NOVEL

by Louis Bayard

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Tiny Tim lives. In this dazzling blend of literary fiction and white-knuckle thriller, Bayard brings back the angelic cripple of A Christmas Carol and nearly outdoes Charles Dickens. Timothy Cratchit, now in his 20s, is living at a London bordello in return for teaching its mistress to read. Thanks to his "Uncle N"—Scrooge—Timothy is better in body but sick in spirit, having been given the education and airs of a gentleman but not the means to become one. He is also haunted: first by his dead father, Bob Cratchit, whose face he sees in every stranger's, then by the terror-stricken eyes, clawlike hands and sinister brand on the bodies of two girls he stumbles across. Aided by an irresistibly cheeky street urchin, Timothy tries to solve their murders, only to become the quarry of a shadowy nobleman and a knife-wielding renegade policeman. Soaring language, memorable characters, splendidly atmospheric settings and a heartrending theme of parental love and loss make Mr. Timothy a rival to last year's Victorian blockbuster The Crimson Petal and the White.

by Shirley Hazzard

CRITIC'S CHOICE

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This novel about the aftermath of World War II took two decades to perfect, and it shows. The title refers both to wartime destruction and the fires of love in the devastated Far East, where British combat veteran Aldred Leith goes in 1947 to research postwar Japan. Heaving into peacetime with a numb heart and a mind for conspiracy, Leith falls desperately in love with the young daughter of an Australian brigadier. Touring Japan, he notes how a defeated nation gathers itself in peacetime, secretly aware that he must do the same thing.

Hazzard explores postwar Japan. Hazzard's sentences twist, turn and fold delicately inward, capturing the way survivors of war carefully ration emotions and memories. The future, this war taught them, is not to be trusted. Still, Leith knows that he must shrug off "the strain of fatalism" that hangs over him in order to love again. With old-world patience and authority, Shirley Hazzard charts the pockmarked landscape of this emotional terrain, delivering Leith—and us—safely on the other side.

by Sa Shan

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In this Chinese twist on Romeo and Juliet set in war-torn 1930s Manchuria, a sexually precocious Chinese girl and an officer with the invading Japanese army become trapped by fate, like pieces in a board game. The girl sleeps with a Chinese rebel who dreams of the future; the officer dwells on his past. The would-be lovers fin each other anonymously in the town square and begin a game of Go, the ancient board game that involves traps. The pair soon realize it is they who are ensnared: the soldier by his samurai code of honor, the girl by a dangerous love triangle. Sa's novel builds much like a game of Go. The slow, merely pretty story evolves into a rich metaphor for the struggle between an ancient society and a modern one, and the battle between the easy innocence of adolescence and the painfully gained knowledge of adulthood. If you enjoyed the similar theme of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, you'll like this.

WESTERN

by Larry McMurtry

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The body count rises in this third novel of McMurtry's four-book tale of the Berrybenders, an oddball English family traipsing across the American West in the 1830s. Beset by misfortune and their own incompetence, the family encounter death or gruesome injury everywhere they pitch a tent. Ears are sliced off, heads are scalped, enemies' jaws are shattered, smallpox wipes out Indian tribes. While the first two volumes were farcical and humorous, this one is decidedly less lighthearted. These pioneers both meet hardship and inflict it.

As in its predecessors, the narrative is choppy, and only a few of the all too many characters—62 total—are fully developed. But the story has become edgier and more ominous. In this tale of the exploration, and exploitation, of the West, McMurtry is telling us something about our checkered past—and perhaps about our uncertain present.

NONFICTION

by David Maraniss

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The Pulitzer Prize winner's new Vietnam narrative dramatizes in eye-opening fashion two events that occurred on Oct. 17,1967: A crack U.S. Army infantry battalion is ambushed and decimated by the Vietcong outside Saigon, while back in Madison, Wis., police bludgeon a dozen college students during a protest against Dow Chemical, the napalm manufacturer. Extensive interviews detail these disparate, but linked, battles and the decisions that left lasting effects on the American psyche. From the antiwar Wisconsin chancellor who felt he had to stop the sit-in, only to watch in horror as his students were bashed by cops, to the U.S. general in Vietnam who won a Silver Star despite having little to do with the battle, Maraniss pinpoints the individuals who helped precipitate America's long march out of Vietnam. He has rendered a powerful, illuminating contribution to American war history.

THRILLER

by John Sandford

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Sandford, best known for his popular Prey books, also writes novels featuring a hacker called Kidd—painter, Tarot reader and buccaneer of bytes. With the help of his clandestine mentor Bobby, whom he knows only through the Net, Kidd manipulates data to remain anonymous as he outsmarts government and corporate nasties. But now, in this fourth installment of the series, Bobby has mysteriously gone off-line. Kidd enlists his own sometime girlfriend, the coke-snorting burglar LuEllen, to find out what happened, and they're off on a high-risk cross-country hunt for a psycho killer. Sandford makes the tech stuff exciting, and the plot, thrillingly punctuated by unexpected violence, has a satisfying vigilante finale.

>PAUL NEWMAN'S BOOK In Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good, Paul Newman and partner A.E. Hotchner (above) offer tidbits about the brand they run for charity, Newman's Own, as well as its namesake president.

HE'S FUSSY ABOUT HIS DRESSING Newman confesses that in a restaurant he once took a salad to the men's room, washed off the dressing and put on his own. He also used to bottle dressing for his children for them to take to school.

HE WAS AN ENTERNATIONAL BEFORE WE WAS THE HUSTLER At Kenyon College in the 1940s Newman started a laundry service with suds, offering free beer to thirsty customers. He turned a profit of $80 a week.

THE FACE ON THE BOTTLE WASN'T HIS IDEA When someone suggested putting his mug on the packaging for Newman's Own dressing, he said, "Not a chance in hell."

HE MADE A SPLASH AT HIS OFFICE Instead of buying desks and chairs to furnish Newman's Own office, he used his swimming pool furniture.

HE CAN POP HIS WAY OUT OF A JAM Newman does occasionally profit from his products: Pulled over for speeding, he once escaped without a ticket after the officer told him, "My God, we eat your popcorn every night."

HE CAN JAM HIS WAY OUT OF A JAM While scouting for his charity the Hole in the Wall Gang, which runs summer camps for kids with illnesses, Newman was besieged by insects. He got them out of his way by donning a chefs hat and smearing a glob of strawberry jam on the peak, then continued with his work.

He CAN BUMBLE HIS WAY OUT OF A JAM After agreeing to work on a charity project with the 12th Duke of Manchester, Newman wrote the duke a $200,000 check but absentmindedly left it in his shaving kit. The offer turned out to be a fraud.

BUT YOU CAN CALL HIM... Among friends, he's known as Calezzo de Wesso, or simply Bonehead.

  • Contributors:
  • Bella Stander,
  • John Freeman,
  • Edward Nawotka,
  • Joe Heim,
  • Michael Ferch,
  • Edward Karam,
  • Bob Meadows.