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Friday, January 12, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Books in Brief

"Best by Number: Who wore what ... with distinction"
Ron Smith, primary author
Sporting News Books, 224 pp., $24.99

Athletes and sports fans have an attachment to jersey numbers, and this coffee-table book feeds the fascination by spotlighting the best athletes ever to wear jersey numbers from 0 to 99.

For each number, the book presents one superstar and a short story about him followed by paragraphs on each of three to 17 "elite" athletes who wore it. There also are "fast facts" about some of the other folks who donned it and a list of "notables" associated with the number.

One indication that the Sporting News folks did their homework is that Sonny Sixkiller, University of Washington quarterback from 1970-72, gets mentioned in the "fast facts" section of No. 6, even though his fame remains much more regional than national. The showcased No. 6 is Mercer Island resident Bill Russell, who wore the number as a Boston Celtic.

Even famous stock-car numbers, such as 43 for Richard Petty and 48 for Jimmie Johnson, are featured. The book has about 300 photos, so once you sit down with it, you're hooked.

"Best by Number" is guaranteed to fuel debates such as whether John Elway or Mickey Mantle was the premier athlete to wear No. 7. (The book goes with Elway.)

It also can ignite indignation about who was left out, such as Sue Bird. Bird is No. 10 for the Seattle Storm — her credentials include Olympic gold, two NCAA championships and national player-of-the-year honors at the University of Connecticut.

The book quotes Brian Bosworth as saying he never felt as good wearing No. 55 as a Seahawk as he did wearing No. 44 at Oklahoma. (He wasn't allowed to wear No. 44 and be a linebacker under the NFL's restrictive numbering system).

"No. 44 made me feel better," Bosworth said. "It made me run faster. I felt more confident out there. People might not think it's a big deal, but it's a very big deal."

Reviewed by Craig Smith

"Errors and Omissions"
by Paul Goldstein
Doubleday, 320 pp., $24.95

Legal thrillers — and for that matter, the entire mystery genre — survive because authors find new and exciting ways of retelling tales. Take the old saw of the burned-out, alcoholic lawyer/cop/detective at the crossroads of his or her career who takes a doomed case. In the right hands, even that old scenario can seem fresh. Stanford law professor Paul Goldstein does just that in his strong debut, "Errors and Omissions."

Goldstein immerses character Michael Seeley, an alcoholic lawyer who's found that "the worst part of being drunk before breakfast is the hangover that returns before noon," into a searing plot enhanced by its look at Hollywood's blacklist, revenge and greed. An intellectual property litigator, Michael is a hair's breadth from being disbarred. He has little choice but to take an odd case — proving that a major movie studio really does own the rights to its lucrative series of action-spy films. The investigation takes the attorney from Los Angles to Munich and gives him a crash course in the politics of 1950s Hollywood, when writers accused of being communists found ways to continue working at their craft.

"Errors and Omissions" is long on developing character and plot, using legalese as a way to move both to a satisfying conclusion. Goldstein's first novel has the makings of what may prove to be an exciting series.

Reviewed by Oline H. Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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