A new addition to the Rivers of America Series, The Cape Fear communicates the special mystery of nostalgia associated with its subject -- but it also shares the defects of several other histories of minor rivers in this series. Their stories resist broad handling and continually founder in a sandbank of wearying, immemorable detail. Aside from its value as a reference work, one can imagine few devoted readers who will go its length other than local residents and wistful visitors...The river draws its name from North Carolina's Cape Fear headland, a bleak, threatening, pitiless promontory that was the despair of early mariners. As one commentator described it: ""Imagination cannot adorn it. Romance cannot hallow it. Local pride cannot soften it."" The river itself rises in the highlands, fresh and clear with spring trout, but gradually turns muddy on the plains, becomes befouled by sewage and finally is brackish with the salt Atlantic. Its story is told from the time of the first Plymouth settlers through the days of piracy, exploitation and slavery, into the Civil War. It then leaps to a coda in the Twentieth Century. The writing is excellent, never genteel or sentimental, and always sensitive to nuance, color and vibrant anecdote. There is just too much minutiae.