Originally created 12/14/03

Reporters' novels are good picks for presents



'Tis easy to write epigrams nicely, but to write a book is hard.

- Martial

My wife says one reason I give people books for Christmas is they are easy to wrap.

"Now, that's not true," I'll say. "You know I give out gift certificates, too."

I might not concede her point, but I will admit there are three books I have wrapped for others this holiday season. I chose them for personal reasons.

First, they were good, and I enjoyed reading them myself. Second, they were written by newspapermen I know, demonstrating that some of us emerge from daily deadlines with a talent for something more permanent.

Here they are.

First, The Valley of Light ($24 Atria Books), the latest book by Terry Kay.

Mr. Kay, an old friend and former Atlanta reporter, tells what happens when a solitary Army veteran comes to a North Carolina mountain town after World War II with a wonderful talent for fishing.

Mr. Kay has a wonderful talent for description and insight, and he uses it well.

As with his other novels, the author has a few surprises and he's a master of magical endings.

Then there's Fatal Treasure, by Jedwin Smith ($24.50, John Wiley & Sons), the story of the recovery of gold from the Spanish galleon Atocha, which sank with its treasure off the coast of Florida in 1622.

Mr. Smith is not the only Marine Vietnam veteran I know. He is, however, the only one I know who writes books, although he still has a day job with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

If you like stories of sunken treasure, this is your book. If you want to find out what finding sunken treasure does to people, this is your book, too.

Finally, I liked Robert Coram's Boyd ($27.95, Little, Brown and Co.).

Mr. Coram, a former Atlanta reporter, has written some hilarious crime novels, but this is more serious work.

John Boyd was a fighter pilot who used a Georgia Tech education to figure out that the Air Force had the physics all wrong with the planes it began pushing out in the 1950s and '60s.

That Mr. Coram can simplify Maj. Boyd's energy-transferral formula (which I cannot) shows a reporter's gift. That he can make interesting a bigger story about the major's mission to convince the generals and the Pentagon that they were wrong shows a writer's gift.

If these sound like good gift ideas this holiday, I'm sure the books stores have them.

And, I might add, they're easy to wrap.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.