Briefing Books: A Civil War soldier's story, a novel of Steelers' female fandom, lush Greek life and more

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In the 1940s, the Argentinian novelist Jorge Luis Borges wrote "The Library of Babel," a short story about an infinite library that contained every possible permutation of a 410-page book. The books are arranged randomly on four shelves throughout the endless library, driving those who want to care for them mad. All I'm saying is that I can relate to this story. Local authors, please send books written in the past year to my attention: Tony Norman, Book Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 34 Blvd of the Allies. Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Include Internet information to help readers find your work.

"An Incidental Casualty: The Experience of William Henry Randall in the American Civil War" by Peter E. Schilling. The Civil War will never exhaust itself as a subject of scholarly investigation. The best stories are usually journal entries and letters written by ordinary men trying to make sense of their circumstances. New Kensington-based writer and historian Pete Schilling focuses on the experiences of Pvt. William Henry Randall, one of 10 cousins who served in Company K, 161st New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. "An Incidental Casualty" features maps, photos of the war's key players and a taut narrative about the cost of war, both on the battlefield and back home. Mr. Schilling researched a big chunk of this book at Carnegie Library in Oakland, but this saga feels as if it could have written itself. Pvt. Randall's voice comes through loud and clear through the ages. > and

"What Happens on Sunday" by Laurie Koozer. It could be that the ultimate Steelers' fan is a local writer named Laurie Koozer. Her first novel "What Happens on Sunday" is a well-written tale about the intersecting lives of six women and how they coped with the Steelers' 2005-06 championship season. Ms. Koozer fills her story with plenty of Pittsburgh sights, sounds and personalities despite the waiver at the beginning that insists "All characters in this compilation are fictitious." If you want to understand the psychology of the feminine, yet fanatical, side of Steelers Nation, there's no better place to look than Ms. Koozer's novel. > or

"Labyrinthine Ways" by Aurelia (Cosmos Publishing). The Greek islands never had a more enthusiastic promoter than Aurelia T. Smeltz, a local writer who writes under her first name only. "Labyrinthine Ways," the Duquesne University grad's second novel, explores the mythology and landscape of Crete, flashing back and forth from ancient to modern times like Hermes himself. The view of Crete and other Greek islands from Aurelia's Mount Washington home where she lives eight months a year must be incredible because she always sweats the small details. She even includes traditional recipes along with her legends and folk tales, making for a mouth-watering literary experience overall. >

"I Was Mad at God" by Emile D. Etheridge Sr. (Tate Publishing). Emile Etheridge is a Uniontown-based motivational speaker, coach, educator and author who has written a brief chronicle about his wife's stroke in church and her yearlong convalescence. The bulk of the book consists of Mr. Etheridge's constant battle with insurance companies to ensure top-notch treatment and rehabilitation for his wife. It parallels his determination to "hold God responsible" for providing a way through the family's darkest hours. "I Was Mad at God" is an honest blow-by-blow of everything that happened to the Etheridge family during a year that challenged the family and renewed its faith. >

"By the River Sea" by Ray Turner (Outskirts Press). Ray Turner has always been fascinated by the Brazilian Amazon and its often brutal and convoluted history. In "By the River Sea," the retired professor of surgery who spent a large part of his youth in Brazil, returns to that vast and mysterious land to tease out its epic history during the 19th century when rubber barons exploited the Amazon's resources. This is a big, historical novel about a momentous time in Brazil's history. >

"Excessive Forces: A Pittsburgh Police Thriller" by Dennis Marsili (Word Association). Author Dennis Marsili is a retired New Kensington police detective who has been itching to tell a complex tale about cop-on-cop harassment, a controversial police shooting, race, ostracized cops, street violence and a shaky criminal justice system. Mr. Marsili has delivered the goods with "Excessive Forces." The former detective's first novel is drawn from more than two decades of experience working homicides, bank robberies and every permutation of crime. His novelistic description of Pittsburgh's often mean streets isn't cynical, just hard-boiled. Readers will come away with a deeper understanding of the often flawed human beings who happen to wear badges and carry guns. >

Ian McEwan in Pittsburgh next week

British novelist Ian McEwan, best known for his 2001 work "Atonement," will give a free public readingat 8:30 p.m. March 26 at the University of Pittsburgh's William Pitt Union Ballroom. Next week's Books page will feature a review of his latest novel, "Sweet Tooth," and a Q&A conversation led by Robert Peluso, a co-publisher of Braddock Avenue Books, a new literary press.


Tony Norman:; Twitter: @TonyNormanPG; or 412-263-1631.


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