The reasons for the attraction were not particularly obvious. He was neither handsome nor charming nor outgoing. A ropey racing driver, he had only a rudimentary grasp of engineering, yet his preferred title was Ingegnere.
He described himself as an 'agitator of men'. He called it creative tension. That was shorthand for: an unhealthy delight in intrigue, clandestine meetings and gossip, particularly of the salacious sort, plus stored slights, perceived or real, and treating people, including his spies, with studied indifference once their usefulness had worn thin - and often before.
In his defence, he was democratic in the last such respect: royalty, minor or otherwise, stars of stage, screen and sport - particularly racing drivers - millionaire industrialists and famous musicians all came in for the same treatment. Yet still they came - even His Holiness John Paul II.