Impressive collection of 18 adventure essays, most of them pumping with vitality, by the author of Burled Dreams and Jaguars Ripped My Flesh. Why these exploits? ""Risk is a part of therapy,"" Cahill explains. ""You can put your life on the line in order to save your soul."" Many of these tales describe extreme pressures on body or mind: In ""In the Valley of the Shadow of Death,"" Cahill wanders the corpse-strewn ruins of Jonestown, while in ""True Believers and the Guises of the Weasel,"" he spars with deprogrammer Ted Patrick and a crowd of Christian zealots. ""Love and Death in Gorilla Country"" brings him within ten feet of the great apes (they smell ""skunky with a splash of vinegar""); ""Shiva Winked"" finds him white-water-rafting in the Himalayas; and in ""Vertical Caving,"" he descends 40-story-high underground precipices. Less hazardously, he also eyes a total solar eclipse, sunbathes in the Austrian Alps, scouts for Bigfoot, ice-fishes, scuba dives, watches The Towering Inferno on the Marquesas Islands. Jokes and puns (""We have always depended on the kindness of rangers""; ""The law of the jungle seems to be this: there is no law in the jungle"") and schoolboy enthusiasm brighten the darker pieces, while deft characterizations and lovely landscapes add weight to the fluffier ones. Only an uneventful account of grown men playing ""survival games"" in New Hampshire fails to score. A self-deprecating Indiana Jones, telling tales by the campfire. Sure-fire entertainment.