Author

D.A. Ball

Annie Raft sleeps beside a shotgun she can load in 22 seconds. And for 18 years — since discovering two bloody corpses in the northern Scandinavian woods, where night comes without darkness — she has slept that way and never forgotten to lock the doors. The publisher calls the European prizewinner Blackwater a thriller, but its stark imagery, stunning introspection, and brooding natural setting place it in some darker, richer category — a sort of Graham Greene meets Dean Koontz, if you will.

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Psychologist/novelist Jonathan Kellerman averages a best-seller a year, which may be taking its toll. In The Web, his usual hero, psychologist/detective Alex Delaware, and his girlfriend are lured onto a paradisiacal Pacific island. All is not as it seems — fortunately, because it seems dull for a long time. Even when things finally get rolling, Kellerman writes twice as much exposition as action.

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From small-time vaudeville to the pinnacles of radio, TV, and movie success (including an Oscar at 80 for The Sunshine Boys), Burns was never more than a laugh away from lines like ”I can’t die — I’m booked.” Critic Martin Gottfried tattles in George Burns and the Hundred-Year Dash that Burns never used cue cards because he could barely read, yet the comedian’s wisdom included such handy truths as ”…the only people who don’t [make mistakes] are people who don’t do anything.” The best part of the book recounts Burns’ 41-year romance with

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Ingrid Millar, fixated on what she politely calls Neeson’s, ahem, ”wedding tackle,” has written something considerably less than a biography with Liam Neeson: The First Biography. In fact, it’s more like a gossip column. There are photo captions like ”…that inimitable look of the soul in torment” and utterly vapid descriptions of the actor’s romances with Brooke Shields, Barbra Streisand, Sinéad O’Connor, Julia Roberts, and Natasha Richardson (whom Neeson married).

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Wander through a steaming bathroom while Jane Smiley steps into the tub. Hers is just one of the welcoming, intimate remembrances of rooms past in Home: American Writers Remember Rooms of their Own. Richard Bausch conjures up a family porch from his childhood. Henry Louis Gates Jr. writes about sitting in a West Virginia kitchen tub watching the 1960s civil rights movement on the living-room TV. Lynda Barry conjures up a teen’s bedroom complete with pet tarantula. These tiny autobiographies are curl-up, homey reads.

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The Tony-, Oscar-, and Emmy-winning Stapleton provides affectionate but telling glimpses of Liz Taylor, Laurence Olivier (she called him ”Sir Lord God”), Marlon Brando, and Marilyn Monroe as no one else has written about her — and you must not miss reading about how Ms. Stapleton knew Nancy Reagan (it can’t be quoted here). Ms.

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”’That would be wonderful!’ Julia said excitedly. ‘I’ll be so glad when this is over.”’ So will you. Sidney Sheldon (one of the world’s best-selling authors) has thrown together a brew pot of stale notions: fabulous wealth, too much power, spousal abuse, drugs, suicides, fatal hit-and-runs, crooked judges, drug addicts, polo-playing drunks, blackmail, high-fashion models, noble young lawyers, sexless romance and loveless sex, a guy who’s rotten to women, women who are good and pure and blinkingly innocent, and just plain flat writing.

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When vampire chronicler Anne Rice was a child, she was held ”in thrall” by her big sister — Borchardt — who ignited Rice’s imagination by spinning fantasy adventures and tales of the supernatural. Rice grew up to be a writer; Borchardt spent 30 years as a nurse. Now Borchardt returns to her roots. The result is Devoted, a 10th-century epic romance about Elin, a lady of the Forest People, and Owen, bishop of Chantalon.

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PANAMA Eric Zencey A brew of late-19th-century Parisian (not Panamanian) corruption, mini-dismemberment, and murder. Henry Adams, a real-life historian and descendant of two U.S. Presidents, searches Paris for a young American artist — a hunt that ultimately brings him face-to-face with lethal French intrigues behind the planning of the Panama Canal.

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