Journalist Jean Gilbreath Niemeier emulates the late Jules Dubois’ Danger Over Panama in presenting copious quotations tied together by her own thoughts and paraphrases from secondary works. In this manner she endeavors to create a history of Panama, of U.S.-Panamanian relations, and of the newspaper Star & Herald by offering a chronology of news stories, editorials, and materials from the unpublished papers of Albert Victor McGeachy, the Panama-born editor of the Star & Herald.

Her treatment of isthmian commerce in the period from 1849 to 1900, which is stressed, proves enlightening, but the work lacks balance. The era of independence and the diplomacy and political intrigue of 1903-1940 are glossed over lightly. Important issues such as Panama’s sovereignty are undeveloped. Outstanding U.S.-Panamanian problems, current canal difficulties pertaining to relocation, conversion to sea level, and the use of nuclear explosives are attenuated. Recent attitudes on U.S.-Panamanian relations are reflected without thorough analysis. For example, the 1964 crisis is handled superficially despite the availability of documentation for extensive research.

Although the book deals with U.S.-Panamanian diplomacy the Foreign Relations series is omitted in an extensive bibliography, which cites a nonexistent work, ostensibly written by the political scientist John Martz at age three. The author rarely presents sufficient evidence upon which to base conclusions, and when she takes a position, it is often ill-grounded. For instance, she tries to determine whether relinquishment of U.S. interests in Panama would give rise to more communist agitation or quell a source of anti-imperialist propaganda. She bases her conclusion in part on predictions of Congressman Daniel Flood, who is an unreliable source, once voted “Public Enemy Number One” by Panama’s National Assembly. Also it is difficult to reconcile the writer’s repeated professions of empathy for Panama and her agreement with a recent study which suggests that “the United States should simply terminate negotiations, withdraw arrangements for shared canal operation, reassert sovereignty, and abandon all plans for a new canal” (p. 254).

As a history of the Star & Herald and newspaper publishing on the Isthmus, the book has merit. Otherwise, contrary to claims on the dust jacket, it lacks perspicacity. It might be of value to the general reader, but only if the historical gaps were filled in.