As the creator of King Kong, producer of several John Ford films, and early champion of such groundbreaking movie technologies as Technicolor and Cinerama, Merian Cooper more than merits a biographer’s attention. But you don’t get far into Mark Cotta Vaz’s colorful account, Living Dangerously, before realizing that Cooper’s life achievements as a pioneering movie mogul represented a relatively tame second act. Endowed with an insatiable hunger for adventure, Cooper lived a truly death-defying life, whether getting shot down twice as a World War I-era bomber pilot, slitting an enemy’s throat during a desperate escape from a Russian POW camp, or roaming uncharted corners of the globe as an explorer/documentarian. Through it all, Vaz rarely pauses to examine Cooper’s personal life and even less often contemplates the inner Cooper. But as biographies go, this is one heck of an action-packed beach read.