On St. Helena island in 1821 a mysterious doctor removes Napoleon Bonaparte's penis from his corpse while in the next room his loyal lieutenants brag about their dead emperor's merciless cruelty. Fifty years later the search for this itinerant appendage leads through Victorian London to ante-bellum New York, Amherst, Massachusetts, and finally Colorado Territory, dragging in its path a promiscuous mix of French counts, love-sick poets, dandies, shady antiquarians, utopian dreamers, con men, and a pieced-together homunculus named Bonnie. The French want to re-member their empire, the English relic-seekers wish to recover a valuable prize, and Bonnie wants to complete his diminutive body. Along the way, John Vernon corrects history's mistake by arranging a meeting between the two great American poets, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. And Whitman's friend, Peter Doyle, the dandified streetcar conductor at the center of it all, saves the lives of a family abducted by Indians with an ingenious use of Napoleon's "dingus," as he calls it. From the half-completed Brooklyn Bridge to Horace Greeley's Union Colony in Colorado Territory to the Rocky Mountains and the canyons of the Green and Yampa rivers, this sprawling novel creates its own manifest destiny by mixing fact and fiction with shameless joy. Peter Doyle's brand of speculative historical fiction corrects history's minor errors while vividly describing its major ones.