If Max Gallo were not Professor of History at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris, he would presumably be one of Hollywood's most sought after script writers. In fact Visconti could have used him on the set of The Damned. Gallo's evocation of the events of June 30-July 2nd, 1934, when Hitler's SS butchered Ernst Roehm and his SA stormtrooper minions, combines the fury of the Valkyries with the suspense of a Gothic horror tale. Fortunately, historical understanding is not sacrificed to the demands of theater. As Gallo makes clear, the Roehm purge was a critical turning point in the consolidation of Nazism; by slaughtering the SA leadership Hitler announced to the Army that the revolution of National Socialism was hereby finished and henceforth the freewheeling thugs of the SA would no longer be permitted their indiscriminate rampages. Above all they would not be incorporated into the jealously elitist Reichswehr. After Hitler's seizure of power the SA became, in the words of Alan Bullock, an ""embarrassing legacy."" Lacing his staccato narrative with SA rumblings on how the Nazis had ""gone respectable"" and were now playing footsies with ""reactionaries, burghers and conformists,"" Gallo builds the atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia: was Roehm, who called Hitler ""that ridiculous corporal,"" himself planning a putsch? During the months preceding the orgiastic murders the jostling for power among Goebbels, Goering, Himmler, et al. intensified; Gallo uses flashbacks to set the scene, insinuating and hedging the personal power rivalries and the ambiguous loyalties among Hitler's henchmen until the savage denouement. Immensely readable, this succeeds in transcending what the author calls the ""somewhat abstract limits of analysis"" to enter the psychological Hades of the Third Reich.