Dietrich, William. Rosetta Key (Harper $28 in stock). A world without George MacDonald Fraser and his picaresque characters is a duller place. Fortunately Dietrich has picked up the mantle and created in a bumptious, somewhat bumbling young American, once a kind of apprentice to Benjamin Franklin, an heir to Flashman. First met in Napoleon’s Pyramids ($7.99) which ended him fleeing the forces of evil in a hot-air balloon (a relatively new transport developed by France’s Montgolfier brothers), Ethan Gage keeps losing—and finding—his feet in the 1799 Holy Land in pursuit of an ancient Egyptian scroll. With a healthy helping of sultry women of unusual powers, fuelled by self interest and an incredible sense of timing, Gage’s incredible adventure climaxes at the epic siege of Acre. Dietrich is the author of an all-time favorite adventure novel in Ice Reich and has done Britannia in Hadrian’s day.
Rollins, James.Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls (Ballantine $26 pubs May 22; Signed here June 24). Lucas, Spielberg, and Harrison Ford do the movie, Rollins does the official book. Naturally no one is giving the plot away in advance. But we can say that Rollins kicks off the national launch for The Last Oracle , (Morrow $27) here on June 24. A bid to genetically engineer the next great prophet results in a biological meltdown among the children in the experiment. SIGMA must intervene by solving a mystery that dates back to the Oracle at Delphi (where the priestesses were mostly stoned off the vapors). The Greek and Russian threads of this plot are outstanding and the drama of Chernobyl and what to do with the mess today (based, by the way, on the actual plan) makes for an astonishing climatic scene. Plus much of the action takes place on the Mall in Washington, DC. All in all, a knockout summer – or anytime – read.
McCoy, Max.Indiana Jones and the Hollow Earth (Bantam/Lucas $6.99). To set you up for the new movie, try a violent storm, a dying Arctic explorer, and a curious wooden box. Inside it: a slice of Icelandic stone with mythological powers and a journal hinting at a lost civilization. This mix only needs a handy, lovely Danish scientist and some Nazi explorers, no?