Fortunately for the publishers of Shevardnadze's quickie account of his years as the USSR's foreign minister, the author remained on the side of the angels during the recent, botched coup. Unfortunately for most readers, his selective and largely self- serving tract raises appreciably more questions than it answers. Shevardnadze (now 61) accords notably short shrift to his boyhood and subsequent career as a Communist Party official in Georgia, an omission that will leave many to wonder how he climbed the slippery pole of a provincial bureaucracy and what forces might have given him the will to pursue democratic, even populist, ideals. Nor, save for the brief assurance that he and Gorbachev became fast friends as young apparatchiks, does the author have much to say about his early relationship with the embattled Soviet President. In disjointedly recounting his role in resolving the Afghan conflict, the USSR's withdrawal from Eastern Europe, the Chernobyl disaster, and other epic events, Shevardnadze is scarcely more informative. At times, in fact, he's irritatingly coy. For example, he leaves to ``future textbooks on diplomacy'' the details of the compromise that enabled him and Deng Xiaoping to reach the agreement that normalized the Soviet Union's relations with mainland China. And with more piety than wit, he offers a wealth of rhetoric attesting to his abiding respect for human rights, the environment, economic opportunity, artistic expression, peace, international amity, and other politically correct values. The book's epilogue, though, written just in the past few days, offers an exciting eyewitness account of the coup and Shevardnadze's role in resisting it--and seems to put to rest his friendship with Gorbachev, whom he accuses of ``spoon-feeding the junta with...his poor judgment of people, his indifference towards his true allies, his distrust of democratic forces....'' On the evidence of the disappointingly exiguous memoir at hand, Shevardnadze would have been well advised to let his dramatic year-end 1990 resignation speech, in which he explicitly warned against the threat of dictatorship, continue to speak for itself.