Books

Short Takes: Book reviews, in brief

Fiction

White Plague

James Abel, Berkley, 336 pages

“White Plague” combines elements from “The Hunt for Red October” and cutting-edge science from the best of Michael Crichton to send chills down the reader’s spine. Marine doctor Joe Rush is sent into action when times are desperate. Besides being a top-ranked physician, he can also lead a team into potentially hostile and lethal situations involving bioweapons.

He receives orders to lead a team into the Arctic Ocean to rescue the crew of the USS Montana, a vessel that is in flames and adrift off the coast of Alaska. A Chinese submarine is headed there as well, and it’s obvious to Rush that the Chinese want the ship’s technology. When the survivors are located, they show signs of being sick. Viruses are Rush’s specialty, but this pathogen may be beyond his level of expertise.

Abel is the pseudonym of an author who has the gift of creating page-turning fiction that reads like nonfiction. “White Plague” is so believable it feels like the author is reporting actual events. Readers will be eagerly awaiting the next adventure featuring Joe Rush, but it’s difficult to imagine how Abel will be able to top this winner.

Associated Press

Nonfiction

Bob Hope: Entertainer of the Century

Richard Zoglin, Simon & Schuster, 576 pages

At one time, Bob Hope was the hottest thing in comedy. He practically invented the monologue as a delivery system for jokes and reached the top of every medium he tried – vaudeville, theater, movies, radio and television.

Long before he died in 2003, at 100, he became the symbol of a bygone era of entertainment. In “Hope: Entertainer of the Century,” author Richard Zoglin doesn’t ignore Hope’s insatiable ego and other flaws but doesn’t allow them to overwhelm his considerable talents. It’s a biography that explores, explains and ultimately celebrates an uncomplicated man who probably made more people laugh than anyone in history.

Zoglin enlivens his book with scores of jokes and isn’t afraid to point out his routines could be tired. Zoglin also offers fascinating tidbits about the business of being Hope. His fee for personal appearances was $75,000 in the mid-1980s. Zoglin gives his readers a story told with insight and honesty, even when instances of the comedian’s pettiness and selfishness cast a shadow on his overall generosity and good nature.

Associated Press

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