The subtitle of this new biography of Gordon reads ""martyr and misfit"": Nutting stresses Gordon's mysticism--his persistent death wish and asceticism, his contempt of all societal and military conventions, and above all, his contradictory temperament. Gordon was a frustrated idealist; he was a man who distrusted everyone and didn't know his own erratic and stubborn mind. He resigned from military service in China and in the Sudan several times, only to retract his decisions. He was livid when some Taiping sympathizers were executed against his orders, yet he had not bothered to attend their surrender. On his first tour of duty in the Sudan he struggled to stop the slave trade; on his second mission, he proposed as his successor one of the most notorious slave traders in the country. And when he accepted the job of evacuating the Egyptian garrisons in the Sudan, once in Khartoum he requested ""mop-up"" troops and suggested the Sudan be left to Turkey. Nutting delineates the workings of the Taiping rebellion, Egypt's chaotic politics, and Gladstone's government as well as he delves into Gordon's personality. Gordon was an unpredictable hero in the frustrating and tragic situations bred by the far-flung influence of a ""civilizing, pacifying"" modern nation on ""primitive"" and corrupt countries. He toyed too much with what he didn't understand or even want to ultimately to fight about. Nutting's sober, unromantic critique brings out this complex and dubious hero in a light that will throw a shadow on the screen version and may receive the more attention on its account.