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Author of the excellent A Few Bloody Noses: The Realities and Mythologies of the American Revolution, British historian Harvey turns his attention to military leadership with modestly successful results. After listing a great commander's qualities, Harvey delivers laudatory biographies of 12 who fought from the mid-18th to mid-20th centuries. Americans will enjoy reading of less familiar 18th-century British commanders such as Robert Clive, who triumphed against immense opposing forces to conquer huge areas of India. Thomas Cochrane won dazzling naval victories during the Napoleonic Wars and became a national hero, but offended Admiralty officials, who refused him promotions. Later chapters make for lively reading, but the author stretches too hard to portray his subjects as mavericks. Washington, Nelson, Wellington, Grant and Rommel were establishment figures in good standing, and Patton's superiors appreciated him despite his quirks. Montgomery and MacArthur made plenty of enemies, but most military experts conclude that their inflated egos had little to do with their talents, which in professional eyes (although not those of worshipful civilians) were overrated. Maps. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.