Meet a man who is jumping out of his skin. "It's a strange thing to go through life as a social experiment," the wild-hearted narrator tells us in Michael Thomas's jazzy, sinewy debut novel, Man Gone Down (Black Cat). Ill at ease in the white world his parents' idealism groomed him to succeed in, this fiercely ambitious writer is jobless and broke. His Boston Brahmin wife has decamped to her parents' house with the kids, leaving him to decode their past and salvage their future. Thomas's urgent, quicksilver prose makes even the darkest moments of this novel shine.