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Lauded Chilean author Coloane (1910-2000) fills his stories with adventures in a bygone era of rough men and unforgiving landscapes. The title story examines baser human nature, following two hired soldiers and prospectors who quit their greedy employer and help each other survive long enough to betray each other as they discover their own source of gold. The protagonist of "The Empty Bottle," meanwhile, is tormented by the trauma of a murder he committed. In "Five Sailors and a Green Coffin" an old sailor is slowly consumed by guilt over his inability to carry out his best friend's dying wish. The mean-spirited ship's cook in "Passage to Puerto Edén" undergoes a sea change after adopting a pet lamb. Although the stories feel aged, Coloane flavors his straight-forward prose with surprising and vivid imagery and insightful depictions of lives lived hard. It's a quintessentially manly book: hard-edged, stoical and heavy with regret and yearning. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.