An extraordinary book, essentially a man's book, in which the merciless rise of a dictator from humble backgrounds is traced against a complex pattern of tradition, race hatred, superstition and intricate politics on a small Caribbean island. Rafael Costanza was descended, on the ""wrong side of the blanket"" from a former Spanish governor, who had been liberal with his attentions and left a variety of claimants to compete with his legitimate descendants. This is Rafael's story. It is, too, the story of San Sebastian, and of a small but strong segment of proud spirited natives, holding fiercely to their independence; and of arrogant domination by whites, by crossbreeds, by anyone who could seize and hold, for a moment, the power which gave a sense of authority over the mixed population. It is a cruel story; it is not pleasant reading; but there is something in the rhythm of its telling,in its vigor and drama that keeps one reading. And, implicit in the broader pattern, in the human --and inhuman -- details, is the story of the march of fascism today. Here is its essence, sharply distilled.