Crunchy with busy characters and situations, this glossy sequel to Rock's The Passing Bells (1979) again traces the fortunes of the family of the Earl of Stanmore of Abingdon Pryory, now from 1921 to 1924. . . while the wider world of postwar unrest (plus new methods in media communication) is seen through the trials and travels of US journalist Martin Rilke (the Earl's American cousin). Rilke, Pulitzer Prize-winner for an anti-war exposÃ‰, will be swimming against the tide at first--as he persists in his refusal to retract his condemnation of the war's futility, of callous stupidity in high places. But in time he'll be acquitted in a libel suit brought by an outraged General, after which--on visits to a bitter German kinsman who supports Hitler-he'll witness the seething hatreds of a starving, fevered Berlin (the assassination of a liberal Minister). . . and the beginning of another circle of horror in a Munich beer-hall. Meanwhile, however, Rilke is also responsible for assists in happier matters. He effects the rehabilitation of the Earl's son Charles, now cached in a mental hospital (Charles had, if you remember, shot his brother William in the knee to save him from the trenches); Charles, recovered, will become a teacher, while William, a restless habituÃ‰ of dives and dens of inquiry, persuades his father he should drop law and settle for horse breeding. Rilke also conspires with his journalist chum, Jacob Goldin, son of a tabloid press lord, to redeem the career of an officer friend, Fenton, victim of top brass persecution. And the rosiest romance this time concerns the Earl's daughter Alexandra, widow of a divorced Canadian doctor and mother of a young son, who drifts into an engagement to a suitable toff, but just in time discovers she loves ""our Ross,"" a former Abingdon chauffeur who's now a prosperous partner in a California aeronautical engineering firm. In headlining the era of flappers and jazz, strikes and riots, the infant radio and airplane industry, Rock never slips his moorings to the story line; and it's all immensely energetic, top entertainment in the Upstairs/Downstairs vein, complete with bubbling family gossip and a March of Time view of history.