Volume 8
Outlaw Mountain; J.A.Jance
    The latest tale about widowed Joanna Brady, Sheriff of Cochise County,
Arizona. Regular readers of these notes know that I view this series as
excellent police procedurals, with engaging characters, good plots, and first
class story telling. This is the best yet! Vance again deftly incorporates
details of sheriffing (?) with the character and private life of (now) 30 year
old Sheriff Brady. The series is masterfully unfolding the development -
professional and personal - of the very likeable and competent Joanna, who has
been learning to cope with both sudden widowhood, and the law enforcement biz.
In the prologue, elderly Alice Adams is murdered in the desert. Her body is
found in Pima County near the border, and it's clear to Pima officials that
the killers were four young chicanos who were caught driving her car. Brady
does not believe that, sets out to find the real killer(s), and begins to
believe there's a familial connection. Interspersed with crime solving
accounts is a recounting of Joanna's relationships with a man who wants to
marry her, with her very irritating mother, with her daughter, and with a
mentally retarded young man who has been abandoned. Good yarn. If you don't
know the series - start at the beginning to watch the skillful development of
Joanna; although any of the novels can stand alone. Jance,J.A.; Outlaw
Mountain;$24;373pp;Avon Books;NY;1999;ISBN 0-380-97500-9

Ghostly Murders:The Priest's Tale of Mystery and Murder As He Goes on
Pilgrimage from London to Canterbury; P.C.Doherty (series)
    I bet when you read the title you thought:"it sounds like Chaucer!" In
fact, it is one of British author Doherty's versions of what MIGHT have been
stories told by Chaucer's pilgrims! In this one the narrator, who is with Sir
Geoffrey Chaucer's little group headed for the shrine of St. Thomas a Beckett,
is the Poor Priest [the Parson in the original]. It's a gem of a ghost story
-laid in a time when everyone knew that ghosts and demons were real. It's not
a medieval mystery story (like others Doherty has written), although there are
some intriguing unknowns that are gradually resolved. The Priest tells of an
English village in Kent, where a group of outlawed Knights Templar, fleeing
English authorities, vanished along with the treasure they were supposedly
carrying. Years later, two newly assigned village priests become aware of an
evil aura around the Church and the area - including perhaps a curse on the
village. The Tale is of one priest's uncovering of the evil, abolition of the
evil, and generation of reparation for that evil. I found it a real page
turner. Put on hold your disbelief in ghosts, lap-dissolve into the medieval
world, and you will find an engrossing, hair-raising tale - with an unexpected
surprise twist for the modern reader!

NOTE: Doherty, who writes under about five pseudonyms, is an Oxford scholar,
a specialist in Medieval history, and a PROLIFIC novelist. Under his own name,
he has written about ten dandy medieval mystery stories starring Hugh Corbett.
Under pseudonyms, he has written about ten other tales. I - for some reason
-have not encountered Doherty's tales for a few years, so I did not know that
he had conceived of the elegant idea of re-telling Canterbury tales, until I
read this one - the fourth in the new series! If I remember correctly, a few
years ago he was a headmaster in the scholastic world, and I cannot imagine
how he finds time to write so much so well! Incidentally: The history of the
Knights Templar is unbelievably engrossing, and the murky history of their
disappearance from England is a wonderful mystery (see earlier notes).
Doherty,P.C.; Ghostly Murders;$21.95;250pp;St. Martins Press;NY;1997; ISBN 0-

Alien Abductions: Creating a Modern Phenomenon; Terry Matheson (NF)
    Matheson, a professor of literature in Canada, examines the
development of the myth of abductions of people by aliens. I am somewhat
puzzled by the use of "phenomenon" in the subtitle rather than myth, because
the book uses the word "myth". Mathieson reviews the history of the
development, with detailed attention to the best-known books that describe
experiences of people who believe they have been abducted - including the most
recent work by Harvard psychiatrist, John Mack. It is a very interesting, very
detailed critique of the published stories of abductees, and the attitudes and
opinions of those who have compiled the stories. The author traces common
elements of the stories and changes that occur, and spends time - at the end
-proposing reasons for the development of the myth. I was a tad amused by the
fact that Matheson carefully points out the amateur status of some of the 2
evaluators of the psychological conditions of abductees, while engaging in a
great deal of amateur psychological and psychiatric analysis himself! He also
has an irritating habit of summing up a person's argument, then noting "the
reader will doubt the..." or "the reader will understandably doubt.." when he
means "I doubt..". However, the book is quite interesting, and "the reader
will find it hard" to conceive that any of this stuff is taken seriously. It
is indeed a "modern myth" - but it survives because there seems to be a need!
NOTE: Prometheus Press is a publisher of iconoclastic books. Matheson;T.;
Alien Abductions;$?;317pp;Prometheus Press;Amherst;1998; ISBN 1-

Hermit's Peak; Michael McGarrity (series)
    The fourth excellent, police-procedural-type novel, starring Kevin
Kerney, a former homicide detective who has left the city and returned to New
Mexico, where he grew up. He's Deputy Chief of the New Mexico State Police
(see earlier novels), and has received a remarkable bequest - over 6000 acres
of land in New Mexico high country. While inspecting it, he discovers the
grave of a murdered woman. The story details the efforts of Kerney, and police
sergeant Gabe Gonzales, as they work to solve the murder, and then encounter
another one. Kerney's lover, Lt. Col. Sara Brannon, returns from duty in
Korea, and part of the story follows their developing relationship. Another
part concerns Kerney's efforts to hold on to the valuable land - on which he
can't afford to pay taxes. A fourth part follows the personal life of
Gonzales. The stories are neatly intertwined, and the story telling is
outstanding. The reader may experience a shock on p130 - I did, and that
hasn't happened to me for quite a while! Of course any story that involves
detective work and roaming around New Mexico would be greatly appealing to me
- but I think any reader will enjoy the series. The characterization is
excellent, the stories are very good, and much more than ordinary procedurals.
I recommend starting with the first novel Tularosa, then moving on to Mexican
Hat and Serpent's Gate; however each can stand alone. Readers of these notes
will have encountered glowing comments on the first two.
NOTE: Bette enjoyed the story, but thought it ended in a rush - as though the
author suddenly decided he had to end the book quickly. I thought back to it,
and indeed there does seem a hurried approach to the ending; I guess I am
fairly uncritical of this author! McGarrity,M.; Hermit's
Peak;$24;315pp;Scribner;NY;1999; ISBN 0-684-85078

Flat Lake in Winter; Joseph T. Klempner
    Bette recommended I read this; so I did, especially since the last one
she touted was a spectacular story! What she did not know was that I long ago
gave up on "lawyer" stories (almost always written by lawyers) that feature
the law, trials, etc. Unfortunately that's what this is, so it was a real
struggle; but I finished it! The scene is the mountainous part of NY state,
where an older couple is found viciously stabbed to death. The finder is their
mentally-retarded grandson, Jonathan. The police conclude quickly that
Jonathan is the culprit, and he is arraigned. A public defender is needed, and
Matthew Fielder is enticed to take the job. Fielder was a successful criminal
defense lawyer in New York City, but abandoned the city for a cabin in the
woods, and a very meager income. He reluctantly takes the case, and the story
is of the efforts of Fielder, and the team he assembles, to structure a
defense for Jonathon. The author takes the reader step by step through every
legal event and every legal term involved in the case, and in the efforts to
save Jonathan's life. Gradually, however, the story takes a subtle shift, and
the last quarter finally got my attention, with the best part in the last ten
pages or so. If you like "lawyer stories" you will greatly enjoy this,
although I think the characterization is spotty in places, and I HATE the way
the author uses a variety of tenses. Bette thought it was fascinating, and I
can see why. Just not my cup of - whatever.
Klempner,J.T.; Flat Lake in Winter;$24.95;305pp;St. Martin's Press;NY;1999;
ISBN 0-312-19883-3

I wrote the above notes in January, 2000. Then I began feeling
terrible and stopped writing, then stopped reading, and finally went to the
hospital in March, and didn't return home until July. I discovered that I had
lost my interest in reading! This is mid-December, and it is only now that I
have got back to somewhat where I was before in reading and compiling notes. I
actually had to work hard to renew my desire to read! I never would have
believed it. So I am starting again. We'll see how it goes.


The Fighting Agents; W.E.B. Griffin (series)
    Griffen is one of the best story-tellers around, and I have read most
of his "young men at war" type novels and enjoyed them very much. So when I
gingerly started this reading and writing procedure again, I thought I'd start
with something I knew I'd like, and picked this book - which I was surprised
to find that I had not read. It is part of his series about the activities of
the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during WWII. It will probably be of
interest only to those who are interested in this particular series - which is
not his best series by far. And this is not the best book in the series. It is
is a fairly mediocre tale - or tales - since Griffin always has a number of
related stories going at the same time; and a key one in this book has been
told in his (much better) Marine Corps series! It is based on the true story
of Lt.Col. Fertig, who fought on in the Philippines after the fall of
Corregidor. Deja Vu all over again. Another story deals with the extraction of
agents from behind Nazi lines. The book is interesting, but not quite
coherent, and I think only for us loyal fans of Griffin.
NOTE: This was originally published as a paperback, and copyrighted in 1987
under the pen name: Alex Baldwin. The current book is published in 2000.
W.E.B. Griffin is another pen name!
Griffin,W.E.B; The Fighting Agents; $23.95; 311pp; G.P.Putnam's Sons; NY;
2000; ISBN:0-399-14612-1

The Secret Parts of Fortune:Intense Investigations and Edgy Enthusiasms; Ron
Rosenbaum (NF)
    This 800-page book has been shocking me, delighting me, educating me,
puzzling me, surprising me, irritating me, and provoking me to laughter - for
about a month. It is a mammoth collection of about sixty previously published
essays, by an author who is a contributor to The New Yorker, Forbes, Harpers,
The New York Times Magazine, and a host of other up-scale periodicals. The
essays range back through three decades, and cover a mind-boggling array of
subjects - which fall under the subtitle of "intense investigations and edgy
enthusiasms." Rosenbaum is a polished writer, a first-class story teller, and
remarkably erudite; truly literate in every sense of the word. He is also well
opinionated at times, and somewhat addicted to enthusiastic amateur
psychological analysis of people and subjects. The reader will find that
starting at the beginning, and reading through, is not the way to go. One
picks up the book, flips through it, picks an essay, and reads it. This
immediately leads to a repetition of the process, etc. There are truly
enthralling articles about "conspiracy" buffs, and about the re-examination of
old situations to unearth new nuggets of information. There are descriptions
of people caught up in the necessity to believe - in a cure for cancer, in
assassination plots, in a healing ministry that purports to cause gold to
appear in people's bad teeth, and a host of others. It is not possible, in
limited space, to deal with the wide-ranging area that the book covers. You'll
have to read into it yourself - and I very strongly recommend that you do.
Beware - it is highly addictive! I haven't had so much book enjoyment in a
long time; and this from a guy who has continually sneered at the business of
republishing old essays in book form! You may be wondering if this is the
author who recently published an acclaimed book about perceptions of Adolph
Hitler. He is; and there are some articles here that indicate his beginning
thinking on the subject. Utterly fascinating book - don't miss it.
Rosenbaum,R.;The Secret Parts of Fortune; $29.95;799pp; Random House; NY;
2000; ISBN 0-375-50338-2

Eyewitness to Power:The Essence of Leadership:Nixon to Clinton; David Gergan
    A very interesting book, by a very interesting man. Gergan is, of
course, the well-known TV political analyst seen often on Jim Lehrer's news
show. He is also a professor at Harvard, and has a deputy position in
Harvard's Center for Public Leadership. He has spent time in the Whitehouse as
a speech writer, and in jobs responsible for "information". He served four
Presidents: Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, and had dealings with Carter and
Bush. He attempts here to indicate the strengths and weaknesses of the various
Presidents - primarily the ones he worked for - and he draws perceptive
conclusions about various leadership qualities possessed by each. In the
process, he indicates much about his activities and feelings. I was
particularly taken by his discussion of Nixon, of whom Gergan thinks very
highly while never losing sight of Nixon's dark side. I actually found that
some of my prejudices about Nixon vanished! I also changed some of my concepts
about Ford! I was really struck by Gergan's argument that Ford's pardoning of
Nixon was absolutely the right thing for the country - but a disaster for
Ford! Ford knew that it would cost him, but concluded it was necessary. In
retrospect, he was right. As I write, there is an interesting situation in
Baltimore. The mayor appointed a new head of housing (a crucial problem in the
city), and the man got picked up by the police when he became totally drunk,
and began harassing male bar customers as "queers!" The mayor announced he was
giving the alcoholic gay-hater a "second chance" - and the reaction was
tremendous. I am sure that the mayor realized (correctly) that the man is
tremendously skilled and badly needed by the city, and decided that the city's
welfare was the important thing. That has already cost the mayor. Gergan did
not change any of my prejudices about Reagan (although a few were shaken a
bit, especially about "Star Wars"); Gergan takes a very positive view of the
man. In fact, although he carefully notes serious problems about his
subjects, he is fairly positive about all except Clinton, in whom he finds
very valuable things, but the man ends up an enigma, I think. The author ends
the book with a Conclusion that identifies seven "lessons" of leadership. He
notes they are not unique to him, and have, in fact, been pointed out by many
others, but they are examined in the context of the White House incumbents
that Gergan knows. A very intriguing book - despite the unoriginality of the
conclusions. There is a good index and a good set of notes.
Gergan,D.;Eyewitness to Power; $26;352pp;Simon & Schuster;NY;2000; ISBN: 0-

He Shall Thunder In The Sky; Elizabeth Peters (series)
    This is about the twelfth book in Peters' Amanda Peabody mystery
series. Fans of the series will know that Amanda is married to Radcliffe
Emerson, an Egyptologist, and that the stories have been related to
exploratory digs in Egypt prior to WWI. Amanda and Radcliffe have a son
Ramses, an adopted daughter and son, and the stories center about the family.
A mysterious "Master Criminal," Sethos, who is enamored of Amanda, wanders in
and out of the yarns. The stories are great, but I got somewhat tired of the
ubiquitous Sethos, and quit reading the series. I decided to try this one for
old times sake. The story takes place in Cairo in 1914, and the environment is
one of great fear of a Turkish invasion spurred on by the Germans. It is
actually an historic novel; many of the bit players are historical characters,
and the events are pretty much in line with the available history of the time
and the place. The story follows our friends as they work on a dig, but in
their "spare" time work pro bono for British Intelligence. The problem is to
determine the identity of a British traitor who is aiding the Turks. I shall
not belabor the story, which is moderately complicated. Know, however, that if
you are not familiar with the stories and the characters, do not begin with
this one. Go back about six books and start there. For fans: Sethos is finally
unveiled, and disposed of, and Ramses and Nefret finally get together. Somehow
this feels like the end of the series, and I think it may be about time- good
as they have been.
Peters,E.;He Shall Thunder In The Sky;$25;400pp;Harper Collins;NY;2000; ISBN:

The Truth About The Irish; Terry Eagleton (NF)
    Eagleton is the Wharton Professor of Literature at St. Catherine's
College, Oxford. The Irish are the Irish. Eagleton has decided to expose them
to the public by writing this little book in an "A to Z" fashion. That means
he has composed the book in a series of small but rambling essays on subjects
that start with the letter A, and proceed to the letter Z. An unfortunate
style, I think, but one in keeping with his irresistible impulse to be a smart
ass. He inserts vast numbers of one-liner, throw-away jokes and smart remarks
(some of them very clever, by the way.) After a while, this reader began to
get the feeling that the material had originally been developed as material
for a stand-up comedy routine! It got to be annoying after a while, and
interfered with the interesting, but badly organized information he recounts.
There are a number of humorous cartoons by Tom Matthews, and a number of
intriguing footnotes that the author indicates are "Facts To Impress Your
Friends (FIF)." There is also a lot of very perceptive information about Irish
people, the government (the Republic of Ireland, primarily), history, current
developments, prejudices, relationships with Great Britain and internal
strains in the country, but it is certainly disjointed, and in what is to me
an irritating style. In addition, I was somewhat taken aback at the author's
casual syntax in places! The snide remarks above notwithstanding, I think many
people will enjoy reading the book to learn a great deal about that
interesting country, and its interesting inhabitants and history. Eagleton's
serious analyses are right on. I'm glad I read it - irritating or not.
However, I'll bet a lot of Irish are ticked off!
Eagleton, T.; The Truth About The Irish;$19.95;181pp;St. Martin's
Press;NY;1999; ISBN: 0-312-25488-1

True Justice; Robert K. Tanenbaum (series)
    This is the latest (I think) in the Butch Karp-Marlene Ciampi series,
and for followers of the series, I think this is probably the best. Karp is
still Chief Assistant District Attorney in New York County, and Marlene (his
wife) is still a private investigator specializing in protecting abused women.
Lucy, their language-genius daughter is 16, and increasingly at odds with her
mother. The twins are 7. Sweety, Marlene's trained attack dog, is still on
guard. The story revolves mainly around various aspects of infanticide, with a
murder or two thrown in. At the start of the story, Marlene decides to get out
of the private eye biz, and take up the practice of law again - this time from
the defense position. When an old school friend, an attorney, has to get out
of a case, Marlene accepts it. A young woman is accused of killing her new-
born child, and Marlene will defend her. Lucy, a strong believing Catholic, is
appalled - she is strongly against abortion, and certainly infanticide. Karp's
group is also concerned with infanticide. Lucy's friend Caitlin finds her
mother and father shot to death, and the police charge a furniture restorer
with the crime. Lucy has a strong compulsion to visit the restorer - a man she
had met in Caitlin's home, but is underage, and must break the law to be
admitted to see the man at Rikers Island. Butch has a variety of problems to
solve within and outside of his staff. These situations, and the characters,
play off each other very well, and there is an interesting depiction of
various ethical - and moral - problems. Lucy's priest plays a significant and
interesting role. Lucy and Marlene continue to develop in this story, which is
well told and interesting. It is not only for the followers of this series; it
is a good stand-alone story, although only aficionados will know details of
briefly mentioned past events. Good storytelling.
Tanenbaum,R.K.; True Justice;$24.95;374pp;Pocket Books;NY;2000; ISBN:0-7434-

Finding My Voice; Diane Rehm (autobig.)
    This I read because Mrs. Rehm, a well known radio talk show host in
Washington, is a person I listened to for many years, and for whom I have a
vast respect. I heard her talk at the Cosmos Club one evening - and she is as
captivating in person as she is on the air. However, the book made me very
uncomfortable. The author, a blue-eyed blond born in Washington, D.C. had
Arabic parents. Her mother, in today's terms, abused her both physically and
psychologically, leaving deep scars that she is aware of today. She never felt
at home in the Arabic community, yet married a man in that community. The
marriage ended in divorce - another trauma. She tells of her traumas, her
extensive - ongoing - psychotherapy, her breaking into the radio biz to find
her own voice , her second marriage that has had very great ups and downs, and
finally her most recent problem with her voice, a physiological one, not a
figurative one. She details her gradual recognition in talk radio, and her
progress toward premier status in that world. In a very large sense it is an
uplifting story - the woman has won out over tremendous problems. But her
recounting of the ghastly problems made me uncomfortable. I think I would have
preferred to remain in ignorance of her vast emotional problems. Uplifting
-but certainly not cheerful!
Rehm,D.; Finding My Voice;$24;246pp;Alfred A. Knopf;NY;1999; ISBN: 0-375-

Code To Zero; Ken Follett
    Another zinger by Follett - suspense, action, mystery,etc. The focal
point is the Army's planned launch of EXPLORER1 from Cape Canaveral, in 1958
-an attempt to put the first US satellite in orbit. The Navy's VANGUARD
satellite had failed. Now it was up to the Army to show that the USA could
match the Russian's SPUTNIK. When the story begins, the countdown has begun
-but the opening locale is not Launch Pad 26B. It is the men's room in
Washington's Union Station. A man recovers consciousness on the floor - and
finds that he does not know who he is, or where he is, or how he got there.
Another person on the floor awakens, and tells the amnesiac that he is a bum,
and his name is Luke - they are both street people. Luke's image in the mirror
is - indeed - that of a bum. The story is of Luke's attempt to find out who he
is, and how he lost his memory. Others attempt to secretly thwart his efforts
- Luke's memory must stay absent. Luke realizes someone is meddling with his
efforts, and essentially goes on the run. He ultimately encounters, again,
three people with whom he had been intimate friends years ago - one of them is
his current wife! Gradually it appears that Luke knows some crucial secret
about the upcoming EXPLORER1 launch, and his life is increasingly in danger.
The four old-time friends weave in and out of the story as the pace increases,
and the villains are gradually revealed - as is the secret! And on the secret
cdepends the fate of the satellite launch which is approaching inexorably as
the story progresses. The story is told with extensive flashbacks - so the
reader is advised to note if the first chapter page shows a date - the date of
the activities to be described. No date means you are in the present. That
style I find to be a choppy one; the reader is yanked back and forth in time,
and that I find somewhat irritating. Still: it is a very good yarn. Note the
historical note on the frontispiece; the real events are neatly folded into
Follett's tale.

NOTE: The story brought back memories. I was on the range, and watched
through a telescope the Navy's VANGUARD topple over and burn on the pad. Those
of us in the VANGUARD program were devastated by the failure, and bitter when
we found that the Army's Werner Von Braun, had bootlegged a parallel satellite
program, without the knowledge or approval of anyone. That was the EXPLORER1
program. It was a success, and Von Braun's illegal operations were forgot;
appropriately, I now think, because the US reputation was saved, publicly at
least. However, the unimpressed foreign technical world was tremendously
amused that it took the Army's "de-Nazified" Germans to do the job!
Follett,K.; Code To Zero;$26.95;356pp;Penguin Group;NY;2000;ISBN:0-525-94563-6

Shattered; Dick Francis
    Another formulaic but good yarn. The first-person protagonist is a
glassblower(!). He is friends with a jockey, and at the beginning of the book,
the jockey is killed in a steeplechase accident. He had left a package for the
narrator, Gerard Logan: A video tape. Someone wants that tape very badly, and
before Gerard views it, it is stolen. However, others think Logan still has
it, and attempt to force him to give it up. The yarn follows Logan as he
attempts to determine who stole the tape, who his assailants are, the location
of the tape, and the contents of the tape. The tale is tangled by mixing in a
couple of other tapes too! Logan has problems, but also encounters a very
friendly female police officer. The standard pattern for Francis's tales, and
an enjoyable read. I shall observe, in passing, that I have also read his
preceding book: Second Wind, and I felt that was a very contrived yarn, with
cardboard characters; a disappointing surprise.

NOTE: (Jan 01) The newspapers have reported the death of Dick Francis's wife,
and a statement by him that he will probably give up writing. The journalist
hinted that perhaps his wife was the real author of the stories! If I had to
guess, I would postulate that perhaps his wife did all the extensive research
that the stories require, and Mr. Francis simply does not wish to add that
burden to the great load he will carry by missing his wife and collaborator.
Francis,D.;Shattered;$25.95;289pp;G.P. Putman's Sons;NY;2000; ISBN:0-399-

Purple Cane Road; James Lee Burke (Series)
    Perhaps the best of the very good series starring Dave Robicheux,
formerly of the New Orleans Police Department, now working for the Sheriff of
Iberia Parish. He is married to Bootsie, and they have an inmmigrant foster
daughter, Alafair, who is now in High School. At the beginning of the story,
Robicheux, who never knew his mother, hears, from a pimp that his mother was
Mae Guillory, a whore who was killed by some New Orleans police officers. The
story follows Robicheux as he unravels threads that will let him find out what
really happened. He has encounters with a crooked politician, and the female
Attorney General of the state, and a very unusual young hit-man who becomess
interested in Alafair! He has help from his female police partner, and his
friend, Clete Purcel. Clete is an ex-cop who was once Robicheux's partner on
the New Orleans force. Clete is the one who does all the "bad" stuff that
Robicheux doesn't - the author seems to cast Clete as a sort of dark persona
of Robicheux. The story is taut, gritty, with scenes of violence - usual in
these yarns.
It is an attention holding story.
Burke,J.L.;$24.95;341pp;Doubleday;NY;2000;ISBN 0-385-48844

Unsolved Mysteries of History:An Eye-Opening Investigation into the Most
Baffling Events of All Time; Paul Aron (NF)
    Aron has a background as a reporter and editor, and has written a book
called:Unsolved Mysteries of American History - which I have not read. He
seems to have expanded his horizon! This is 25 essays, each of which is 5-8
pages long, and which cover topics ranging from "Were Neandertals(sic) our
Ancestors?" to "Was Gorbachev Part of the August Coup?", with stops in between
at the Pyramids, King Arthur, the history of printing, the author of
Shakespeare's plays, and a host of others. The mysteries remain unsolved;
however the author outlines each, indicates the various theories and evidence
in each case, and gives a very good set of annotated references "for further
reading." I found the compilation very interesting, and I learned some things.
It was fun.
Aron,P.; Unsolved Mysteries of History;$24.95;225pp;John Wiley &
Sons;NY;2000; ISBN: 0-471-35190-3

If Only It Were True; Marc Levy (Fantasy)
    This really is Fantasy - but not your run-of-the-mill type. Bette says
it is "peculiar", and that it is. She was put off by the "peculiarity,"
whereas I found it a magical story (no joke intended). As the story begins we
meet Lauren, a surgical resident at San Francisco Memorial Hospital. She takes
out her old Triumph, and has a major accident with severe head trauma. She is
taken to Memorial, where she undergoes surgery, and lapses into a coma with a
flat electroencephlogram (EEG) - she is brain dead. Six months later we meet
Arthur, an architect, as he enters his apartment, and shortly thereafter
discovers a young woman in the bathroom linen closet, sitting on the floor,
eyes closed, singing. He is vastly irritated at what he sees as some sort of
joke; she is totally amazed that he can see her, hear her, and touch her - she
is the spirit of Lauren! She can travel about, and is completely aware of her
comotose body. When in the body, she can hear everything said, but she cannot
get the body to respond. When she leaves the body she is totally invisible and
inaudible. Arthur is the only individual with whom she can talk, and perhaps
because the apartment he is in belongs to her; she decorated it, and her
mother rented it out to Arthur. Finally, reluctantly, Arthur accepts her story
- after all she can move instantly from place to place. The story follows the
growing relationship between the man and the tangible spirit. We learn
touching things about each, especially about the wonderful mother that Arthur
had. Then, Lauren's mother is advised to "pull the plug" on her brain-
dead daughter, and Arthur decides that has to be stopped. And stop it he does,
with the help of a devoted friend and partner - who thinks Arthur is
completely nuts. I shall not tell any more of the story - do read it. I found
it to be an imaginative, magical, touching, heartwarming story; one need only
accept the idea of a disembodied spirit. There are some amusing parts, but it
is not a funny story, although certainly Bette thinks 8
it "funny!" I would be very interested in hearing the reactions of any of the
readers of these notes. This is only the second book that has provoked such
disparate reactions in our household! Levy,M.; If Only It Were
True;$22.95;216pp;Pocket Books;NY;2000;ISBN: 0-7434-0617-6

Shooting Chant; Aimee & David Thurlow (series)
    This is the fifth in a very good series that centers around Navaho
Police officer, Special Investigator Ella Clah, formerly with the FBI. The
locale is the Navaho Reservation, the same territory in which Hillerman places
his police stories. This is a an interesting, tense yarn that centers around
the conflict between Navaho traditionalists, who feel that the Anglos are
corrupting the Navaho way of life, and the liberals who feel that alliances
with the Anglos will bring jobs and revenue to the tribes. Ella's brother, a
medicine man - almost shaman - joins the traditionalists as a member of the
Fierce Ones - an activist group. The story starts with the murder of an
employee of a local manufacturing outfit, LabKote, which produces sterile
containers. Then there is a break-in at the medical clinic, where the charts
of pregnant women are taken. One is Ella's - because at the very beginning of
the story, she finds she is pregnant! The father is a local attorney, whom
Ella has no intention of marrying. It is a complicated, but well developed
story, with believable characters; especially Ella, as she tries to keep her
pregnancy a secret, and worries about it affecting her job. When attempts are
made to kill her, then she worries about her child. A lot of seemingly
unrelated events gradually build a pattern that implicates LabKote in some
sort of mysterious activity. Around this is a well portrayed struggle between
the traditional and liberal points of view. A very interesting, well-told
yarn. It can be read as a story that stands alone, but the reader is better
served if she starts at the beginning of the series. It is a good one.
Thurlow,A.& D.;Shooting Chant;$23.95;349pp;Tom Doherty
Associates;NY;2000;ISBN: 0-

Blood Money:A Novel; Thomas Perry (series)
    Perry, a world class story teller, started this series about four
books back.
    The star is Jane Whitefield, of Indian heritage, who is a "guide;" she helps
people, who are being hunted by enemies who wish to kill them, to disappear.
She guides them to a new identity, a new location, and a new life. She doesn't
do it for money. This is a crackerjack, suspenseful series, and the character
of Jane is well portrayed. A couple of novels back Jane married a physician
who knows of Jane's past activities, and gets her to help a friend. She
promised her husband that she would give up her past activity. She breaks her
promise when a young girl, Rita, shows up on her doorstep looking for help;
she has been "referred" by a social worker who had used Jane's help to make a
family disappear. The girl, had been a housekeeper for Bernie (the Elephant)
Lupus, a man of prodigious memory who had been the banker for various Mafia
families. Rita was unaware of who the man was, but when he was shot to death
in another city, the Mafia decides that perhaps she knows something. She
escaped from her captors, and is seeking help. Jane decides to help her. When
they return to the hotel where the girl had stayed the night before, they
encounter Bernie Lupus - not dead at all. Bernie carries in his head all the
financial accounts and transactions that the Mafia has ever entrusted to him.
Nothing is written down, and the Mafia families do not know where their moneys
are - about ten billion or so! Rita agrees to help Rita and Bernie, providing
Bernie gives away all the Mafia money to charity! The rest of the book
concerns Jane's efforts to make the two vanish, while avaiding the Mafia, the
very large efforts to transfer ten or so billion dollars to charity
-anonymously, and Jane's concerns about her husband and their relationship.
The story switches back and forth from Jane's party, and the Mafia families.
It is a good story, but not, I think, as good as the others. I certainly had a
problem with accepting that the Mafia would trust its money to Bernie with no
idea of where he put it! I thought there was too much time spent in the Mafia
worlds; and I am still wondering where Jane gets the vast sums of money that
she seems to have access to. I enjoyed it. Perry,T.;Blood
Money$24.95;351pp;Random House;NY;1999; ISBN: 0-679-45304-0

Here On Earth; Alice Hoffman
    It has been done before - better - (see Emily Bronte!) But this is
still a gripping story of obsessive "love." For 19 years March Murray has been
away from the northeast town that she grew up in. She lives in California with
Richard,her husband, and 15 year old daughter, Gwen. As the book starts, she
is driving toward her home town, in a pouring rain, in a rented car, with Gwen.
They are back to attend the funeral of Judith Dale, the housekeeper who raised
March after her mother died. When March left the town, she was madly in love
with her foster brother Hollis. She had expected to marry him - but but he
abandoned her. Hollis is still in town, and wealthy in some mysterious way.
His wife and child are dead, and he decides to get March back. March's brother
Alan, known locally as "The Coward," has become an alcoholic. His teen age
son, Hank, has been informally adopted by Hollis. We follow Gwen as she
discovers a rogue horse that she adores, develops a deepening frendship with
Hank, and is apalled by her mother's deepening, self-destructive obsession with
Hollis. We follow March as she descends into the Pit, and Hollis as he controls
her. An old secret involving a local attorney and March's ex-nursemaid appears.
The individuals move through a miasma of complicated emotions, and the reader
moves with and suffers with them. The story is well told, and the characters,
although strange, are believable - Gwen and Hank especially. Ther are some
jerky parts in the story, and Hoffman insists on changing tenses, but it is a
powerful yarn. Not a pleasant one, but a very engrossing one. Hoffman,A.; Here
on Earth;$23.95;293pp;G.P.Putnam's Sons; NY;1997;ISBN:0-399-14313-0

Love Thy Neighbor:A Story Of War; Peter Maass (NF)
    An intense book, written by a tired and angry man - a journalist who
covered the Bosnian war in 1992-93; the war declared by Slobodan Milosevic as
the way for Serbs to become the dominant force in the area. Initially Maass
could not believe the stories of the atrocities told by the victims of the
Serbian atrocities. As he spent more time covering the "war", he became a true
believer. He describes his encounters with events and peoples, and with the
Serbs and Muslims who in fact are indistinguishable from the "Serbs." He tries
to understand how people who had lived side by side for years, intermarried,
and were friends could suddenly be involved in a violent divisive conflict .
How could the Serbs commit such atrocities on their earlier friends and
neighbors (note the title) ? The Serbian concentration camps were eerily
similar to the Nazi camps of WWII; they were death camps - without poison gas.
The inhabitants were as the Jews were in WWII. Maass comes to believe that
there is a wild beast in all of us, and people like Hitler and Milosevic know
how to unleash the beast by carefully orchestrated propoganda. He feels that
the argument that the peoples have been disagreeing for years is not the
problem. He is persuasive. He was greatly disturbed by what he saw and heard,
and is bitterly critical of the Bush administration, then the Clinton
administration, and the United Nations. He flat out says that the the US
government and the UN lied and covered up much, aquiesced in genocide. The
evidence is all in his favor - including a number of resignations from the
State Department - people who were bitter about the official cover up. The
author gets across to the reader his emotions, bewilderment, and anger. When
he wrote the book in 1995, he was still recovering from the trauma. Required
reading. Maass,P.; Love Thy Neighbor;$13;305pp;Vintage Books;NY;1996;

Bone Poems; Jeff Moss NF?
    A delightful book. It is a set of poems inspired by the collection of
dinosaur bones in the American Museum of American History! The poems are funny
and informative - especially if you are interested in learning something about
dinosaurs. I think that the author wrote it as a book to help children learn
something about the creatures whose bones are discussed, and included zippy
little poems to entertain. I bought the book - sight unseen - because the
thumbnail review quoted the following poem:"A dinosaur cheerfully winked/ And
said, 'I will not be extinct!/ I'm too wise, I'm too clever/ I'll be here
forever!'/ (He wasn't as smart as he thinked.)" A very clever packaging of
information and fun. Great for any age interested in knowing more about
dinosaurs, and great for skimming through even if you don't wish to know much
about them. And I bet you'll learn more than you thinked! There is a
pronunciation guide, an index, and the answers to two quizzes!
Moss,J.; Bone Poems;$14.95;78pp;The Workman Publishing Co.;NY;1997;IBSN:
0-7611- 0884-X

Charing Cross Road; Helene Hanff NF
The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street; Helene Hanff pb NF
Q's Legacy; Helene Hanff pb NF
    These three old, charming, somewhat cult books, are a trilogy - all
concerned (in the first person) with the author's life long adventure with
books. I have listed them in the order of appearance, which is the (strongly)
suggested order of reading. Some years ago I commented on the first of these,
and now I think that I should draw the trio to the attention of booklovers who
might be unfamiliar with them. The first is an annotated set of letters sent and
received by Hanff. She regularly ordered books from a London bookshop:
Marks & Co., and the letters are some of her 20-year- long (including the period
of WWII) exchanges with Frank Doel, at Marks. The book, shows a
sometimes scarcastic, sometimes smart-ass, often considerate
correspondent, and is a delight. Hanff was always planning to get to London,
but Frank died unexpectedly before she did; and in 1969 Marks & Co. had to
close. In 1971 she finally got to London, and the second book is a breezy
recounting of her experiences. By this time the first book had been published,
and she was already recognized by a devoted group of readers, and was becoming
known outside of the group. The book is a delightful, first-timer's view of
London and some of its characters, by a semi-celebrity. The third book is a
summary of her life long involvement with books, which started when she
discovered books by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, the Cambridge Professor of
Literature. Quiller-Couch (the "Q" of the title) was - via his writings -
her mentor in English and literature. The autobiographical book continues
with discussion of her initial encounters with Marks & Co., with her books,
her developing recognition as an author, and the changes in her life that came
with success. It is a great capstone to the first two books. Join the Hanff cult -
if you have not already done so. Do read the books. You'll be charmed, and
I think that you will like Hanff as a person.

NOTE: Ms. Hanff died in 1997
Hanff,H.; 84, Charing Cross Road;$?;97pp;Moyer Bell;NY;1995 [25th Anniversary
Edition]; ISBN 1-55921-140-7
Hanff,H.; The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street;$11.95;144pp;Moyer Bell;NY;1995;
ISBN:1- 55921-144-X Hanff,H.; Q's Legacy;$12.95;177pp;Penguin Books;NY;1986;
ISBN: 0-14-00.89365-5