A study of the swashbuckling robber barons who raped South Africa's Transvaal of its diamonds and gold, transformed a poor, desolate corner of the globe to one of the richest, and laid the groundwork for one of the touchiest modern political problems -- apartheid. Wheatcroft, former literary editor of The Spectator. now a free-lance journalist, has taken on his subject--the colorful, hard-drinking, fast-loving, and high-stakes players, such as Cecil Rhodes, Barney Barnato, J. Robinson, Ernest Oppenheimer, and others--with relish. These are the men who were known, collectively, as the Randlords (""the Rand"" was the abbreviation for the area, the Witwatersrand--literally, ""the ridge of white water""--which yielded the earth's fruits in such abundance). These adventurers took three elements--the earth's riches, the lust for wealth of the Europeans, and cheap black labor--and molded untold riches. Even today, a century later, their descendants, such as Harry Oppenheimer (who controls much of the world's gold output) and the DeBeers Company (a leader in diamond production) wield enormous economic influence at home and abroad. This is not the first time that this story has been told (Brian Roberts' The Diamond Magnates gave us a similar rendition some years back). But Wheatcroft is a witty, urbane writer who adds luster to the story. And The Randlords is certainly timely in offering a perspective look at the seeds of an explosive human dilemma.