Paperback Picks -- The latest books from Michael Crichton, Paul Auster, and Jack Higgins

A Life On the Road

My Son’s Story
Nadine Gordimer
Gordimer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize for literature, has been called the literary conscience of South Africa. To read her at her best, pick up Burger’s Daughter or A Sport of Nature, not this oddly stiff little novel about a love affair between a high-ranking ”colored” antiapartheid activist and a white woman who befriends him in prison. C

The Music of Chance
Paul Auster
With only a handful of characters, some gothic trimmings, and a premise as easily summarized as a Bruce Willis movie, The Music of Chance takes on all those serious themes that American novelists aren’t supposed to be good at any more: fate, loyalty, responsibility, the nature of evil, and the real meaning of freedom. A thriller with a conscience. A

Rock Lives
Timothy White
A massive, often fascinating, frequently maddening collection of 59 profiles of music greats from Robert Johnson and Ray Charles to Joni Mitchell and Bryan Ferry. B

Jurassic Park
Michael Crichton
A team of profit-mad scientists has recovered dinosaur DNA from insects preserved in fossilized tree sap, cloned 15 species of the prehistoric beasts, and set up the greatest theme park of them all. Crichton’s dinosaurs are a lively bunch, but when it comes to human beings, his characterization is purely skeletal. Ingenious, but not entirely satisfying. C+

In Your Face: A Cartoonist Work
Doug Marlette
As Marlette admits, with rare exceptions political cartoons are yesterday’s news within 24 hours. He has, however, included here some favorite exceptions, as well as a sampler of Kudzu, his syndicated strip. What makes this book worth owning is Marlette’s explanation of his creative process, which also gives the reader a portrait of a man in love with his craft. A-Liz Logan

Goombata: The Improbable Rise and Fall of John Gotti and His Gang
John Cummings and Ernest Volkman
At their best, Cummings and Volkman are able to demystify John Gotti by portraying him as a middle-aged punk. Elsewhere, though, they buy into the Gotti myth — repeatedly mentioning his ”business” acumen, his shrewd understanding of mob politics, and so on. C-

A Life on the Road
Charles Kuralt
Traveling teddy bear of CBS News, designated wanderer of back roads and byways, explicator of the homespun and celebrator of the offbeat, Kuralt reminds us that there is still an America out there beyond the shopping malls and the opinion polls. A crisply written, episodic, often funny portrait of a painfully honest man discovering himself as he discovers his country. B+

The Eagle Has Flown
Jack Higgins
As fans of Higgins’ 1975 best-seller, The Eagle Has Landed, will remember, Kurt Steiner — that SS Oberstleutnant with the heart of gold — was fatally shot in the novel’s finale. Now we’re told that he didn’t die from his wounds. Once this plot is in gear, Higgins relaxes and begins to have a bit of crafty fun with the details. C+

A Life On the Road
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