The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854--repealing the Missouri Compromise, reopening the question of slavery in the territories, and intensifying the sectional conflicts that climaxed in the Civil War--had immediate issue in the fierce struggle between Proslavers and Free Soilers in Kansas; and it is that struggle, pitting a fraudulent against a rump legislature, proceeding by raids and counterraids and mutual massacre, that is projected here, more fully and sharply than its implications. One does not grasp, for instance, the folly of the policy of ""popular sovereignty"" in comparison with previous practice since the latter is ignored, and throughout federal (ir)responsibility remains in the background. Even on the scene a surfeit of skirmishes tends to blur the battle lines--but this accords with history if not with the best writing of it and what is recorded in detail is not dull, thanks to a flamboyant cast (messianic John Brown and mountebank James Lane are only two) and the author's punchy ""Zip, Bang!"" style. If he's as intemperate as some of his subjects, he's not inaccurate; if he's sometimes flip (""Most of the Proslavery party didn't lose any sleep over what they had done""), he's not fundamentally unfair: ""Bleeding Kansas"" was a bloody mess, and whatever the reader fails to perceive he won't forget that.