A second moderate, sensible Andropov biography, along with Zhores Medvedev's sober version. Steele is former East European correspondent for the ex-Manchester Guardian and author of a recent study of Soviet foreign policy, World Power (p. 1004); Abraham is a BBC television producer who has done a film on Andropov. They take the view that while Andropov's image as a cultured, urbane, almost Western figure is probably a KGB creation, he is an intelligent, reserved, and relatively well-rounded type compared to his predecessors. Drawing on published sources (including an apparent onslaught on old Soviet newspapers) and on interviews with Soviet Ã‰migrÃ‰s, Soviet officials, Western diplomats, and East Europeans acquainted with Andropov, Steele and Abraham don't come up with anything remarkably new. They did discover that Andropov was caught up in a 1950 investigation into the party organization in Karelia, where he was #2 man. His superior was arrested--the charges were mismanagement and insufficient self-criticism--but Andropov, despite a public reprimand, survived. That episode was the only blot on his career. Andropov came into prominence as ambassador during the 1956 Russian invasion of Hungary. With the help of Andras Hegedus, then a young Hungarian party leader (and now a critic of the regime), Steele and Abraham establish that Andropov played his role well--coolly lying to Hungarian authorities about Soviet troop movements and working behind-the-scenes to minimize Hungarian resistance. He was instrumental in installing Janes Kadar--but, say the authors, his part in the whole affair was secondary: the decisions were made in Moscow. (Andropov's intentions, they think, were to minimize bloodshed.) Thereafter, Steele and Abraham depend mostly on surmise. Andropov played a moderating role, they determine, as head of relations with other communist parties. He was less heavy-handed than many, they say, as chief of the KGB. And they doubt that the KGB, and Andropov, were behind the assassination attempt on the Pope. (For one thing, the KGB has traditionally opted for assassination only in cases involving persons they considered traitors.) On the basis of his first year in power, they dub him neither a conservative nor a liberal, but a cautious type who seeks out good advice on dealing with the many problems left him by Brezhnev. The book was completed before Andropov's health became news, though Steele and Abraham do review what was known of his heart trouble and surmise, perhaps prematurely, that he'll be around for a while. A good brief biography: sketchy in places, but fully aware of the limitations on available information, and thus not misleading.