LITERATURE Biographies go back to 1776

New books profile America's first president -- and first first lady.
"The father of his country" is the subject of a new biography -- and so is the "mother."
"General George Washington: A Military Life" and "Martha Washington: An American Life" are among the latest hardcover books, which also include novels by Danielle Steel, John Irving and Terry McMillan; and nonfiction books whose subjects include Terri Schiavo, a small-town pub and its regulars, and "the last word" on Diana, Princess of Wales.
In "General George Washington" (Random House), Edward G. Lengel, overseer of the University of Virginia's collection of Washington's papers, has written the "first modern biography" of the general's military career. The book relies largely on Washington's personal papers as it chronicles his wartime experiences, from the French and Indian War to the American Revolution. Lengel also evaluates Washington's performance as leader, strategist and administrator.
In "Martha Washington" (Viking), Patricia Brady replaces the common image of the first first lady as a plump, frumpy woman with that of someone fashionable, intelligent and pleasant. Brady emphasizes the support and influence Martha gave George and her important role in U.S. history. This biography is based on various artifacts and documents, none of which include Martha's personal correspondence, which she burned soon after George's death.
Prolific fiction
The prolific Steel offers her 66th book in "Miracle" (Delacorte Press), a novel about a destructive New Year's Eve storm that strikes San Francisco, bringing together three strangers -- a lonely divorced woman, a wealthy widowed businessman, and an illiterate carpenter -- profoundly affecting their lives.
"Until I Find You" (Random House) is Irving's 800-page biographical novel that traces the life of one Jack Burns, a Hollywood actor and Oscar-winning screenwriter. Burns' lifelong quest to find his runaway father, a church organist and tattoo addict, begins when he is 4, accompanying his mother to tattoo parlors and churches in several European ports.
In "The Interruption of Everything" (Viking), McMillan describes the plight of suburbanite Marilyn Grimes, 44, an empty-nester who decides it's time to do something for herself. However, before she can enroll in school and join the gym, she learns that she is pregnant. Complicating matters are the reappearance of her ex-husband, her mother's failing health, the needs of her single-parent, drug-addicted sister, and the arrival of two new housemates -- her interfering mother-in-law and her elderly poodle.
New nonfiction
Former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman examines the life and death of Terri Schiavo in "Silent Witness" (Morrow). Schiavo, who suffered brain damage after falling in her home in 1990, died on March 31, 2005, 13 days after her breathing tube was removed. Schiavo was the subject of a long legal battle between her husband, who wanted the tube removed, and her blood family, who wanted her to remain on life support. Fuhrman cites medical, police and legal documents, as well as interviews with Schiavo's family and friends.
A true romance -- with a place -- is revealed in "Little Chapel on the River" (Morrow) by Gwendolyn Bounds, columnist for The Wall Street Journal. It begins with the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, when Bounds is forced to leave her downtown Manhattan apartment. She happened upon the northern suburb of Garrison, N.Y., and upon Guinan's, its pub-country store and social hub. Her life and outlook changed as she got to know the owners, the regulars and the townspeople, and her temporary stay became permanent.
The latest book about Diana, Princess of Wales, is "Diana: The Last Word" (St. Martin's Press) by Simone Simmons, Diana's "natural healer" and a clairvoyant who claims to have been a close friend and confidant during Diana's last five years. Simmons reveals the good and bad of Diana's relationship with the royal family, her desire to move to the United States, and her feelings for Prince Charles and for her lover, Dodi Fayed, who also died in the car crash that killed Diana in 1997.
Other new fiction
In "72 Hour Hold" (Knopf) by Bebe Moore Campbell, a woman who feels that conventional methods are not helping her bipolar daughter enrolls her in an illegal intervention program conducted by underground psychiatrists; and a psychiatrist's sexual obsession worsens after he is reunited with a former lover in Kathryn Harrison's "Envy" (Random House).
"Summer of Roses" (Bantam) by Luanne Rice is about two single mothers with young daughters who look for new beginnings in a small coastal town in Nova Scotia; and also hoping to improve her life is a Manhattan financial planner who tries to get her ex-husband off her back financially by tricking him into violating a clause in their divorce settlement in "An Ex to Grind" (Morrow) by Jane Heller.
In "High Plains Tango" (Shaye Areheart) by Robert James Waller, a proposed highway threatens an itinerant carpenter's plans to rebuild a decrepit house in small-town South Dakota; and an interior decorator in New Jersey goes all out when he gets the job of renovating the local church in "Rococo" (Random House) by Adriana Trigiani.
For fans of the short story, there are "The Difference Between Women and Men" by Bret Lott, containing the title story and 14 others, and "The Secret Society of Demolition Writers," edited by Marc Parent and featuring 12 stories by Anna Quindlen, Benjamin Cheever, Alice Sebold and others, presented anonymously (both Random House).
David Poyer offers a fictionalized account of the Civil War battle between the ironclad ships Monitor and Merrimack in "That Anvil of Our Souls" (Simon & amp; Schuster).
When a popular novelist returns to her New England hometown for her mother's funeral, the townspeople fear that she will exploit them in her writing in "Looking for Peyton Place" (Scribner) by Barbara Delinsky.
Other new nonfiction
Eventful excursions are subjects of "Killing Yourself To Live" (Scribner), Chuck Klosterman's story of his 21 days on the road, driving 6,000 miles from New York to Seattle, and "Kiss & amp; Tango" (Morrow), Marina Palmer's tale of the winter vacation in Buenos Aires on which she became enamored of the tango.
Tales of war and peace are told in "The Unknown American Revolution" (Viking) by Gary B. Nash, about the role of radical colonists in the American Revolution, and in "Waging Peace" (Gotham Books), Rob Schultheis' account of six months with U.S. Army Civil Affairs soldiers on their mission to rebuild sections of war-damaged Iraq.
"The Fate of Africa" (Public Affairs) is Martin Meredith's 700-page history of Africa's potential and problems during the past 50 years; and the alternate history of Nazi Germany as seen in literature, TV programs, films and other segments of pop culture is discussed in "The World Hitler Never Made" (Cambridge) by Garviel D. Rosenfeld.
In "Palladian Days" (Knopf), Sally Gable, with Carl I. Gable, describes how her dream of having a summer house in New Hampshire led her and her husband to Italy, and to a 400-year-old Palladian villa on the outskirts of Venice.
"Coffee: A Dark History" (Norton) is Antony Wild's 500-year history of the dark, fragrant bean that has become a staple of American life and the world's second most valuable legal commodity, after oil.
In "Heaven" (St. Martin's Press), British novelist and politician Jeffrey Archer offers a third and final volume of his diary of two years in prison.
"The Roots of Desire" (Bloomsbury) offers a history of red hair and of redheads -- who make up less than 4 percent of the world's population -- by one of their own, author Marion Roach.
Finally, there's plenty of trash talk in "Garbage Land" (Little, Brown), Elizabeth Royte's guided tour of junk's journey from domicile to dump.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.