Through its violent and not unsullied history, Venezuela-""Little Venice"" as the Spaniards called it when they came and saw the Indian lake dwellers' stilted houses- makes exciting copy, and the authors have taken full advantage of the fact. The book reads as the title implies. Preliminary to the country's conquest and its aftermath of heavily intermixed Spanish-Indian society, there is good material on Indian tribes and their possible origins and the pertinent geographical qualities of the country itself. As the conquest began, Venezuela became inextricably tied to the continent and the European world- connections which are woven in with the happenings in the land itself. With the beginning of the 19th century, the career of the ""liberator"" Bolivar is shown- on its own- and as it personified the spirit of a continent, and the men who came after him- on down to Vicente Gomez and the present dictator Perez Jimenez, who emerge as real, if unattractive characters. Along with the political machinations, the pictures of the changing social and economic status give much of the reason behind Venezuela's, and much of the rest of Latin America's present turbulence. A valuable study.