Books: Another Black Bag

JUBILEE JIM: THE LIFE OF COLONEL JAMES FISK JR.—Robert H. Fuller—Macmillan ($3.50).

The Melodrama. In a stovepipe hat, and suiting of extreme flare, a jovial peddler startled New England villages out of their mid-century placidity to gape at a wagon resplendent with paint and varnish and polished brass, four white horses jingling the harness. Gilded letters announced "JAMES FISK JR. Jobber in Silks, Shawls, Dress Goods, Jewelry, Silver Ware, and Yankee Notions."

Shawls were soon supplanted by army blankets—lucrative civil war contracts Fisk secured for his Boston firm. And before long he was buying cotton at 12¢ a pound in the South, selling...