Twin Talents

Very Different Novels From Identical-Twin Brothers--Plus Other New Releases, Good Mysteries, and What a Senator Likes to Read. By WILLIAM O'SULLIVAN

By: William O'Sullivan

You'd think two 57-year-old writers, with decades' worth of novels under their belts, might resist focusing on the fact that they're identical twins--and publishing books simultaneously for the first time. But Richard and Robert Bausch don't mind.

"I'm pretty excited," says Richard.

Robert says that as far as he knows, coincidental publication by twins "has never happened in human history." Lucky for him such a grand statement sounds tinged more with fraternal pride than with ego.

Robert's The Gypsy Man--his fifth novel--is narrated by multiple residents of an imaginary southern-Virginia town and revolves around the legend of a phantom who kidnaps children. Readers have described the tale as everything from a thriller to Southern gothic. "I don't know how to get my mind around what it is," says the author. "I was just trying to tell a story."

Richard's ninth novel, Hello to the Cannibals, interweaves the narrative of a young woman in the late 20th century with that of a historical figure from a hundred years earlier, British explorer Mary Kingsley. He set out to write the contemporary story, but Kingsley--about whom he had read only a little at that point--"just walked in and wouldn't be put away."

The Bausches, who grew up all over Washington, live in Virginia. Richard, a professor at George Mason University, is in Fauquier County; Robert, who teaches at Northern Virginia Community College, lives in Stafford County.

Would the two share careers if they didn't write novels?

"I don't think it's possible Dick wouldn't be a novelist," Robert says. He reconsiders: "He's a really great songwriter and poet."

Says Richard: "Bob would be an honest politician--or a pool shark."

APPETIZERS, ANYONE?

"babette van anka had made love to the president of the United States on eleven previous occasions, but she still couldn't resist inserting 'Mr. President' into 'Oh, baby, baby, baby.' "

--opening of No Way to Treat a First Lady by Christopher Buckley, a novel about a First Lady on trial for killing her husband

"What a disastrous start to the day, Jasmine March thought as she stared down at her husband's nubile lover, dead on her kitchen floor."

--opening of How to Cook a Tart, by former Washington food writer Nina Killham. The novel, set here, is about a beleaguered cookbook author.

WHAT ELSE IS NEW

the suspense novel GHOST IMAGE is bethesda author and former Reagan speechwriter Joshua Gilder's debut.

Ellicott City writer Connie Briscoe's novel P.G. County is touted as "an African-American Peyton Place."

Gary Krist's novel Extravagance takes place in 1690s London and 1990s New York City. The author--whose last book was the DC-set Chaos Theory--lives in Bethesda.

Nani Power's sophomore novel, after the well-received Crawling at Night, is The Good Remains, an homage to Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Power lives in The Plains, Virginia.

Daniel Ellsberg tells his side of the story in Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.

Bethesda sports maven John Feinstein's latest is The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever. It describes the repercussions of a near-fatal 1977 blow thrown by Los Angeles Laker Kermit Washington at Houston Rocket Rudy Tomjanovich. Washington played for American University before turning pro; the incident short-circuited his NBA career.

Washington Post business columnist Shannon Henry's The Dinner Club: How the Masters of the Internet Universe Rode the Rise and Fall of the Greatest Boom in History is a year in the life of the elite Capital Investors club--Steve Case, Michael Saylor, and others--against a backdrop of boom and bust.

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by onetime Post editor Rick Atkinson is the first volume of a trilogy about the liberation of Europe.

DC-based historian Michael Beschloss also looks at the Second World War in The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman, and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany.

Another Roosevelt inspired two new books. Grandmère: A Personal History of Eleanor Roosevelt is by grandson David Roosevelt. Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way by Bethesda's Robin Gerber offers lessons for women from the First Lady's life and work.

ON THE HORIZON

ATLANTIC MONTHLY senior editor SCOTT Stossel's biography of Sargent Shriver, the first Peace Corps director, is making the rounds of New York publishers.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is cowriting a novel that speculates on what would have happened if Robert E. Lee had won at Gettysburg; it's the first of a two-book deal.

A MYSTERY WRITER'S FAVORITES

we asked mystery author MARtha Grimes of Capitol Hill for recommendations. Her newest Richard Jury novel is The Grave Maurice.

* Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen. "Hiaasen is the funniest mystery writer around, and his humor is never forced. South Florida, however--where his books are set--always is."

* An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. "The best historical mystery I've come across. It's much better than Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. I look forward to reading Pears's new one, The Dream of Scipio."

* Only Child by Andrew Vachss. "Vachss is the clearest voice we have on the horrors of child victimization, and he shares this voice with his nongeneric protagonist, Burke. I haven't read this new one yet, but any book by Vachss is cause to get in line."

"YOU'VE GOTTA READ THIS"

north carolina senator JOHN EDWARDS: Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara. "A great novel about our Founding Fathers and the Colonies' pursuit of independence."

Juan Williams, National Public Radio senior correspondent: The Human Stain by Philip Roth. "A novel about a black man passing for white. My wife thought it was too intense, but I found it fascinating."

Ann Amernick, pastry chef, DC's Palena restaurant and Amernick pastry shop: The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck. "This 1961 book has an immense number of sophisticated cakes. You can take a recipe and use your imagination."

YOU READ 'EM HERE FIRST

WASHINGTONIAN senior writer Courtney Rubin is writing A Sense of Scale, a memoir about food and weight issues; it's out next year.

Senior editor Diane Granat is on an Alicia Patterson Fellowship researching a book on Sears, Roebuck tycoon Julius Rosenwald's philanthropic legacy.

Contributing editor Laura Elliott's first picture book, Hunter's Best Friend at School, is about two raccoon schoolboys, one of whom is lured into mischief.

Contributing editor Howard Means recently cowrote, with Susan Sheehan, The Banana Sculptor, the Purple Lady, and the All-Night Swimmer, profiles of people with unusual hobbies.

National editor Kim Isaac Eisler's Revenge of the Pequots, about a Native American tribe's efforts to open a casino, is out in paperback.