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September 02, 1998|LARRY STEWART

What: "The Red Zone," by Tim Green

Publisher: Warner Books

Price: $24

On the jacket of this book, fellow sportscaster and Syracuse graduate Bob Costas says of the author, "One is considered blessed with either brains or brawn. Tim Green has been blessed with both." Green played eight seasons as a defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, was an All-American at Syracuse, a magna cum laude graduate and now, besides being a highly respected author, is an NFL commentator for Fox and a member of the New York State Bar.

This is Green's sixth book--and fourth novel. It doesn't quite match his two nonfiction works, "The Dark Side of the Game," a New York Times bestseller, and "A Man and His Mother: An Adopted Son's Search," in which Green, who is adopted, bares his innermost feelings in an autobiographical look at his successful search for his biological parents.

But most novels don't match up to those. What "The Red Zone" offers is fast-paced action and a look at the darkest side of humankind. There is a character who makes Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter of "Silence of the Lambs" fame look like a nice guy.

The focal point of "The Red Zone" is the drowning of an NFL team owner by a scuba diver off the coast of Florida. The owner of course has a notorious wife--yeah, we know, this part isn't original. But as the story develops, there are lots of surprises.

The lead character is attorney Madison McCall, who, to help a colleague, becomes football star Luther Zorn's agent. She ends up defending him for the murder of the team owner.

Zorn is a ferocious inside linebacker for the Florida Marauders and captain of the defense. He has some deep-seated psychological problems but he is portrayed as a likable hero. As evidence mounts against him, you want to believe him innocent.

The book's most despicable character is Martin Wilburn, who gains control of the team after owner Evan Chase's death and plots to move the team to Memphis. Lt. Kratch is no peach and, of course, neither is Chase's widow, Vivian.

The author brings some insight into the dark side of the sport but this book is strictly entertainment, offering a wild ride to the end.

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