An adequate and competent biography by a man who knew him casually through years of serving in the Foreign Office, before the Hitler regime. Through personal knowledge and inside stories of people he knew, Schwarz tells the life story of this social and political upstart whose arrogance, reckless ambition and charm were to carry him far. An officer in the First World War, Ribbentrop then spent a few years in Canada in a dubious venture; returned to Germany, where, as a wine merchant, he gained contact with the embassies. He joined the Party, impressed Hitler with his fluency in foreign tongues, and became his ambassador at large, engaging in diplomatic negotiations with all countries, handling the tightrope questions of rearmament, remilitarization of the Rhineland, the Locarno Treaty, the Anti-Comintern pact with the Japanese, the Soviet pact, the explaining away of successive invasions and appropriations. The emphasis seems on a period that is past -- the inner circle of Nazi Germany -- rather than today. But Ribbentrop is still to be reckoned with.