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March 13, 2001|LARRY STEWART

What: "Fifth Quarter: The Scrimmage of a Football Coach's Daughter"

Author: Jennifer Allen

Publisher: Random House

Price: $23.95

If you're a longtime Ram fan expecting a book that solves the mysteries of George Allen, you won't find it here--or anywhere for that matter. But if you're seeking a book that is beautifully written, brutally honest and keenly perceptive about this complex man and his family, this 238-page effort fits the bill.

It was written by the youngest of Allen's four children, his only daughter. Jennifer Allen takes a sensitive look at the years her father coached the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins. The book begins on New Year's Eve, 1968, when Jennifer was 7. It essentially ends when Allen was fired for a final time in 1978 after two exhibition games with the Rams. Then there is a final chapter, short and poignant, about George Allen's death at 73 on the last day of 1990.

The book certainly is not a "Father Knows Best," but neither is it a "Mommy Dearest." It's somewhere in between, an honest portrait.

The author writes about how at 16 she yearned to be a writer. One suspects this is the book she always wanted to write. She tells plenty--her insecurities, her loneliness, and her first experiences with boys.

In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, she credits longtime Los Angeles Herald Examiner sports columnist Mel Durslag for "giving me the keenest advice, insisting that I write only what I saw and what I felt, that anything short of that would be pointless."

And that's what Jennifer Allen has done.

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