A good working biography of Julius Caesar comes from a well known and versatile historical novelist and makes a substantial addition to Knopf's Great Lives in Brief series. Efficient chapters follow the periods in Caesar's life, setting them first against the background of Roman history and the intervening centuries that saw its rise after the Grecian civilization. Though Rome had been governed by a select minority of citizens, Caesar's youth saw the splitting of the ruling group into parties and power held in a murderous grip by Sulla. By luck, Caesar, perhaps too young at the time to be of real political importance, escaped Sulla's deadly attention and lived to gain increasing notice after the civil wars following Sulla's death. At 32 Caesar was elected to the Senate and, serving between terms in Spain, his career as a politician seemed solidified by varying elements:- his appeal for the masses, his canniness with particularly fortuitous forms of money spending and lending and, later in Gaul, the surprising ability with troops. These familiar facts and the rest up to the time of his betrayal, are recounted with considerable detail, social as well as political, and often with flashes of colorful prose and a strong sense of personal elements involved.