cover image ROAD WORK: Among Tyrants, Heroes, Rogues, and Beasts

ROAD WORK: Among Tyrants, Heroes, Rogues, and Beasts

Mark Bowden, . . Atlantic Monthly, $24 (467pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-876-7

In the bestselling Black Hawk Down , journalist Bowden showed a gift for taking a story and exploring its various avenues, resulting in layered, rich storytelling. Although he doesn't have quite enough room to stretch out with this collection of his short reportage pieces, he still delivers fascinating, and sometimes outsized, slices of life. Bowden has deep affection for detail and character over breaking news or larger issues. For this anthology, he culls mainly from assignments for the Atlantic Monthly , presenting a strong, balanced collection that highlights his formidable writing strengths while accenting his interests. Standout articles include a post-9/11 profile of Saddam Hussein that illuminates the man through details like his wine preference, childhood tattoo and immaculate desk. Other politically inspired pieces, inclusing ones about Bowden's time among American pilots in Afghanistan and his days on the campaign trail with Al Sharpton, are equally fine. But his range isn't confined to politics; Bowden explores high school football, a zoo-dwelling gorilla and the Rocky statue in South Philadelphia. Perhaps the greatest indicator of what makes Bowden so compelling is that an ad for udder supports in a farm publication sends him into the realm of animal husbandry to answer the question, "[W]hy on Earth would a cow need a bra?" (Nov.)