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The insurrectionary abolitionist John Brown has been made a caricature of altruism, villainy and madness; this probing biographical study attempts a more integrated portrait. Drawing on detailed exegeses of Brown's letters and other writings, University of Hawaii historian McGlone closely scrutinizes a handful of critical events for clues to Brown's character and motives, including his puzzling and fatal dawdling for hours during the 1859 Harpers Ferry raid, until his escape routes were cut off. McGlone's sympathetic but critical portrait shows an intensely religious but not naïve or delusional man, a fanatical but rational abolitionist capable of ruthless violence, who adroitly used language and symbolism to transform himself from murderer to martyr. The author ties Brown's evolving mission to his religious beliefs, his concerns about his sprawling clan-fear they would be attacked partly motivated his massacre of proslavery settlers at Pottawatomie Creek-and, less convincingly, to conflicts stemming from his relationship with his domineering father. McGlone's prose can be dense, repetitive and larded with psychological analysis, but his careful research and nuanced, many-faceted analysis make this a valuable contribution to our understanding of Brown. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.