(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ray Moseley worked for four decades as a journalist in Europe, including ten years as the chief European correspondent of the Chicago Tribune. In 1981, he was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting. His previous book, Mussollini’s Shadow (2000), is a widely acclaimed biography of the dictator’s son-in-law, Galeazzo Ciano.

Moseley’s latest work focuses on the leader of Italian Fascism after his removal from power on July 25, 1943, until his assassination on April 28, 1945. Although good biographies of Mussolini already exist, those in English provide only limited information about these chaotic months, during which the depressed and bitter dictator was essentially a puppet to the German occupiers of his country.

Among the many topics in the book, Moseley chronicles the rescue of Mussolini by Otto Skorzeny, the bloody civil war between the Fascists and the partisans, the transporting of thousand of Italian Jews to death camps, the secret negotiations for the surrender of German troops in Italy, the capture and execution of Mussolini (with his mistress Charetta Petacci), and the controversy over who actually pulled the trigger. While recognizing that the brutality and racism of Fascist Italy was no match for that of Nazi Germany, Moseley emphasizes that Mussolini made terrible choices and condoned crimes against humanity, making him “the greatest disaster” to befall Italy in the twentieth century.

Mussolini: The Last 600 Days of Il Duce is based on exhaustive research in both primary and secondary sources. Moseley writes with a lucid style and presents a balanced analysis. It is highly unlikely that anyone will ever write a better book about Italy during this fascinating and important period.