If the term ""tragedy"" sounds excessive when applied to the United Fruit Company, it's especially apposite to Eli S. Black, the top banana until his suicide early in 1975. The author, a company flak, resented Black even as he represented him during the maneuvers which enabled Black to take over one of the most venerable multinational corporations. The maxim De mortuis nil nisi bonum isn't likely to produce a lively corporate history, however, and this volume proceeds trippingly indeed. United Fruit, according to its former vice-president of public relations, was just about as mischievous in Central America as one always suspected. McCann grew up within the United Fruit family, and it was adventurous and fun. As times changed the company faltered, while he grew older and wiser. His eventual doubts about wholesale bribery, general chicanery, and his own public relations efforts find articulate and easy expression here. Alternating with funny yarns of early days in the banana trade are stories of the company's diverse activities in perpetuating the ""culture of poverty"" in the so-called host countries. The book is also something of a puree of banana lore. Just one arguable item: a banana, peeled and wrapped in plastic film, is delicious when frozen, despite McCann's doubts. It's hard and cool, like his book.