The story opens at Chandler High School. The year is 1943 and World War II is raging. Danny Walters is a good looking kid, with bright blue eyes and blond hair. He’s tall and slim but his baby face belies his age. His rosy cheeks rarely need to be shaved. Danny hates his look and he hates the fact that while most of his classmates come from affluent families, his is a working class family living in a working class neighborhood that is part of the Chandler school district. Most of Danny’s classmates wear expensive clothes and have plenty of spending money. Danny resents their opulence and their lack of compassion for him and his situation.
To compensate, Danny makes up ridiculous stories. He is all bluster and bravado trying to gain acceptance from his peers. As a result, Danny has few friends. His classmates won’t include him in their fraternities or social events. Most of the girls refuse to date him. Danny is only 18 years old but using a fake a ID, he goes to a club where he meets an older married woman whose husband is in the Army. The woman seduces Danny and over a period of time, teaches him the subtleties of satisfying women. Their secret affair, which the woman demands never must be revealed, goes on until he leaves for the service. Danny remains true to his promise. That act of fidelity was the most decent thing Danny ever did during his entire life.
Danny graduates in January, 1944 and joins the Navy. After the war, he borrows money from his dad and takes flying lessons and in due course gains a pilot’s license. Later, he gets a job as a steward for a major airline while continuing lessons to gain a multi-engine license hoping to become an airline pilot. While attending steward (flight attendant) classes, he and a female student have an affair that reveals the dark side of Danny’s true nature.
Danny gets a job as an airline pilot. After returning from a trip and still wearing his uniform, he stops at a high end bar in San Francisco. There he meets a beautiful girl who is taken in by the uniform. Danny is on his best behavior and after learning that the girls’ parents are fabulously rich, he sets his cap to marry her. The girl becomes pregnant; her father insists they marry which is the outcome Danny hoped for. As a wedding present, his new father-in-law gives him a twin engine Beechcraft airplane.
Using his airplane, he pursues some risky and illegal activities that will make him rich. He gets involved in the drug trade. That leads to his connecting with a major New York crime family and he’s hooked. They own him.
During the Vietnam War while looking for a way to distance himself from the Mafia, Danny is hired by Air America, the CIA’s secret air force. While flying for the CIA, Danny is offered an opportunity for huge profits buying and selling drugs by a group of corrupt Vietnamese army officers and government officials. They make it possible for Danny to make millions of dollars. After the war, Danny wants to retire, he has all the money he needs but unfortunately, his mafia bosses have other plans for him. He then aligns himself with other Mafia families in the west and becomes a major player.
He doesn’t need the money but he’s hooked by the lure of it and, not so incidentally, by the need to stay on the right side of his Mafia bosses.
In 1977 a fifty year old Danny sees an opportunity to retire. His New York crime boss, Charley Longo has been killed by members of the family who believe he and Danny pulled a scam by holding back money from a very large drug deal. Danny finally believes he’s free. He finds a nice woman he would like to marry, he buys a beautiful ranch in Colorado on which he hopes to spend the rest of his life in comfort and peace and yet, it just doesn’t work out that way. In the end, he learns the validity of the proverb, “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”