Scarpete Stories is set in southern Alabama. It is the tale of A. J. Waters, a man whose life has spiraled so out of control and disconnected that he creates a fictional detective to first moderate, then inhabit, and finally subsume that life. The detective, Scarpete, is left to try and find some explanation for the necessity of his existence. With nothing but a bundle of scrawled pages on a series of legal pads, Scarpete investigates the life and death of the author who created him. Within those pages, he vacillates between narrator to muse to antagonist to protagonist. He coaxes A.J. to murder a recalcitrant Mobile editor, searches for an alleged child predator, solves the pitiful "crime" of a sign-altering prankster in the tony eastern shore city of Fairhope, and evokes the confession of a Virginia fugitive hiding out as a Mobile late night radio talk show host.
The dissolution of A.J's marriage, family, and life is revealed piece by piece, first as an exercise in therapeutic counseling suggested by his ex. Then, as the exercise frustrates both doctor and patient, he retreats to the only place he knows where he might ask the necessary questions, might even find necessary answers, turning himself into a third-person character in the story, while the lines between reality and fiction, between author and character collide, intersect, then dissolve.