Seasonal Texan Nick Flynn (he teaches one semester each year at the University of Houston) is haunted throughout The Ticking is the Bomb by the same ghosts and demons that inhabited his remarkable debut memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City : his mother’s suicide, his father’s alcoholism, and his own dark experiences with what we can call a grossly irresponsible lifestyle. The PEN-award-winning author describes settling down and fathering a daughter with his girlfriend, Inez (an alias for his real-life partner, actress Lili Taylor), but his joy over parenthood is tempered by the anger he feels upon hearing news reports of the brutalization of detainees at Abu Ghraib. Obsessed by the notion of being a father in a post-9/11 world of terror and torture, Flynn contacts a lawyer representing the subjects of the now-infamous photographs and is invited to Istanbul to hear their testimony. Flynn infuses The Ticking with a poet’s sensibilities, assembling bits and pieces of his life and viewpoints into a pastiche that pulses with humor, humanity, and outrage. His offhand prose brims with roguish winks at his rocky life: When he writes, “The ocean is always looking for a way into your boat,” we know he has more than watercraft on his mind. W. W. Norton, $24.95