Dennis Wheatly was not a great writer, perhaps not even a good one and Phil Baker, while giving full credit to his story-telling abilities, is by no means blind to the absurd aspects of his writing, nor to the unattractive elements of racism and snobbery. However anyone who, as I did, devoured his books in adolescence, will be fascinated to know what sort of a man he was. Phil Baker has been lucky to discover a man with an engagingly contradictory character - naive/shrewd, mercenary/idealistic, sensualist/moralising - and an equally strange life. Central to this narrative is his friendship with Eric Gordon Tombe, a fraudster who was eventually murdered by a fellow fraudster. Wheatley sat at the feet (literally in the case of his bookplate) of this weird poseur and drank in his bogus philosophising. Despite eventually becoming aware of the man's contradictions Wheatley resolutely failed to translate this awareness into fiction which was always about black and white, darkness and light. That is the strangeness of the man that Baker brings out so well: a writer who deliberately shut the ambiguities of his life out of his fiction, a relentless self-mythologiser and self-publicist. There are one or two infelicities of style, not inappropriate for a book on Wheatley, and a few errors, such as the muddling of Charles Williams with Charles Morgan, two very different writers. Altogether, though, a very interesting story told with a verve that rivals Wheatley and a humour and subtlety that his subject could only have envied.