In the early 1960s, a golden age for newly-discovered writers, Chris Duffy was something of a nearly man. His debut novel was reasonably successful; his second was turned down as being too like the first. Thanks to procrastination and heavy drinking, he has published nothing since. Settled now in Brighton, where he ekes out a living running a market bric-a-brac stall, Duffy dreams of the blurred decades that seem to have slipped through his fingers: where did it all go wrong? But during one confusing weekend, on the opening days of the Brighton Literary Festival, everything looks set to change. Lurching through the razzmatazz of stilt-walkers, mime artists and unicyclists, Duffy learns of the existence of a long-lost manuscript by a famous novelist, now dead, and resolves to get hold of it, pass it off as his own and thus give his wilted career a kick-start. Unfortunately, little in Duffy's disordered life ever runs smoothly, particularly on this crowded weekend!