Probably the most literate book I've read in a while. Vachss is a highly regarded figure in the world of crime fiction; he certainly has a very interesting bio.
The book follows a group of six homeless men on the streets of New York. Some are there by circumstance others are there because they cannot function in society and one (the narrator) is there by choice. Together they survive the streets with each person bringing his personal skill to the group.
Most of the story centers around Ho who used to be a highly regarded sensei. Ho believes he is responsible for the death of his most beloved student and walks away from his old life to atone for his part in her death.
One of the characters in the book has created a library of thousands of books inside an abandoned building. When he discovers the same building is scheduled to be demolished the group decides to help by moving the library to a safe location.
For most of the story we discover how each member of the group became homeless and how they all cope from day to day. I found the aspects of survival on the streets riveting and the novel brings to light how easy and random the journey to homelessness can be. They are not all crazy, they are all not off their meds, though some are. By choice or by circumstance survival becomes a new set of skills that one must learn.
The plot of the book is pretty much secondary to the story of these six people. Through the mission of moving the library many of the characters find a new direction to his life. And like real life - it's messy.
This is an excellent, excellent book.