Readers get two books for the price of one when they pick up a copy of "The Eagle and the Raven."

One is in the form of a long prologue in which author James A. Michener discusses how he feels about his writing and how he works at his chosen profession. The other is a compact novel that portrays the American patriot Sam Houston and the Mexican general Santa Anna.The novel originally was a chapter in Michener's novel, "Texas," but was cut out because "it was written outside the normal story-telling pattern. More historical than narrative." Michener took the chapter, refined and expanded it, and the result is a fascinating story.

It tells of "one of the most exciting periods of Texas history, when a firebrand renegade from Tennessee, Sam Houston, emigrated to the Mexican state of Tejas and helped lead the revolution of 1836 which severed the area from Mexico, making it the free sovereign nation of Texas.

"Houston was opposed by one of the engaging scoundrels of history, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, 11 times president of Mexico, four times banished from that nation for life, one-legged but always resurgent. Their duel, even though they meet only once, is the stuff of which captivating history is made."

The novel is indeed captivating, as is Michener's story of his life in writing. He's 83 now and has no intention of quitting, because "I was born with a passionate desire to communicate, to organize experience, to tell tales that dramatize the adventures which listeners might have had. The job of a storyteller is to tell stories, and I have concentrated on that obligation." - By Phil Thomas (AP)