Burman is not a newcomer. But this is his best book -- and one that deserves recognition. It seems to me that he is doing for the Mississippi what Walter Edmonds has done for the early days of the Erie Canal, with this difference. Burman is, in this book at least, writing of the river and its people and life today. The floods play an important part, highlighting the recurrent tragic note, which at the end shifts to a new key. A shanty boat family form the central figures, sympathetically presented, with sparks of humor underlying the stark reality. And the book is full of dramatic incidents, which make it extraordinarily good reading.