If you had, and could read, the 1913 newspapers of London, Berlin, Paris, St. Petersburg, Rome, Vienna and New York -- you'd have the materials from which this book was made. Very few people, however, would be able to force a pattern to emerge from the major headlines and the minor matters as this author has managed to do. By isolating the pertinent information on the royalties, the politicians, the scandals, the various attitudes toward woman's suffrage and the pop cult (clothes, dancesteps, etc.) in separate chapters for each of the major cities of the countries that were plunging toward their involvements in WWI, Virginia Cowles has achieved a lighter companion volume to Barbara Tuchman's popular history, The Guns of August. ""Never,"" huffed Lloyd George on December 31, 1913, ""has the sky been more perfectly blue."" So much for prime ministers as prophets -- the Balkans were the last concern of the man in the street, who was apparently more interested in keeping the vote from the woman next to him and, if not that, then more interested in doing the tango with her, the dance craze that caused consternation and seemed to both the Kaiser and Franz Joseph yet another sign of modern decadence. Treason in Vienna, motorized robbery Paris, graft in Rome, and wholesale arson in New York were some of the crimes of the times. The separate details would be insignificant by themselves but this author has made trivia speak. Where words fail, the generous number of contemporary photographs in each city's section take over.