the FBI suspect of serious crimes? Lewis's quest peels back layers of the American past, from the McCarthy era through the Vietnam war; and in the process of seeking Joe Durva, Lewis finds himself.