A basketball scholarship enables Peggy Dana, back in 1971, to escape the Pittsburgh slums. But late registration costs her a dorm room; instead, the University of Maryland (College Park) refers her to a nearby private home. Martin and Doris Ellen, middle-aged and childless, welcome a student boarder. Peggy, who is white, soon addresses them fondly as Mister and Missus; they are upper-middle black.
In her novel, 22 Friar Street (Flower Valley Press, 240 pages, $14.95, softbound), Nan DeVincent-Hayes of Salisbury plaits a triple thread: race relations, four years of college life, the emotional growth of a tall, skinny, self-conscious girl still in her teens (she is the narrator).
These themes nicely balance, while Peggy soaks up the warm home life denied her back in Pittsburgh. She needs support, as Frostburg double-teams her, Wuzzle (her boyfriend) is disloyal, Pi Kappa Alpha throws a big wet party, she undergoes her first gynecological exam, she begins practice-teaching and Martin Ellen (reaching age 65 and forced to retire) sinks into depression. Thanks to DeVincent-Hayes' exceptional skill at character portrayal, we watch genuine people -- other students, the Ellens' relatives, the neighbors. Peggy, it is clear, will turn out to be a survivor. But as others, and she herself, say and do right things, and then wrong ones, it's never easy.
When your name is applied to a people, place or institution (e.g., Pike's Peak), that's an eponym. Initials (UNESCO) are an acronym. When you're in medicine, the vocabulary draws heavily on names, on initials and on classical languages. For Barton J. Gershen of Rockville, physician and word-lover, it takes only the emergence of yet another remote-origin disease or chemical-compound cure to rouse the old adrenaline.
For years, he has been writing a words-old-and-new column in Maryland Medical Journal; a sampling of these is now out: Word Rounds (Flower Valley Press, 157 pages, $14.95, softbound). Gershen's specimens can be real I-didn't-know-thats: wysiwyg (what you see is what you get), John B. (the old-time cowboy's name for his hat -- from John B. Stetson), quarantine (the 40 days when Venice sealed its port against the Black Death, in 1348).
The words field, these days, lacks not for plowmen; yet some individual etymologies remain uncertain. For his part, Dr. Gershen writes with breezy assurance. He calls Maryland "the mother of all eponyms"; it "excels in titular nepotism." Baltimore, Calvert and the family's assorted first names. "Of course," he adds, "Maryland itself derives from Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I." But her biographers, especially in England, voice growing doubt. More likely, the name was given with the mother of Jesus in mind.
Ruth Glick's latest hero is young, strong and amnesiac; her heroine is young, vulnerable and a Baltimore Police Department alumna. True love coming up; impeded, however, by self-doubt (before that blow to the skull, was Luke a criminal?) and by scoundrels who pop up from Inner Harbor clear to the farther sands of the Rio Grande. (Luke's suitcase has about a million dollars in it; if he's the scammer, Hannah wonders, who's the scammee?)
This thriller is The Man From Texas, by Rebecca York, which is a Glick pseudonym (Harlequin, 251 pages, $4.50 softbound). Over the past 25 years, Glick, in Columbia, has been the author or coauthor of 75-plus books: a dollhouse how-to, then romance fiction, romance thrillers, juveniles, a dozen cookbooks. Also just out: Fabulous Lo-Carb Cuisine, by Ruth Glick (Light Street Press, 137 pages, $12.95 softbound). Texas, the 21st title in her 43 Light Street private-investigator series, will now spread the fame of Baltimore -- for mayhem, for coupling -- farther than ever.
Few of the minor leagues' 8,000 players ever get to see their names printed in a major league boxscore; but instead of heading home afterward in despair, most of these rejects cherish their experience as a lifetime bright spot. So David Deal testifies, after joining the bus teams at 60-some ballparks, from British Columbia to Maryland -- wherever the Dillas, the Kernels, the Otters, the Crawdads, the Suns and Baysox call home.
Deal is a staff photographer for the Jewish Times. His book, Prospects: A Portrait of Minor League Baseball (Alter Communications, 116 pages, $39.95 oversize), is a salon of portrait studies.
He wasn't after play-action shots; moods, rather, and moments: a whole ballpark with nothing but mountains beyond it; boys --future minor leaguers? --crowding a spectator rail; a pitcher peering through a peephole in the bullpen clapboards, to search the bleachers for good-looking girls. In Iowa, the Mississippi rolls quietly past Davenport's ballpark, but is ever able to flood it; in West Virginia, Larry Bigbie's Orioles uniform signifies Bluefield, 1999 -- by now, he's been in Baltimore lineups.