Books: End Game

A SIGNAL VICTORY (224 pp.)—David Stacton—Pantheon ($3.95).

David Stacton's sourly excellent historical novels are like chess games of long-dead masters, replayed from dusty notes. The author moves the pieces for both black and white, knowing the outcomes, musing on strengths and weaknesses unseen by the players. It is to catalyze these dark musings, not to commemorate the players, that Stacton restages the old battles. Not surprisingly, his novels lack the painted scenery and speeches in all-purpose King James dialect that clutter other historical fiction. In A Signal Victory, the ironically titled tale of the Spanish conquest of the Maya civilization, there is...

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