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Leon is regarded as the intellectual capital of Nicaragua but the day we arrived it was simply dusty, hot and neglected. Transport around the city had not progressed beyond carts pulled by cattle and it appeared as though no one had bothered to paint a building or sweep a street since the Spanish left in 1858.

Travel writer Peter Moore's first impression of the South American city Leon in the paperback edition of his book, The Full Montezuma - (Bantam, pounds 6.99).

He'd abandoned his usual outfit of black rap clothes or GI Joe cammies. He was wearing a brown leather jacket, a cream-coloured Henley, faded jeans, and work boots. His hair, which had always been slicked back in a ponytail, was cut short. He had a two-day beard, making his teeth seem whiter and his Latino complexion seemed darker. A wolf in Gap clothing.

A change of pace in Janet Evanovich's tale of 'screwball crime capers', Hot Six (Pan, pounds 6.99).

A simple method of saving one's family from starvation was indentured servitude. In the next village beyond the pass there was a salt merchant who doubled as a Labour contractor. He would pay a lump sum as a bond for service. The family would use this money to buy grain to take back home to the village.

The harsh realities of village life in medieval Japan evoked in Akira Yoshimura's novel, Shipwrecks (Canongate, pounds 8.99).

In the spring of 1942, Elsie and Maeve saw their first American GIs in the Bull Ring. What surprised them most were the black ones. 'Jet-black, you know, shiny,' Elsie told Alf. 'And their eyes look so big in their head and their teeth so white.'

'Don't matter what they look like, as long as we're fighting on the same side,' Alf said.

Most Birmingham people thought the same, and couldn't understand the way some white Americans treated their black comrades. 'Ain't they all Yanks and all set to fight the bloody Germans and Japs, not each other,' was a typical comment.

But the GIs, both black and white, were soon a familiar sight in the city and young girls found them particularly appealing. They spoke like most of the people they'd seen on the cinema screen, were dressed smarter than the average British Tommy and had more money to flash about, and they gave presents of chocolate, chewing gum and nylons to the chosen few.

The Yanks hit Birmingham in the paperback edition of former Birmingham schoolteacher Anne Bennett's saga novel set in the city, Pack Up Your Troubles (Headline, pounds 5.99).

It is curious how so many great discoveries in all areas of human endeavour are made by chance - no more so than in the field of archaeology. In late 1946 or early 1947, a Bedouin shepherd called Jum'a Muhammed stumbled on something extraordinary while scrambling among the rocky cliffs that rise just behind a terrace of land on which stand a group of ancient ruins, known as Khirbet Qumran, by the shores of the Dead Sea.

As the story goes, he was looking for a stray goat when he noticed a couple of openings in the rocks. He peered down into the darkness but could see nothing, so he threw in some stones. Then, as they crashed inside, he heard the sound of breaking pottery.

Researcher and writer Stephen Hodge in his book The Dead Sea Scrolls - An Introductory Guide (Piatkus, pounds 16.99) describes how the the ancient pottery containing the scrolls was first discovered after the Second World War.
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Title Annotation:Books
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 9, 2001
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