This long, low-keyed biography is based on profuse siftings of Stevenson's month-to-month activities, speeches, and personal papers. Martin, a close Stevenson associate and well-known journalist and author, leaves overall judgments to others--like George Ball, who concludes that outward self-deprecation matched private self-glorification. The book stresses Stevenson's Illinois roots, yet he emerges as a true ""effete Easterner."" Neither an intellectual nor a politician, he was turned into a variety of patrician PR man by Ball and other State Department influences, as he sought both public service and top-club acceptance. Stevenson's youth bred, among other things, an anti-Semitism which Martin underlines as something more than casual. The self-centeredness of his wife, who drew him into the Chicago elite, turned into full paranoia as he developed (she thought no gentleman should work). Stevenson himself remained rather feudal. As Illinois governor and Democratic presidential candidate, he stuck when possible to a ""good government"" role. Martin makes it clear that his 1952 campaign against Eisenhower made no effort to arouse popular resistance to the GOP's planned ""dismantling of the New Deal."" Stevenson explicitly shunned the active representation of ""labor,"" ""minorities,"" or ""anti-Depression"" voters. Instead, with his customary aristocratic disdain for ""special interests,"" he merely took a half-hearted, defensive stand toward Republican attacks. Stevenson's passivity was accompanied by a series of strong, or at least strong-minded, women in his life--his mother, his wife and his sister Buffie; and his amours, the powerhouse Alicia Patterson Guggenheim, the State Department's Dorothy Fosdick, and (only briefly included, since the book ends in 1952) fellow-diplomat Marietta Tree. Since Martin shares the Stevenson aversion to ""ideological liberalism,"" this is far from a mere debunking effort. A careful rendering.