BOOKS: A KINGDOM FOR HIS HORSE

NICHOLAS EVANS HAS A SMASH FIRST NOVEL AND A MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR DEAL WITH HOLLYWOOD. SO WHO NEEDS GOOD REVIEWS?

BRITISH AUTHOR NICHOLAS EVANS was slowly picking at a dinner roll during a banquet in Bellevue, Washington, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. He was regaling the table with some Western trivia he had picked up while doing research for his best-selling novel The Horse Whisperer. The bookstore owners listened attentively as he described "pitchfork fondue," a delicacy prepared by melting chunks of lard in a huge kettle, then dunking slabs of beef into the oozing caldron with a trident.

In his speech after dinner, Evans recounted a tale the book dealers found more appetizing: how a struggling journalist and...

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