March 09, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Despite the relentless deadline demands of a weekly magazine, some ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY staffers still find time to have a life — and a few even contrive to write books. Never before, however, have three of our writers produced books almost simultaneously, and that improbable event calls for celebration.

Music critic David Browne, 40, who has been with EW since day one, has written about every rock star you care to name, but he found his book subject in a unique tragedy. When 30-year-old musician Jeff Buckley was declared missing in 1997, Browne, fearing the worst, began writing an obituary for the magazine. ”Jeff had spent his whole life trying to distance himself from his father, Tim Buckley, who died at roughly the same age. And now here he is missing in the Wolf River,” Browne remembers. ”The music each man made was remarkable in its range and emotion, but I also felt there was an incredibly poignant human-interest story to be told.” Taking a six-month leave, David interviewed more than 130 friends and family members, traveled from the banks of the Mississippi to the West Coast, and was granted access to the father and son’s letters and diaries to create the just-published Dream Brother: The Lives & Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley (HarperCollins, $25), which does justice to the two quixotic men.

Correspondent Lori L. Tharps, 29, came to EW from Vibe magazine, where she was a fact checker, with a book already in mind. With the help of coauthor Ayana D. Byrd, she has expanded her Columbia Journalism School master’s thesis, about the social, cultural, and political implications of hair, into Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America (St. Martin’s Press, $23.95). ”When talking about black hair, the dialogue should be more about substance than style,” says Tharps.

Contributor Jim Mullen, 50, whose weekly Hot Sheet is a must-read for millions of EW’s fans, grudgingly left Manhattan several years ago to settle with his wife, Sue, now a crop farmer, among the dairy farms of the Catskills. He describes his rather clumsy shift from determined urbanite to rural homesteader in It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life (Simon & Schuster, $23), which will hit stores in May. ”The move helped me step back and acknowledge how New York-centric the media is,” Mullen says. ”It’s like the rest of the country should hire a press agent so we know what’s going on.”

All three authors, who make a living reporting and commenting on the work of others, admit some queasiness about having their own efforts critiqued. As Mullen, who awaits his first reviews, sums up, ”If I’m going to make rude remarks about people, I think it’s more than fair that they get a chance to shoot back.” Before the firing starts, however, we urge you to pick up copies of these books. Whether you feel like launching brickbats or bouquets, we think you’ll be entertained.


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