From a maximum-security prison to a cancer ward, from a mental institution to the World Trade Center, Laurence Gonzales's prose grips from the first sentence. Sometimes hair-raising, sometimes heart-wrenching, among these essays is "Marion Prison," a National Magazine Award finalist, with its intimate view inside the most maximum security prison in America. "House of Pain" takes the reader into the life of a brain surgeon at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, a grim world that few ever see. "Rites of Spring," another National Magazine Award finalist, follows Gonzales and his then wife on their journey through cancer, not once, but twice. Other stories venture above the Arctic Circle, fly deep into the Alaskan wilderness among grizzly bears and trumpeter swans, explore aerobatics in high-performance aircraft, and eulogize aspects of Memphis and Miami as American cities that mourn their fates in uniquely different ways.