Legendary for his tactical speed in war, General George S. Patton (1885-1945) was also notable for drama and style. Unfortunately, this plodding biography is not. The historic image of Patton has been indelibly molded by George C. Scott's 1970 film performance: histrionic, brilliant, bellicose, foul-mouthed--and more than a little insane. Retired US Army lieutenant colonel and military historian D'Este (Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome, 1991, etc.) does not rebut this impression but balances it. The grandson of a Confederate war hero, Patton had an idyllic childhood in turn-of-the-century Southern California (where his Virginia aristocrat family fled after the collapse of the Confederacy), marred only by dyslexia, which held him back in school and very nearly prevented him from getting his coveted appointment to West Point. D'Este emphasizes Patton's romantic attachment to his wife, his love of the army and war, his keen intellect, and the profound religiosity that shaped his view of his military destiny. All of Patton's military training was preparation for his service in WW II. The author shows how in Tunisia, Sicily (where his notorious slapping of two GIs nearly ended his career), and France, Patton became the Allied general most feared by the Germans because of his mobility and aggressiveness, and by his peers and soldiers because of his acid tongue and often erratic behavior. In the end, the man who dreamed of dying gloriously in battle perished, as the war was waning, in a mundane jeep accident. D'Este does not dispel any of the fascinating, repellent features of the Patton story, but his account, ponderous in size and impaired by frequent repetition and uninspired writing (""the silver spoon of Wilson wealth and good living was something that blessed Patton his entire life""), sometimes flags, occasionally bores.