Sixteen-year-old Seth Anomundy is a product of his environment: in this case, Tacoma, Washington. What L.A. was to Chandler, Tacoma - a working-class port city now undergoing urban renewal - is to author Tom Llewellyn.
Seth has grown up in Tacoma's tough neighborhoods, where he's perfectly at home in Choo-Choo's boxing gym and Miss Irene's soul food palace, the Shotgun Shack. With his mom working nights as a cleaner, Seth goes to high school, gets decent grades, and makes money where he can: filling in as cook at the Shotgun Shack, working as a sparring partner, and running errands for Nadel, the clock repairman. Life is hand-to-mouth, but okay - until he gets the news that his mother has been killed.
The police don't care about the death of just another drug addict, so a bewildered Seth takes it upon himself to find the killer. On a clock delivery run, he meets a beautiful rich girl named Azura Lear, who encourages Seth and tries to help track down the killer. But instead of finding answers, Seth finds only trouble. He faces down a gang of baseball-bat-wielding high school jocks and deals with the contempt of Azura's suspicious father. And then there's King George - a teenage thug Seth has previously managed to avoid - who has for some reason let it be known that he wants Seth dead. Right now.