The year is 1969. WARD JANSEN, a handsome, hardnosed reporter and his smooth talking, philandering, partner YARDLEY ACHEMAN return to James' hometown of Lately, Florida to investigate the seemingly unjustified imprisonment of a backwoods, alligator hunter named HILLARY VAN WETTER. Van Wetter was accused of killing the town's sheriff four years prior, and convicted without conclusive evidence. Van Wetter is a mean, and magnetic, backwater dweller who strikes fear into everyone he meets, but Ward and Yardley are convinced he deserves a fair trial, something he never got.
Ward's younger brother JACK, is stuck in Lately, as a paper delivery boy for his overbearing, disapproving father W.W. at his newspaper The Moat County Herald. Jack is an intense, troubled young man who still attempts to hold on to a faded memory of his mother, who left the family for another man.
Ward and Yardley were drawn to this case by the letters of CHARLOTTE, a sexy and enigmatic loner who corresponds with prisoners on death row. Charlotte falls in love with Hillary Van Wetter and is convinced he was wrongly convicted. Together with Ward and Yardley she embarks on a journey to free him.