Luther Mathias grows up selling "snake oil" in scrubby West Texas dirt towns. He learns early that substance is never a substitute for style and eventually develops his own brand remedies that promise to cure any ailment a man might suffer, most of all to restore the sexual vigor that is every man's God-given right (and his claim as an American). In time his imagination and ambition combine to mold him into medicine's version of Elmer Gantry: loved and hated, imponderably wealthy and famous, powerful and pursued. More than just a portrait of a flamboyant, resourceful schemer, The Very Air is a compelling exploration of human motives and hidden meanings. It is a detailed picture of America's myth of the rugged individual in the psychological and narrative tradition of The Great Gatsby and Citizen Kane. With a resonant sense of the period and culture, Douglas Bauer evokes the freewheeling feel of the old Southwest in the early part of this century and delivers an commentary on the charlatans of our own era. The Very Air shows, through storytelling both exhilarating and chilling, that past is prologue and that our personal histories indeed shape the course of our individual futures.