Saint Odd

By Dean Koontz. (Bantam Books, 352 pages, $28.)

This is the final book, the author says, in a series of eight which began in 2003. All center on Odd Thomas, a young fry cook in Pico Mundo, Calif., who has special gifts. He sees the spirits of dead people. He has dreams that foretell the future, although he struggles with interpreting them. And he is drawn by his psychic magnetism to evil and compelled to battle it.

In this finale, Thomas, a likable, humble fellow who always addresses people as sir and ma'am, returns to his hometown after two years. His gifts tell him something bad is about to happen there. He is right. A cult is plotting mayhem.

Oddie, or the Odd One — nicknames that his dead girlfriend Stormy used to call him — gets into one tough spot after another. This is a page-turner, with scattered references to past books, and a conclusion that fans of the series can live with.

Roman Augustoviz

Sports copy editor

The Birth of a Nation

By Dick Lehr (PublicAffairs, 343 pages, $26.99.)

D.W. Griffith saw his movie "Birth of a Nation" as "the true story" of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Monroe Trotter saw its images of leering men in blackface and avenging Ku Klux Klansmen as the worst form of rewriting history.

Their confrontation is retold in riveting fashion in Dick Lehr's "The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America's Civil War."

Griffith, son of a Confederate soldier, and Trotter, son of a black Union soldier, squared off over several intense weeks in Boston in 1915. Protesters converged on the Tremont Theatre. Activists raced from the courthouse to the statehouse to try to block the first-of-its kind feature film.

Lehr portrays the self-serving Griffith and the self-righteous Trotter in all their glaring imperfections. The book takes us back to when the Civil War's scars were fresh and the tone of civil rights was shifting from the deference of Booker T. Washington to the defiance of W.E.B. Dubois. President Woodrow Wilson and future president Calvin Coolidge play pivotal cameo roles.

One hundred years later, the movie holds an infamous place in film history. Lehr gives a fascinating account of how it got there.

Maureen McCarthy

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