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The week's best reads

by Dennis Loy Johnson

Driving Lessons Ed McBain (Carroll & Graf, $11.95) The first in a new series of crime novellas gets off to a great start with a gem from the genre's late, great master. The gripping plot centers on a negligent homicide committed by a 16-year-old girl who runs someone down while taking her driving test.

Flashman and the Tiger George MacDonald Fraser (Knopf, $25) Fraser's new novel once again features his classic comic creation, the notorious Victorian scoundrel/adventurer Sir Harry Flashman. Once again, Flashy is caught up in actual historic events -- this time, the attempted assassination of Emperor Franz Josef.

Not War But Murder: Cold Harbor 1864 Ernest B. Furgurson (Knopf, $27.50) The respected Civil War historian presents a riveting, blow-by-blow account of one of the conflict's least-examined campaigns: Ulysses S. Grant's all-out assault on Robert E. Lee's troops at Cold Harbor.

Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech Pauline Borsook (Public Affairs, $24) Is cyberspace -- where so many of us are spending so much time -- making people forget that they actually live in a real space shared by other people? A smart and funny book that's also a little scary, written by one of Wired magazine's better reporters.

Blast from the Past ....

Exodus Leon Uris (Bantam, $7.99) Uris's story of a romance between an American nurse and a Jewish freedom fighter really tells the story of the turbulent birth of the nation of Israel. A classic, sprawling, action-packed saga that's also spellbinding history.

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