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Book Report: Fictional tales from outer space, Minneapolis make good reads

"Heaven's Shadow," by David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt (Penguin, $25.95) is a science fiction novel that I'll bet is heading for moviedom. It concerns a near-Earth object named "Keanu."

As it hurtles toward Earth, two manned space vehicles travel half a million kilometers through space to land on it and claim it as their own. One vehicle is NASA's "Destiny;" the other "Brahma" sent out by a coalition made up of Russians, Indians and Brazilians.

They both arrive on Keanu and discover it is no simple rock, but an entity populated by denizens vastly more sophisticated than those of us inhabiting Earth.

It's written in short chapters interspersed with quotations from famous thinkers and writers and memos from characters in the novel.

Goyer brings impressive credentials to the task, having previously worked on "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Night." Cassutt has worked on "The Twilight Zone" and "Max Headroom." He hails from Hudson, where his father was an English teacher.

When we lived in Minneapolis, we were fortunate or unfortunate depending on your point of view to live a stone's throw from two famous 3.2 bars and half a block from another. The first two were Matt's on Cedar Avenue; the 5-8 Club, on Cedar Avenue near Lake Nokomis.

Half a block away from our house was Adrian's on Chicago Avenue. Years back, I wrote a story about Adrian's and its famous "Lurtsyburger," which consisted of two quarter pound beef patties wrapped around a thick slice of cheese, grilled and served on a sesame seed bun.

I asked Adrian, why he called it a Lurtsyburger and without batting an eyelash said, "We always served this sandwich and one day Bob Lurtsema, came in and ate two of 'em."

By the time my story appeared, Lurtsema had become famous as "Benchwarmer Bob" in many, many Twin City Federal commercials. TCF saw a photo-op in the making, so dragged Lurtsema and me to Adrian's for Lurtsyburgers.

Cameras flashed as Lurtsema down two of the mammoth sandwiches.

After it was all over, I asked Lurtsema what year he came into Adrian's and ate two before they were named after him.

"I've never been here before; never heard of the place," replied the Viking benchwarmer.

You can read stories just like this in a charming new book, "Minnesota Lunch: From Pasties to Banh Mi," edited by James Norton (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $19.95 paper).

Norton and fellow food writers take you on a tour of Minnesota joints, where transplanted Vietnamese serve elaborate Banh Mi sandwiches, where the Walleye sandwich holds sway.

There's a section on the Scandinavian open faced sandwich, the Somali Sambusa and the State Fair's turkey sandwich, as well as the Iron Range's porketta.

Anyone who has ever waddled out of Mayslack's Bar in northeast Minneapolis after a bout with former wrestler Stan Mayslack's "Original" will want to read about it in this fascinating book. Contributors include Susan Pagani, Lori Writer and Norton, editor of the Heavy Table food magazine and co-author of "The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin."

It's not all perfect. A case in point: In a subchapter on Spam, Austin, Minnesota's contribution to haute cuisine, Norton describes the famous pork product as "thrifty." The last time I bought a 12-ounce can, it cost three bucks.

That's thrifty?

Try a sirloin steak instead.

One of my favorite chapters is about the ubiquitous roast beef sandwich on mushy Bunny Bread slathered with gravy. Some restauranteurs, including my parents, called them "commercials," but the authors of "Minnesota Lunch" can't seem to figure out why and spend lots of time debating. I'll settle the argument:

My father told me that our restaurant called them commercials because it was a favorite order from traveling salesmen, "commercial people."

And my father wasn't even a food writer. So there.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.