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Abandon Ship! by Richard F. Newcomb, with an introduction and afterword by Peter Maas, read by Kevin Conway (Harper Audio, four cassettes, six hours, abridged, $25.95). The tragic saga of the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis in the closing days of World War II is in able hands with reader Kevin Conway, whose briny baritone is reminiscent of an old salt telling a woeful tale. The surprise ending, provided in an afterword by investigative reporter Peter Maas, brings the worst naval disaster in U.S. history up to date.

Me Talk Pretty One Day, written and read by David Sedaris (Time Warner Audio Books, four cassettes, five hours, abridged, $24.98). Sedaris has built his career on National Public Radio essays -- most notably his behind-the-scenes view of life as a Macy's Christmas elf. Although his writing has sold well, he's at his best performing. This tape contains both studio and live recordings of memoirs and his latest adventures in France, where he has moved with his partner. As fans would expect, the essays are uniformly sardonic, sometimes profane and often hilarious. The essays work because no matter how biting his observations, Sedaris can still laugh at himself. His family memoirs are so amusing that one can easily overlook how painful they must have been to live through. Sedaris will make an appearance in Buffalo March 30 in Rockwell Hall.

Crisis Four by Andy McNab, read by Steven Crossley (Recorded Books, 11 cassettes, 15 3/4 hours, unabridged, $99). Although this tale about chasing down a suspected turncoat British agent (and former lover) is clearly fiction, McNab writes with authority. The author's descriptions of spycraft are fascinating. An unexpected treat is his wryly drawn Walmart- and McDonald's-littered American landscape, where most of the action takes place. Although the plot is thin, the story shines in the details. When the inevitable violence comes, we're swept along in tension almost too much to bear. The narrator does a superb job. Although his American accent is unconvincing, his British characters sparkle with life, making the drama only that much more real.

-- Knight Ridder Newspapers

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