Former diplomat and journalist Sheehan caused a flap with The Arabs, Israelis and Kissinger (1976); his current account of a year's travel through war-town Central America is equally outspoken, but more personal--one of the best of a spate of recent books on the region. Sheehan's faith is Catholic and traditional, his outlook informed by a Jesuit education, years of experience in the Middle East and Africa (in ""the tropics of the poor""), and a confessed lust for squalor and danger--all of which make him a knowledgeable, passionate, and idiosyncratic guide through discussions of liberation theology, the romanticization of guerrilla violence in El Salvador, and the bombast of Third World rhetoric. He visits the contras in Honduras and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and travels through El Salvador and Guatemala. He presents sharply etched portraits of priests, political leaders, soldiers, peasants, prisoners, beggars, and glue-sniffing addicts; offers accounts of heroism and shocking violence and poverty in the midst of the lush garden of the isthmus--all the while quoting liberally from sources, including St. Thomas Aquinas (on permissible insurrections) and Central America's greatest poet, Rubâ€šn DariÂ¢ (whose work embodies the Nicaraguan duality of mysticism and sensuality). Sheehan sees no quick solutions for Central America: peace and prosperity (if they come at all) are generations away. A compelling report, admittedly subjective, that shocks, convinces, and is alive.