cover image Area 51

Area 51

David Darlington. Henry Holt & Company, $25 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-4777-6

Area 51, the remote piece of Nevada desert real estate that serves as a top secret military installation, is the crossroads where the paranoid, the paranormal and a pop culture parable converge. In this entertaining study, Darlington (The Mojave) maps Area 51 with flair, explaining that some of the prominent theories surrounding it include beliefs that the facility is housing flying saucers that crashed at Roswell, that there are extraterrestrials on the site cooperating with government officials and that the site is run by a ""shadow government"" established by President Truman. Area 51's secretive existence, it seems, serves as focus for every conspiracy imaginable, all of them fascinating and some even grimly optimistic. After all, as Darlington makes clear, conspiracy is a more hopeful view of the world than chaos, as it operates on the assumption that at least someone is at the controls. In the best sections of the book, Darlington explains not only the history of Area 51 but the budgetary and political advantages of secrecy. Throughout, he brings a reporter's balanced eye to his material and to the people involved, so that believers and skeptics alike should take to his account. Photos not seen by PW. Foreign rights sold to Finland, Germany, the U.K.; rights (except first serial, translation, electronic): Frederick Hill. (Nov.)