A sharply focused account of the love affair between the writer and the diplomat. The grim hysteria of the McCarthy era comes through these pages with compelling immediacy as Newman (Rhetoric/U. of Penn.) quotes liberally from an extensive collection of letters that Melby sent to Hellman during their long friendship, as well as from reams of State Department papers, FBI files, and other documents. It was at the US Embassy in Moscow in November 1944, Newman explains, that Lillian Hellman met and fell in love with John Melby, a career foreign-service officer posted there as Third Secretary and Vice-Consul. They continued to meet and to correspond, but--unknown to Melby--Hellman's activities and acquaintances were being closely monitored by the FBI; in 1951, Melby came under scrutiny as a possible security risk, since Hellman had been identified as a "communist." Her hearing before the HUAC took place in 1952; after a series of interrogations, Melby was fired from his job the following year on the order of Secretary of State Dulles. As Melby had an excellent record of service and loyalty, his firing, the author points out, was a classic case of"guilt by association." In a lengthy appendix, Newman argues that Hellman was not in any significant sense a communist, nor disloyal to the US. A dramatic evocation of a paranoid era, with an especially vivid portrayal of the methods used by the government to root out communism, real or suspected.