Radio actor Iron Rinn (born Ira Ringold) is a big Newark roughneck blighted by a brutal personal secret from which he is perpetually in flight. An idealistic Communist, a self-educated ditchdigger turned popular performer, a six-foot six-inch Abe Lincoln look-alike, he emerges from serving in World War II passionately committed to making the world a better place and winds up instead blacklisted and unemployable, his life in ruins.
On his way to political catastrophe, he marries the nation's reigning radio actress and beloved silent-film star, the exquisite Eve Frame (born Chava Fromkin). Their marriage evolves from a glamorous, romantic idyll in a tasteful Manhattan townhouse to a dispiriting soap opera of tears and treachery. And, with Eve's dramatic revelation to the gossip columnist Bryden Grant of her husband's life of "espionage" for the Soviet Union, the relationship enlarges from private drama into national scandal.
Set in the heart of the McCarthy era, the story of Iron Rinn's denunciation and disgrace is narrated years later by his brother, Murray Ringold, whose former student, the adolescent Nathan Zuckerman, was the radio actor's adoring protege in the late forties. It is a story of cruelty, humiliation, betrayal and revenge spilling into the public arena from their origins in Ira's turbulent personal life.