Whatever the sum advanced to Pickens for this engaging and engrossing account of his career as an independent oilman and corporate raider, the publisher got its money's worth. With plenty of breaks to taunt the ""good ol' boys"" who run bureaucratic empires at shareholders' expense and to promote the cause of investor rights, Pickens recounts how he made the jump from a near-idyllic boyhood in the Southwest--when his sportsman father (still going strong at 90) gave him a lifelong respect for the rewards of risk--to controversial superstardom as a leading player in the high-stakes takeover game. While he focuses on his business triumphs (e.g., the founding of Mesa Petroleum) and setbacks, Pickens does not shy from personal problems, including a failed marriage that produced four children. Despite having parlayed a $2,500 ante into America's largest independent producer of oil and gas in just 30 years, Pickens did not attract much public attention until the late 1970's. Trained as a geologist, he worked in the field for Phillips Petroleum (a subsequent target) before striking out on his own. By the beginning of the end of the oil industry's OPEC-fueled bonanza, Pickens was stalking major concerns (Superior, Marathon, Gulf, Unocal, et al.) and making a name for himself. The energy establishment was generally appalled by his brash assaults, but Pickens made his point (about the need to restructure)--and millions of dollars in consolation prizes for Mesa investors. Throughout his no-holds-barred narrative, Pickens exhibits a flair for salty comment: ""Investment bankers are like a good bird dog--they'll hunt with anybody who has a gun."" As he nears 60, the happy warrior shows every intention of soldiering on. Last year, to illustrate, he created United Shareholders of America (an organization that will press for investor rights), as well as a new corporate vehicle that promises to keep him wheeling and dealing for years to come. His first-person story, which roams the boardroom, clubs, hunting lodges and other spots where big business is done, makes lively, informative reading.