Bookworm: Nighttime creatures and bedtime stories

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“In the Night of the Heat”

by Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes

Remember all the dumb stuff you used to do when you were younger?

Remember slipping out the bedroom window for fun, while your parents thought you were asleep? Sneaking into grown-ups-only places? Drag racing down a straightaway, making prank phone calls, pilfering a sip of what was in dad’s glass?

Sure, you remember all those stupid things you did when you were a kid. Some of them were annoying but legal. Some of them, not so much.

Tennyson Hardwick would like to forget everything in his past: his former job, his relationship with his father, the fact that he didn’t complete his cop-school training. In the new novel “In the Night of the Heat” by Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, there are a lot of other pasts Ten would like to forget — if he lives long enough.

For the first time in ages, Tennyson Hardwick is working. For the first time he can remember, he’s happy. Ten has a job, a girlfriend, his father’s health is stable, and Chela, the teenage runaway he shelters, seems to want to stick around.

But then, everything falls apart. Ten’s past catches up with him, which results in his TV-show character’s unscheduled demise. April, Ten’s girlfriend, decides to accept a teaching position in South Africa, which signals the end of their relationship. And Chela is talking to some sleazebag online.

Then new work comes, unwelcome. Football star T.D. Jackson is discovered dead in his house, an apparent suicide. Jackson had recently been declared innocent in his ex-wife’s murder and that of her fiancé, and T.D.’s fans wholeheartedly supported him. They loved the star and clamored to get his autograph. Jackson should have been at the top of his game in many ways. Suicide didn’t seem like something he’d even try.

At least, that’s what Jackson’s cousin thought. Melanie knew Tennyson from college, and she knew he’d solved murders before. She and Jackson’s father hired Ten to find out what really happened to T.D. Jackson.

They’d love to know. But someone else will do anything to make sure Tennyson Hardwick doesn’t find out the truth.

If you pick this book up, there’s one thing you need to know: if you like your sleep, keep this book out of the bedroom. Read it in bed, and you’ll never turn the light off because “In the Night of the Heat” is one of those books you can’t put down, no matter how late it gets.

Authors Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes have created a James-Bondsian hero for us regular people by giving us Tennyson Hardwick. He is smart, but does things he regrets. Ten’s handsome but doesn’t always get the ladies. And while you know he’s going to get himself out of trouble in the long run, watching him do it will have you chewing your fingernails.

If you’re looking for a book to spend a long winter’s night with, this is one you’ll devour. “In the Night of the Heat” is a hot book that should not be passed.

“Dark Banquet”

by Bill Schutt

It’s bedtime, and you’re getting ready to tuck the kids in. Little sleepyheads that they are, you know a few quiet murmurs from which you will lull them to sweet slumber.

“Night-night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

And with that sentiment — words you heard from your parents and they, from theirs and maybe even before that — the kids are wide awake.

Bed bugs? Bites? No way.

Yes, way. And not only do bedbugs bite, but chiggers, bats and other creepy-crawlies do, too. Read all about them — if you dare — in the new book “Dark Banquet” by Bill Schutt.

If faced with a bat in your house, there’s one thing you know: it’s got to go. Now.

But researcher Bill Schutt loves bats. He studies them, experiments with them, and gets up at the crack of dawn to drive to a slaughterhouse so he can get food for them. Specifically, blood-as-food, because Schutt studies vampire bats.

With help from Trinidad’s Ministry of Agriculture and a mentor, Dr. Farouk Muradali, Schutt had his very own colony of Diaemus youngi, the white-winged vampire bat. All vampire bats, including Diaemus, feed and survive solely on blood, mostly on that of large animals but occasionally on human blood. The fascinating thing that Schutt learned about his furry little vampires is that they’ve adapted other species’ behaviors to ensure a nice, warm place to dine.

Your chances of running into a Trinidadian white-winged vampire bat are kind of slim these days but if you check into a hospital, you might meet up with another creature for which dinner’s on you — literally. For hundreds of years, medical practitioners have known that leeches could be used for the good of the patient (but not so good for the leech; they’re euthanized after one medically-deemed feeding). Leeches, by the way, are the second living creature to be designated as a medical device. (What’s the first, you might ask? Read the book).

And if all that doesn’t make you itchy already, let’s talk about those bedbugs. Your house is spotless so you don’t need to worry, right?

Well, let’s just say that used sofa might not be such a bargain for you after all. And free delivery? Might want to pass.

True, Halloween’s over, but it’s never a bad time to read a really good science book. “Dark Banquet” lands solidly in that category.

Part nature study, part history, part ecology, and with biting wit, author Bill Schutt adds a bit of cautionary tale to his book. As much as he geekily appreciates the creatures he’s written about and as enthusiastically gleeful he is about them, Schutt admits to some squeamishness. In the end, though, he freely points out that — whether we love them or are repulsed by them — our world needs bats, leeches and blood-feeding bugs to keep various ecosystems balanced.

If you want to sink your teeth into a fascinating, lively science book this fall, you really can’t go wrong with this one. To miss “Dark Banquet” would be simply batty.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2008 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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