Explorer, cartographer, leader of the Jamestown settlement, drum-beater for British expansionism, and incorrigible stretcher of the truth, Captain John Smith is a staple of Americana who has attracted scores of writers. Veteran author Noel Gerson has confected a life of Smith from the numerous sources available, and has submerged the result in very tepid prose. Gerson is addicted to such habit-forming phrases as ""his untimely death,"" ""alive with excitement,"" and ""the proverbial nick of time""--the last being not merely a clichÃ¨, but a clichÃ¨ with an arrow pointing to it. Moreover, although Gerson competently treats such standard thematic fare as the probable spuriousness of the Pocahontas legend, the hardships of Jamestown, and Smith's vision of permanent New World colonies at a time most Englishmen conceived of the New World as a huge Comstock Lode, he ignores the more complex and less well-understood historical issues of British policy toward the Indians and rampant 17th-century European expansionism. Gerson's prose, as threadbare as it is predictable, denies the reader a feel for the physical side of life in Smith's day. With no political analysis and little novelistic description, this biography is very rudimentary, full of well-worn phrases on well-known themes.