Thomas Powers' "The Confirmation" and other book news 

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Powerful 'Confirmation'
In his first foray into fiction, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Powers has created two of the most absorbing characters to be found in a cloak-and-dagger novel in recent years.

Powers' name is familiar to readers of serious nonfiction. His "Heisenberg's War: The Secret History of the German Bomb" was published in 1993 in four countries simultaneously. His previous works have centered on the CIA, Vietnam and terrorism.

In "The Confirmation," (Knopf, $25.95) Powers has taken to heart the best advice that can be given to a first-time novelist: Write what you know. Edgy and reeking of authenticity, "The Confirmation" explores what happens when a career spook, Frank Cabot, is nominated to be the head of the CIA.

But the characters who will draw readers in and sweep them along are Brad Cameron and Myrna Rashevsky. Cameron is Cabot's young assistant, an idealist who's been assigned to research MIAs. Rashevsky is the crusty, 70-ish, CIA contract worker delegated to help Cameron. As the two dig deeper and deeper into musty CIA files, they discover evidence that an American soldier missing in Vietnam might have been alive in the late 1970s in a Soviet gulag. As their search continues in Washington, Europe, Israel and Russia, Cameron and Rashevsky — embodiments of what we'd all like to think are American core values — uncover evidence that Cabot may have known about the American in the gulag. Worse, he may have delivered a chilling message from the White House to Moscow: The MIA is a danger to U.S.-Soviet relations as long as he's alive to tell his tale.

Powers will keep you on the edge of your seat as he details Cameron's and Rashevsky's efforts to walk back the cat and find out what Cabot did or didn't know and may or may not have done, and how their quest will affect Cabot's nomination.

If you care about truth and morality when they're put to the test, and if you enjoy a fast-paced plot laced with realistic detail, "The Confirmation" is one you don't want to miss.

— Don Dale

Louis Auchincloss has written 41 books of fiction including the fine "The Rector of Justin." He is undoubtedly the premier chronicler of the Wasp upper class in New York City, their manners, their values, and, indeed, their feeling of entitlement. In this new novel, "Her Infinite Variety," (Houghton Mifflin $25) he tells us of a beautiful woman, Clara Hoyt, who uses her beauty to obtain rich husbands and, through them, power. Unfortunately for the reader, Auchincloss' story slides on the surface of his characters and could readily have appeared in one of the so-called "women's magazines," or could be characterized as a "romance" novel. We have come to expect more of this author and will hope for that in his next book.

— Rozanne Epps

Heads-Up:For those parents who are disoriented by the Harry Potter hoopla, it should come as good news that the wonderful classic, "Goodnight Moon," by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd (illustrator) (HarperCollins, $14.95) is still immensely popular. According to Book Sense, a publication of the American Booksellers Association, "Moon" is No. 9 on the Independent Book Sellers Best Seller List. But don't count Harry Potter out, of course. He holds down four places on the list.

Former Richmonder and VCU alumna M. Rose Barkley has won first place for poetry in the Writer's Digest National Self-Published Book Awards for her book "Wayfaring Stranger." Barkley now lives in

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