The story of America shambling toward war. Hoehling, who specializes in pre-crisis round-ups (The Last Train from Atlanta and The Week Before Pearl Harbor), presents the events following the ""Hun's"" first aggression in Europe when the United States maintained a haphazard neutrality--a naval officer's wry quip was apt: ""Who are you neutral against?"" The book's sequence is chronological if somewhat dizzying and it easily recreates the mood of the interim that became a war-ward thrust. Mrs. Roosevelt felt that 1939 and 1940 were marked by her husband's ""major efforts. . . to avert total war in Europe and to awaken us here to the need for preparation."" Others felt FDR was measuring opponents and awaiting ""a fresh provocation"" from the Axis. Seen in Hoehling's book are the excited phone calls from ambassadors, bickering in the Senate, FDR's increasing irritability, military preparations, shifting public opinion, and attempted diplomatic detentes. Hoehling's aim is to reproduce the nervous tenor of that pre-war interim, which occasionally he reflects unintentionally in jingoistic prose (the Japanese become ""the fire-breathers of the Land of the Rising Sun""). He relies heavily on memoirs and official documents (though he doesn't cite them in the text). Obviously, then, neither scholarly nor shocking, but a readable summation.