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Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii, performed by McAvoy Layne; Audio Partners (three compact discs, three hours, $24.95, abridged). Mark Twain started as a travel writer. Long before his literary masterpieces, he wrote for the Sacramento Union.

These letters produced for the newspaper from Hawaii offer a glimpse at the talent he would become. They show his power of observation and hint at the sense of irony and adventure he would later use so vividly. The letters also are a treat for lovers of Hawaii.

The scenes Twain captures, will astound anyone who has seen the sprawl of today's Waikiki Beach. Best of all is the reading, performed by Twain scholar and impersonator McAvoy Layne. With his intonations, accent and asides, you can almost see Twain puffing on a cigar as he puts pen to parchment.
-- Knight Ridder Newspapers

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