In this odd revisionist biography of Mussolini, Tokyo-based journalist and historian Hoyt (Now Hear This, 1993, etc. etc.) unconvincingly argues that the Fascist leader ""deserves a better rating than he has yet been given in the West."" Elected prime minister after the 1922 ""March on Rome,"" Mussolini soon established Europe's first modern dictatorship. For years afterward -- as Hoyt points out -- he was respected throughout the world for the efficiency he brought to Italy. Hoyt cannot, however, argue away the brutality of Mussolini's regime or the ruthlessness of the man himself. Mussolini's Fascist ideology and militant Italian nationalism were, like the Socialism he embraced earlier in life, mere vehicles for the achievement of personal power. Hoyt documents Mussolini's adulterous behavior, which on at least one occasion interfered with affairs of state. Hoyt also traces Mussolini's failed attempts at entente with France and Britain, his fateful decisions to expand his empire in Africa, and his entry into WW II at the side of Adolf Hitler. Reverses in the war led to the 1943 fall of Mussolini's regime and his 1945 execution by Communist partisans. Hoyt tries to rehabilitate Mussolini, but makes several factual errors (for instance, he states that Neville Chamberlain was the son of Austen Chamberlain, and puts Somalia in North Africa) and too many startling conclusions (among other things, he flatly asserts that Hitler sincerely sought disarmament, and argues that non-secret elections in Fascist Italy were an accurate reflection of the will of the Italian people). Hoyt adds nothing to our knowledge of Mussolini and, though claiming to take a fresh look at Il Duce, seems only to confirm that he was a repugnant figure whose rule was a disaster for Italy.