IN A PREFACE to this monumental biography Conrad Black pays tribute to his publisher's editor, William Whitworth. Their dealings, he tells us, were often abrasive, and conducted entirely by e-mail. He hopes that their intense relationship will eventually lead to an actual meeting. Intriguing. I wonder whether a hard-pressed Whitworth might have suggested cuts. If so, he was overruled. Black's opus is defiantly, self-indulgently long, and for the most part a painstaking recital of facts, culled from the record of a period the author is not old enough to remember.
Not that his life of Roosevelt is without merit. Speed through the first 400 pages, which cover acres of well-trodden ground in excruciating detail. and you'll reach the heart of the matter: Roosevelt's struggle with America's isolationists, his blatant evasion of the neutrality laws and his creative if erratic relationship