The title promises more than the text delivers: this is strictly Hudson River history and interest will not extend far beyond its banks. From Fulton's first trial run to the floating palaces to spooning on the night line, steamboating was a risky business for owners and passengers and crew. As the rivalry between competing lines increased, so did the risks the owners were willing to take, often with disastrous results. The narrative gives evidence of close acquaintance with original sources, confirmed by the bibliography. Mr. Roseberry is at pains to distinguish between fact and folklore, even pointing out that ""books have a careless habit of picking up mistakes, one from another."" However, his style is not equally restrained: modern colloquialisms and cliches abound--""he couldn't have cared less,"" ""really mad,"" ""you might say,"" ""not caught napping."" The illustrations show steamboats as contemporary artists saw (or thought they saw) them. Youngsters along the route from New York to Albany might be able to recapture the old excitement, but for the rest of the country it's too much about too little too poorly told.