Vespers

Jeff Rovin, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-19351-5

Two giant bats and a whole mess of little ones attack Manhattan in a snappy, old-fashioned horror tale by an author who's a bit of a night creature himself--for Rovin, according to several published reports, is the ghostwriter for Tom Clancy's bestselling Op-Center paperback novels. Nothing deviates from formula here. The hero is a brave but sensitive cop; the heroine is a beautiful but lonely zoologist who finds romance with the cop in the course of their travails. The action builds in classic form, beginning with a surprise attack on a Little League kid and his dad by a bunch of bats north of the city, peaking with the devastating swarming on Manhattan of millions of the creatures and climaxing in a life-and-death struggle between humans and bats within the Statue of Liberty. Even the explanation for the two giant bats, about the size of bulls but immensely more powerful, is traditional--nuclear radiation--as is the purpose for the visit to the Big Apple by the behemoths and their flapping, biting minions: to nest and give birth. But for horror fans the classicism of the plot will only add to the unflagging fun, sparked by Rovin's energetic prose and strong visual imagination. Anyone who grooves on the notion of a giant bat hanging from the Brooklyn Bridge is going to love this smart, cinematic story. Film rights optioned by Barry Sonnenfeld; audio rights sold to Random House; foreign rights sold in the U.K. and Germany. (Nov.)