Effusive, admiring bio of Alma Sullivan Reed, a San Franciscan who fashioned a unique career--as reporter, archaeologist, deep-sea diver, p.r. writer--in an unlikely age. Born in 1889, Reed bluffed her way into her first job (as ``Mrs. Goodfellow'' for the Call) and most of the ones thereafter. She led the fight to forestall the hanging of an underaged immigrant; created the San Quentin beat; and covered the Fatty Arbuckle trial before sending her conventional parents the usual promises as, in 1923, she left for Mexico for The New York Times. There, she enjoyed a passion for archaeology and met married governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Theirs was an ``amor calido,'' a ``romance of the steam,'' according to May (Witness to War, 1983)- -an intense attachment severed by Puerto's death by firing-squad several years later. Writing with an enterprising enthusiasm, May tracks Reed around the world, blending personal details with the facts and findings of her subject's work, whether unraveling the secrets of the Cumaean sibyl, rescuing the contents of Mayan tombs, or overcoming the early problems of undersea photography. May never fails to note that Reed's own life, real and embellished, was her best story, the true facts along with those she upgraded (e.g., by granting herself a doctorate). It's too bad that this rich and varied life is burdened by the use of imagined dialogue, a device common to YA biographies. A woman who hung out with Kahlil Gibran, promoted the career of muralist Jose Orozco, and broke the story of the Peabody Museum's stolen treasures could benefit from a more sophisticated approach.