Cain, a quixotic anti-hero, navigates the foreign and hostile world of construction as he builds the Twin Towers prison in LA. The novel follows Cain through the seven stories, nine counting the foundation and roof, of this brooding building culminating with the violent LA riots.
Whop, Cain’s personal Virgil, guides Cain through the hell of work-site accidents, deaths, graft, greed, incompetence, and disillusionment. Unlike in Dante’s Inferno, Whop does not guide Cain to redemption. Instead, Cain’s foreman, Nickels, applies pressure to Cain’s mental state as the steel assaults his body and soul. While Cain sinks deeper into the construction site his hold on reality blurs by the surreal bombardment to his senses. He absorbs the maddening orchestra of noises and sights; the Native American iron worker, Coyote Eye, killing himself for his beloved; the rodbuster who robbed banks to escape the job; the sex addiction of Big Daddy and his crew of looneys; and the merciless steel trying to murder Cain one piercing shard at a time.
The rest of the crew: Iron Horse, Tiny, Willie the Elevator Operator, Righteous Eddy Edmond, and the Funky Red Headed Dread Lock Dude notice Cain’s odd behavior, but they do not recognize his mental instability. As the Rodney King riot takes to the streets nine months later, LA burns in the night sky while Cain, Nickels and the cold steel collide.