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Books to read with your eyes on the road

Dale Brown keeps things moving in “Warrior Class,” a novel about a Russian oilman and mafia don who hopes to make millions by constructing a pipeline across the Balkans while protected by the Russian army. A maverick U.S. Air Force general runs interference against him, though, on the pretense of extracting a spy. Soon, air-to-air dogfights ensue. Brown maintains a steady grip on his story, producing G-force without losing control on the twists and turns. Unlike Tom Clancy, who has an obsession with high-tech weapons, Brown knows when and when not to talk about both hardware and characters. While Clancy’s series of books falter by leaning hard one way or the other (and with inexperienced substitute pilots to boot), Brown is firmly in control of the seat he once occupied as an Air Force captain. Stephen Lang, an experienced and controlled reader who sounds like a native Russian one moment and a U.S. news correspondent the next, is narrator. (6 hrs./Putnam Berkley Audio/ISBN 0-399-14768-3) What is time? Can it be traveled like a highway? These are questions you might ask yourself after hearing the classic sci-fi story “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells, as performed by actor Michael York and a full cast. The production left me feeling philosophical. Oddly, there are no introductions here, not even a footnote at the end. Enjoyable, nonetheless. (2 hrs./Star Quest Entertainment/ISBN 096612872-9) Robert Ludlum teams with Philip Shelby on “The Cassandra Compact,” about a terrorist plot to steal a new strain of smallpox virus from a Russian lab and then release it in the United States. Covert One, created to fight such crimes, must race to stop the development before a bio-catastrophe occurs. Read by Paul Michael, who gives a concise, balanced reading, the book sounds as plausible as a current or near-future news report. (11 hrs./Audio Renaissance/ISBN 1-55927-659-2) Everyone who has read this column knows I respect the writing of James Lee Burke, who is a truly original and gifted mystery novelist. His latest is “Bitterfoot,” about a Texas Ranger turned lawyer who goes to Montana on behalf of a friend in trouble. Trouble is compounded by a prison parolee out for revenge against Billy Bob Holland. The writing is lyrical, insightful, almost magical, possessing neither a lazy cliché nor wooden character. In uncovering the evil that resides beneath man’s conceits, Burke is without peer. Best of all, Will Patton continues his dead-on-target narration of Burke’s poetic prose. (6 hrs./Simon & Schuster Audio/ISBN 0-7435-0480-1) Yet another book about the 1996 Everest climbing tragedy is “Touching My Father’s Soul” by Jamling T. Norgay, son of Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who was first to climb the mountain with Edmund Hillary in 1953. Best read as unabridged by Grover Gardner, this book is more insightful and philosophical than others. It calls attention to our obsession in the west for conquering what we see. But with nature and with Everest, one can’t conquer, one can only sneak up with respect, and pray for mercy. (9 hrs./Books on Tape/ISBN 0-7366-6828-4) A story that made news headlines was the escape from a penal colony by Malika Oufkir, who was the daughter of a Moroccan general. Adopted by the king of Morocco at age five to be a companion to his daughter, Malika was imprisoned when her father attempted to assassinate the king. A sensitive and intelligent reading is given by actress Edita Brychta of “Stolen Lives,” which was written with the aid of Michele Fitoussi. A sheltered world of privilege is revealed, where a devil king keeps a harem, which he also tortures. Oprah Winfrey, who favors stories about victims, picked it for her book club. (6 hrs./Hyperion Audiobooks/ISBN 0-7868-7104-0)

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For sale or rental of most audio books, call 1-800-5EARFUL. Reviewer Jonathan Lowe is author of “Caribbean Coup” and “Dark Fire,” both for rent from Books in Motion at truckstops or by calling 1-800-752-3199.

March/April
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