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Dave Wood's Book Report, Aug. 30, 2006

Years ago a very nice elderly gentleman from Savage, Minn., mounted a campaign to get the great sulky horse Dan Patch on a U.S. postage stamp. I followed him around and wrote a story about how he lectured to grade school and high school kids, how he talked to fraternal organizations and how he spent lots of money on mailings, trying to convince the U.S. Postal service that it would be a good thing to put the world's greatest pacer on a stamp.

They, of course, ignored his pleas, preferring instead to issue five different stamps with Elvis Presley's mug on each. When I saw those, I was very glad that my old Savage friend had retired to the Grandstand in the Sky before that abomination.

My old Savage friend would be happy to see "The Great Dan Patch," by Tim Brady (Nodin Press, $24.95). It's a highly detailed book about the horse, which was born in Indiana and his second owner, M.W. Savage, who knew how to promote his acquisition, putting Dan's name on many of his products, including cookstoves and automobiles.

These days, trotters and pacers only appear once a year at Canterbury Downs and thoroughbreds hold center stage. When Savage brought Dan Patch to Minnesota, he wanted to promote harness racing, thinking thoroughbreds would lead to immorality of all sorts. And he hadn't even seen Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" in which Professor Harold Hill warns the folks in River City to beware of gambling and thoroughbred racing, which spells TROUBLE, when "out of town Jaspers" arrive to promote racing. "Not a wholesome trotting race, no, but a race where they sit right down on the horse! Like to see some stuck-up jockey boy sittin' on Dan Patch?"

Here are some novels from Bantam for that last trip up to the lake:

"Shadow Man: A Thriller" (Bantam, $24) by Cody McFayden tells the story of FBI special agent Smoky Barrett, who gave up hunting serial killers when one of them killed her family, scarred her for life physically and emotionally. In retirement, she receives a challenge from another thug, who sends her a videotape of a crime he has committed. Will she take up the challenge?

"The Assassin's Gallery" (Bantam, $25), by David L. Robbins, is a World War II thriller that opens on the East Coast, when a professional assassin emerges from the Atlantic and starts killing people. A specialist is brought in for consultation and soon it becomes apparent that the assassin's are heading for big game, the president of the United States.

In "One Last Breath," (Bantam, $25), by Stephen Booth, Mansell Quinn gets out of jail after serving 13 years for the killing of his lover. He has always sworn that he was innocent and he's in a rage. He violates his parole and disappears into the caves and grottos of rural Derbyshire. Someone else shows up murdered. Is it Mansell Quinn? Two detectives have to figure it out. One of them is worried he might be Quinn's next victim because the detective's father sent the guy up the river.

"Holy Terror" (Atria, $25), by Richard Marcinko and Jim DeFelice taps into our current interest in terrorism. Marcinko, a former navy commander now works as a security specialist and has co-written eight novels in the "Rogue Warrior" series. Marcinko stars in his own novel. In this one, he's in Rome on the trail of terrorists who want to blow up the Vatican.

Dave Wood is a past vice-president of the National Book Critic Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune.