Simon (Jupiter's Travels, 1980) chronicles the David-and-Goliath struggle over the fate of a California river valley. Back in the mid-1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers targeted Round Valley in Northern California for inundation. The purpose was flood control on the Eel River, the corps claimed, thinly disguising their mission to send water south to the thirsty (and politically powerful) ranchers of the San Joaquin Valley. California's Department of Water Resources and the Metropolitan Water District, bureaucratic bullies used to getting their way, also liked the idea. The future looked bleak for the pretty, classically proportioned valley, with its cozy sense of place and sedate country pace. But Richard Wilson wasn't happy about the prospect of his farm lying under 300 feet of water, his valley just another notch on the corps's belt. So he engaged the behemoths in battle. It didn't hurt that Wilson had a hefty bankroll he could dip into whenever needed or that he could turn to friends like Dean Witter (yes, the investment house really is named after one person) and Ike Livermore, then-governor Reagan's close adviser. But why quibble? Wilson's cause was just and his instincts true -- dams aren't worth their salt when it comes to flood control, as a presidential commission has just recently confirmed. In the end, after much blood, sweat, and tears (and a healthy dose of good luck), Wilson brought the arrogant agencies and bureaucracies to their knees. Simon's reporting of the fight is well paced for all its detail, although much of the deep background material could have been left on the editing floor without hurting the story. An immensely gratifying tale in which small-town America gives its comeuppance to a bloated, blustering federal agency with a self-appointed mission to subdue nature.