Mr. Weems, who has done some historical sleuthing previously in his interesting digs around polar expeditions, has brought together a trio of somewhat shady but valiant adventurers of early eighteenth century frontier America. Although fastidiously discreet about exploiting relationships between James Wilkinson, Philip Nolan and Peter Ellis Bean, Weems does hint at a chain of influence. Wilkinson, a charming, talented opportunist, had two periods of undistinguished military service, opened up Spanish-held territory on the Mississippi to Kentucky trade, lined his own pocket, and spied and worked for Spain by actively supporting Kentucky's independence from the United States. Nolan, who was eventually killed by a Spanish company whose leaders suspected he was encroaching on their territory, was Wilkinson's protoge. In the ill-fated Nolan expedition, formed to capture and sell wild horses, was seventeen-year-old Bean, whose fascinating diary of life in a Spanish prison is quoted here copiously. Bean eventually worked for Mexico but also ""amicably"" with Anglo-Americans. He had both a Mexican and an American wife. In spite of the cloudy loyalties and expeditious dealings of the three men, all were courageous and likable, and, in a way, influenced the chaotic events of America's push westward.