July 16, 2001 12:00 PM

by Robert B. Parker

Beach book of the week

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Actors from Henry Fonda to Kurt Russell have tried on Wyatt Earp’s boots. Now Parker, on leave from his Spenser detective series, delivers a fresh take on the western marshal. Swapping his usual wisecracking for a Hemingway-like spareness, Parker makes Earp not necessarily likable—no bully but at his best behind a Colt .45. Amid political rivalrics in Tombstone, Earp invites trouble by shacking up with a liberated showgirl reminiscent of Spenser’s squeeze Susan Silverman. The minimalist showdown at the O.K. Coral is almost anticlimactic, but Rhapsody’s psychological portrait is a sure shot. (Putnam, $22.95)

Bottom Line: Saddle up for western noir

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