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Fame and food and new noir 

North Little Rock natives Mark and Matt Jacobs have written a new book of food-related factoids that looks promising. "What the Great Ate: A Curious History of Food and Fame" ($14, paperback, Three Rivers Press) collects tidbits on the culinary predilections of the famous and infamous. Here's a sampling taken from www.whatthegreatate.org:

• Elvis Presley once flew more than 800 miles just to eat a sandwich. But what a sandwich: The "Fool's Gold" served by a Denver area restaurant was an entire loaf of Italian bread hollowed out and stuffed with peanut butter, grape jelly, and a pound of bacon.

• Actress Angelina Jolie praised a Cambodian delicacy as a "high-protein snack food." It was otherwise known as cockroaches.

• Maya Lin came up with her concept for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when she fashioned a model out of mashed potatoes in a Yale University cafeteria.

• Actor Paul Newman was so obsessed with the perfect salad dressing that during a dinner date at a restaurant, he carried his salad into the men's room, washed it clean and returned to the table to re-dress it himself.

• Astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich into space in 1965.

If you like your fiction hard-boiled, Nic Pizzolatto's new debut novel, "Galveston" ($25, Scribner, hardcover), comes highly recommended. One of the more decorated recent graduates of the University of Arkansas creative writing program, Pizzolatto imbues the grit and grim of classic noir with rich style and nuance.

His hero (anti-hero?) is cut from familiar cloth. He's Roy Cady, the muscle for a New Orleans mob boss. A drunk tipping his way into his 40s, he learns, as the novel opens, that he has terminal lung cancer. On top of that — because the protagonist in a noir can never be too far down the path to perdition — his ex-girlfriend has recently taken up with the mob boss, and Roy has become expendable. Sent into an ambush by his boss, Roy kills the intended killers and escapes with the only other survivor, a teen-age prostitute named Rocky.

If that sounds like genre formula, it is. But it only takes 20 pages. Thereafter, Roy and Rocky flee to East Texas, eventually landing in Galveston in a bayside hotel populated by more broken-down characters. And from there everything just simmers along, with Pizzolatto filling out the characters by poking at their bruises.

Everything about "Galveston"— its foreboding, stormy cover; its opening lines, "A doctor took pictures of my lungs. They were full of snow flurries"; Roy's summation of Galveston, "You're here because it's somewhere. Dogs pant in the streets. Beer won't stay cold. The last new song you liked came out a long, long time ago, and the radio never plays it anymore" — points to the end we've come to expect in the genre. Redemption might not be possible; but that doesn't mean there aren't grace notes along the way.

What's happening in August

Unless indicated, event is a reading and/or book signing. Call the location for details. To list your event in the calendar, contact Lindsey Millar at "Books," Arkansas Times, P.O. Box 34010, Little Rock, AR 72203, or by phone, 375-2985; fax, 375-3623, or e-mail, lindsey@arktimes.com.

5 Gary Gallagher ("Lee and His Generals in War and Memory," "The Confederate War"), 7:30 p.m., UCA Student Center, free and open to the public.

7 Juneus Kendall ("The Ferryman," "Wattsville"), 1 p.m., TBIB.

14 Robin Becker ("Brains: A Zombie Memoir"), 2 p.m., Hastings, 1360 Old Morrilton Highway, Conway.

14 Monica Hudson ("Changed! In the Heat of Fire"), 3 p.m. WW.

14 Kathleen Koch ("Rising from Katrina"), 1 p.m. TBIB.

14 Mark Spitzer ("Season of Gar: Adventures in Pursuit of America's Most Misunderstood Fish"), 2 p.m., Hastings, 1360 Old Morrilton Highway, Conway.

17 That Book Group of Cookie's discusses Carlos Ruiz Zafon's "Shadow of the Wind," 7 p.m., TBIB.

21 Annamary Thompson ("Locally Grown: Recipes Inspired by Local Living"), 1 p.m. WW.

Area bookstores and libraries:

BAM: Books-A-Million, 2747 Lakewood Village Drive, NLR, 771-7581

BN-LR: Barnes & Noble-Chenal, 11500 Financial Centre Parkway, 954-7648

BN-NLR: Barnes & Noble-North Little Rock, 4000 E. McCain Blvd., 771-1124

CS: Clinton School of Public Service, Sturgis Hall, 1200 President Clinton Ave., 683-5200.

ML: Main Library, 100 Rock St., 918-3000

PA: Pyramid Art, Books and Custom Framing, Museum Center, 500 President Clinton Ave., Suite 110, 372-5824

RMBG: River Market Books and Gifts, Cox Creative Center, 120 Commerce St., 918-3093

TBMP: That Bookstore at Mountebanq Place, 1107 Oak St., Conway, 888-287-7791

TBIB: That Bookstore in Blytheville, 316 W. Main St., Blytheville, 870-763-3333

WW: WordsWorth Books & Co., 5920 R St., 663-9198

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