Shades of Shirer, this thinly-disguised biography of Benito Mussolini delves into the roots of Italian Fascism and its flowering from 1922 until its demise in 1945. Roy McGregor- Hastie is a British Laborite, who married the daughter of a formerly prominent Italian Fascist. This intriguing combination, plus his fluency in Italian, gave him access to a mass of official and private documents not otherwise available. Surprise, surprise: Mussolini comes out of it extraordinarily well, and not just for making the railroads run on time. Apart from the intricacy of his relations with King and Church, there are details here of Mussolini's efforts at restraining Hitler from aggression in Austria and Czechoslovakia. As late as 1938 an Anglo-Italian agreement was in the works but never crystallized, due to feet-dragging by British diplomats. The author thinks Mussolini may often have been stupid but avers he was not an evil man. The Italian Fascists killed off their enemies in ones and twos and not, as in Nazi Germany, in the hundreds of thousands. However, Blackshirt riots, brawls in Parliament, bombast and braggadocio characterise the history of this self-styled Man of Destiny.