Genuinely brilliant reportage on the consolidation and restructuring binge that has convulsed corporate America in recent years. In remarkably short order, Johnston (The Last Nine Minutes) seems to have gained the confidence of key participants in the high-stakes competition for control of industrial or other assets via proxy fights, tender offers, leveraged buyouts, and even negotiation. The author's engrossing narrative cuts back and forth among three of 1985's very biggest deals--Carl Icahn's dogfight for TWA, Sir James Goldsmith's paper chase of Crown Zellerbach, and the grudge match in which Fred C. Hartley, at no small cost, kept Unocal out of the cluthes of T. Boone Pickens. Covered in less detail are Revlon's fall to Pantry Pride, Ted Turner's abortive bid for CBS, and landmark litigation involving Household International's employment of an anti-takeover gambit known as the poison pill. In addition to knowing portraits of celebrity raiders, Johnston provides perceptive profiles on a galaxy of superstar mercenaries who have earned big reputations on Wall Street. Their ranks include arbitrageur Ivan Boesky, attorney Joe Flora, Gregg Jarrell (the SEC's laissez-faire economist), broker Boyd Jeffries, proxy solicitor Arthur F. Long, Drexel Burnham's Michael Milken (creator of junk bonds), investment banker Peter Sachs, and Kurt Wulff (a securities analyst who has made a name for himself by actively advocating the breakup of major oil companies to enhance shareholder values). Johnston touches but does not dwell on many of the isssues raised by the megabuck transactions that seem now to be a fact of financial life. To illustrate, she acknowledges there invariably is a human toll to asset shuffles, briefly questions whether massive debts incurred in the name of free enterprise can be comfortably handled at all stages of the business cycle, and all but concedes that a certain number of deals are done for their own rewarding sake rather than any compelling socioeconomic purpose. The author does point out, however, that even in the mid-1980's, the count of amicable get-togethers far outstrips the number of hostile bids by unwelcome suitors. An instructive combat diary that itself qualifies as a blue-chip acquisition.