A close look at the career of Italy's most famous strongman. Named after Benito Juarez, strongly influenced by a socialist father, Mussolini grew up in a troubled, depressed society, making a name for himself as a fiery, rabble-rousing orator and journalist. Lyttle presents him as a talented opportunist who, as he himself said, ""never made a mistake when I followed my instinct, only when I obeyed reason. . ."" The author traces Mussolini's spectacular political career, lingering over his many affairs, the Matteotti murder and other scandals, and nearly every moment of his last few days. The unequal relationship between Mussolini and Hitler is explored in detail; Hitler dominated every meeting of the two with the force of his convictions, seldom took Mussolini into his confidence, and apparently considered Italians good only for labor battalions and cannon fodder. Mussolini had major areas of ignorance--a vague foreign policy agenda and consistent misuse of his army led to a long series of circuslike military misadventures, but he was an avid reader, able to appreciate the different views of others and occasionally doubt the rightness of his own. Other biographies emphasize his brutality; Lyttle shows that he was often a victim of circumstance, radical factions or his own indecisiveness. A good introduction to this much-scorned political leader.