John, called "the Man" by his followers, came to the valley to escape the world's chaos, which no philosopher had been able to fix. The valley is the Kalalau on the Na Pali Coast of Kauai, in Hawaii, and John's answer is to walk the treacherous valley trail, backwards, so that he will not forget this land of spirits. Peter McDonald, the atheist hired as the official photographer, has more in store than picture-taking in this novel of self-discovery from Chico author Stephen McMillin. The title? "The Man Who Walked Backward Down the Na Pali Coast" (paperback, available from www.themanwhowalkedbackward.com).
The California Coastal Commission has just published "Beaches and Parks in Southern California" ($24.95 in paperback from University of California Press). This full-color comprehensive guide covers Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties (a guide to the North Coast was published several years ago). Edited by Steve Scholl, the book lists more than 450 sites including "beaches, public access ways, parks, campground, nature preserves, world-class aquariums, and museums." Maps show biking and hiking trails and articles provide details such as "open hours, food and beverage services, wheelchair accessibility, rules about dogs," and more. An ideal guide for the getaway season.
It's World War II, and Serge, the product of an East Prussian family that had emigrated to America, "enlists in the U.S. Marine Corps and learns the rudiments of military undercover work." He becomes an aeronautical engineer and then, ready to practice some high-level military-industrial espionage, "becomes the darling of the German High Command." In "Codename: Beowulf" ($16.95 in paperback from Dorrance), Serge escapes from the Gestapo but must return to occupied Europe to save his great love, "trapped in a ghetto in Belgium." Reno, Nevada writer Paul Hewen bases his story on family history, though "names have been changed."