Ronald Howard's father, of course, was movie-star Leslie Howard--and here the son (also an actor) reconstructs, in painstaking detail, the last four years of Leslie Howard's life. . . up to his death at age SO in June 1943, when the Germans shot down the plane that was bringing him back to England from a Spain/Portugal lecture tour. Some of this narrative, which begins when Leslie returns to England from Hollywood in 1939, is modestly involving: his discontent with movie-stardom is effectively captured; and his strange domestic set-up (living through the Blitz mostly with mistress Violette but regularly coming home to wife Ruth) is made oddly affecting--especially when Violette dies of a neglected infection and Ruth steadfastly cares for Leslie, nearly unhinged with grief (he was ""supremely selfish in emotional matters""). But the bulk of the book, though always gracefully written, is simply too relentlessly close-focused to engage most US readers. Each of Leslie's wartime projects is meticulously chronicled: his BBC broadcasts; his tireless efforts (as star/director/producer) to get such anti-Nazi films as Pimpernel Smith and The First of the Few made; his plans for a Hamlet film--updated for anti-fascist effect. And no less than 100 pages are devoted to his last six months: his reluctant agreement to visit Portugal and Spain for propaganda purposes (at Anthony Eden's personal urging), the day-by-day trip itself, and some theories about the crash. (The author believes that the Germans probably were intentionally out to kill Leslie; moreover, it's ""possible"" that Leslie was doing some secret-service work.) Not for casual fans, then--especially since there's virtually no discussion of Leslie's pre-1939 life or career (more oddly, his Jewishness isn't mentioned till the last ten pages); and even devoted old-timers may find the intensive approach only half-rewarding.