BOOKS: YANKEE DIDDLE DANDY

A CHEERFUL CELEBRATION OF A BIG AMERICAN MYTH

Harvey Jacobs' American Goliath (St. Martin's; 346 pages; $24.95) celebrates the long and glorious tradition of deception with an inspired novel based on the 1869 Cardiff Giant hoax.

The fun began the year before, when George Hull, a prosperous Binghamton, N.Y., cigar manufacturer, was roused to mischief by a clergyman who preached that the U.S. was the true setting for Genesis. Happily for Hull, the imaginative minister was fond of scriptural quotes like, "There were giants in the earth in those days." So the tobacconist hired a shady Chicago sculptor to turn a block of gypsum into a 10-ft. Goliath, which...