A novel described by its author, Jim Dodge, as 'An Alchemical Pot-Boiler', Stone Junction is a deranged, drug-fuelled race through the underbelly of America, told as the story of the life of Daniel Pearse, a young man trying to avenge the death of his mother and achieve enlightenment along the way.
The premise of Stone Junction is that there exists a countercultural organization of like-minded individuals called AMO (Alliance of Magicians and Outlaws) which pursues its own ends and assists its own people, much like the Mafia, but based mostly on anarchist, libertarian and mystical principles. After Daniel's mother is murdered in a bomb attack, Volta, one of the leaders of AMO, agrees to use the organization's resources to help Daniel and train him, in return for services he will render to them, and he goes through a series of bizarre initiations with a number of extremely dodgy 'teachers', including:
- Wild Bill Weber, a crazy Zen-style master who helps Daniel overcome the trauma of his mother's death by exploding a small bomb near him and almost frightening him to death.
- Mott Stoker, a six foot eight addict of every drug imaginable, who eats pure hashish and LSD for breakfast and grows the hottest chillies on the planet by starving the plants of water and insulting them vitriolically.
- Willie Clinton, a safecracker who teaches Daniel, well, how to crack safes...
- Bad Bobby Sloane, a card sharp who makes Daniel one of the best poker players in the world and in the process teaches him how to read peoples' character and motives.
- Jean Bluer, a master of disguise who first seduces Daniel when in a woman's disguise.
- Finally, Volta himself, who is more than a little mystical and mysterious and teaches Daniel how to become invisible.
Daniel's 'service' in return for all this training is to steal an enormous spherical diamond from a CIA vault in the desert, which he does, but he fails in the second part of his mission, which is to give the diamond to Volta. Instead he becomes obsessed with it, and with a spiral flame which he sees at its centre. He becomes convinced that the diamond is his destiny, and is the key he has been looking for, a doorway to another world. He forgets about everything, including his need to find his mother's killer.
Without spoiling the ending, it is fair to say that one of the themes of the book is that of the desire to escape this world, balanced against the things that keep us attached to it. Daniel's personal journey is driven by his own intense passion, which initially is fuelled by the desire to avenge his mother's death, but becomes something else - an overwhelming need for escape, a resolution, an end to suffering. He wants to disappear, and at the end of the book, he manages it, or a version of it.
Stone Junction is like a fairytale thriller pumped up on amphetamines and acid, with the kind of crazy, larger-than-life style with which authors such as Robert Anton Wilson portray their visions of a world of greater and wilder possibilities than most 'normal' people allow themselves to imagine in their own lives. Sometimes the characters can seem unrealistic, and at moments like that it's good to remember that this is the point - the whole book is like a put-on, a circus show, where everyone is acting a role, over-acting it, and afterwards they will all go home and laugh. You aren't supposed to take it totally seriously. It's a fun, consciousness-expanding trip, and if you go away from it slightly more open-minded, then I think Jim Dodge would be more than happy.