Erich Maria Remarque: The Last Romantic by Hilton Tims (Constable, £20)

FEW books bring to life the war that was to end all wars more than the moving, harrowing All Quiet on the Western Front.

Erich Maria Remarque, a German soldier who fought in France during the First World War, wrote the book in 1929.

It is arguably the most famous of anti-war novels, becoming a worldwide literary sensation, setting unprecedented best-selling standards for 20th Century publishing and being banned and burned in Germany, by the Nazis.

Remarque was neither a Jew nor a Communist, the twin butts of Nazi hatred.

He had never been known to voice an opinion for or against the Party.

Indeed, physically, genetically and in the pride he took in his German heritage, he was the quintessential Aryan so prized by the Nazis.

His novel and its groundbreaking success were enough to condemn him.

The fascinating story of this man, who was condemned to spend the rest of his life with a suitcase, ready-packed, to hand, is told by Tims, author of the first comprehensive biography of Remarque, a glamorous, famous and wealthy man, troubled and embittered by politics and the fate of his sister who paid a terrible price at the hand of the Nazis.

So well written is this biography it leaves the reader feeling they too have lived the life.

It's possible to feel for Remarque, the unwilling recruit when his troop set out for France in 1917, waiting in the dugouts, laying yards and yards of barbed wire.

You're there with him back in the classroom as he tries to resume his studies, knowing the harsh, bloody cruelty of life much better than those who proposed to teach him.

And you follow him through the turbulence of marriage, publication of his books, his affairs and loves.

Perhaps the most intriguing of his affairs was his liaison with Marlene Dietrich, which began in 1937, when she had just separated from her lover Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, and Remarque, was freshly-separated from Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr.

The relationship was to last until the 1940s.

Remarque a tempestuous lover, was wracked with jealousy over her many other lovers.

She seemingly enjoyed having him as an accessory on her arm, as well as the intellectual stimulus he provided.

Remarque died in hospital on September 25, 1970, his wife Paulette Goddard at his bedside.

Dietrich sent a wreath of white roses. She died at her home in Paris in 1992, aged 90.

When, five years later, Sotheby's sold the contents of her New York apartment on Park Avenue, they included two paintings by Corot and a pair of porcelain horses that Remarque had given her.

Meanwhile, for more than 70 years, All Quite on the Western Front has remained constantly in print. A title instantly identifiable whatever the language, even if, sadly, the name of Erich Maria Remarque has been virtually forgotten.

Beverly Abbs