My wife continually tells me what small treasures I can find at yard sales. I always scoff. But of course, she’s always right. A couple of years ago I came across a table full of dog-eared books at a neighborhood yard sale. “Man Of The Hour” jumped out at me immediately. The author, Peter Blauner, didn’t ring any bells, but the intriguing cover photo was a close-up television image of an explosion with a car in the foreground. I picked it up, read the dust jacket’s synopsis of the story, and plopped down my fifty cents.

I hardly ever seem to find books that are difficult to put down any more, but “Man Of The Hour” hooked me. One reason is the general plot, which concerns David Fitzgerald, a New York high school teacher who saves the life of a student after the terrorist bombing of a school bus. After a few weeks of living large as the local hero (strangers fawn over him, the president mentions him in a speech and his own son asks for his autograph), the tables turn when he’s suddenly fingered as the prime suspect in the bombing. It’s likely that Blauner was influenced by the account of Richard Jewell, the security guard who spotted a suspicious knapsack, which turned out to be a bomb, at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta (You can refresh your memory of that particular case at:

As in Jewell’s situation, David’s life is turned upside down when the media announce that the cops have fingered him. It gets even worse when a reporter runs a story unjustly accusing him of domestic abuse. His possessions are carted away by the authorities (“What’s yours is ours,” one FBI agent tells him coldly), his friends avoid him and he may lose custody of his son to his estranged wife. His wife, by the way, is your basic cuckoo bird.

What may save him, beyond his innocence and the determination to clear his name, is Elizabeth, a pretty young Arab student of his whose brother, Nasser, is the real bomber. The boy has fallen in with an extremist group that talks of the glorious Islamic holy war that’s coming to town, and Nasser spends most of the book torn, quite believably, between what he knows is right and what his whacky friends are telling him.

Blauner does a couple of things very well in this book: first, he tells the story from almost every conceivable point of view. You see things from the perspective of David; the cops investigating the case; the reporter who recklessly smears David for the world to see; and, of course, the real villains of the piece. Second, Blauner employs a spare but fluid writing style. Each chapter is only about four pages long, but the prose is smooth, clever and even almost poetic in a few spots. This provides the reader with sufficient tension that builds up to the climax, which is predictable in some ways and surprising in others.

“Man Of The Hour” is a superbly written thriller that any lover of good, tight fiction should seek out. It’s worth the effort.