A quickie rehash of old material--except for some political scuttlebut midway through. Though the book purports to provide the full story of Reagan's life, the first third, which takes the reader up to 1975, reads like a swollen, more-than-usually syrupy Sunday-supplement article. Basing his account of Reagan's early years largely on the president's and the first lady's campaign autobiographies, the author manages to compare Reagan favorably to Lincoln and Churchill. In the middle third of the book, which discusses the intramural Republican warfare of the post-Watergate years (1975-76), journalist van der Linden comes to the material he knows best. These chapters, based on a wide range of interviews with Republican officials and activists, focus instructively on the conflicts within the Reagan staff in particular and the Republican Party in general. Here van der Linden offers some fresh particulars on: why John Sears was so hated by Ed Meese; the bitter fight between the Jacobins of the New Right and the Congressional Moderates; and New Right theoretician Kevin Phillips' warning that a ""weak-willed Reagan"" lacked the fire in his belly to carry out his own program. But in the final third of the book, van der Linden reverts to stale data and high praise; there is little in his account of the 1980 campaign, in particular, that won't be familiar to regular newspaper readers. Save for that central, mid-Seventies section, then, a book of passing utility at best--until something more substantial comes along.