This is another Walter Tevis one and the second most famous story he wrote behind The Hustler as this is the basis of the Nicholas Roeg movie starring David Bowie from the 1970s. This novel begins in Kentucky in 1980 or so as TJ Newton, our eponymous man, walking into a pawn shop and talking himself in $60 for a gold ring he authenticates, only to later show that he has dozens more just like it. He takes this early win into his next move, creating a series of patents to make as much money as possible in as short a time as possible. He invents a self-developed film, various other chemical and electrical inventions and quickly becomes a multi-millionaire. He also becomes a figure of intrigue and befriends a college English professor and they become closer and closer.
This is a short novel and before long the walls start closing in, especially when he is arrested by the FBI on suspicion of being an illegal alien (and well he is). But the thing about Walter Tevis novels, I’ve found out, is that he doesn’t work in extremes, and so this arrest is not the end of the world, just the end of the dream, to possibly save humanity from itself.
This is a really strange novel that shares some similarities with its contemparary Stranger in a Strange Land, but has maybe a little more to parallel to the later novel The Dispossessed, as this is very much a subtle look at first contact.