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Casualties of war

In "Charity Girl," a new novel set in Boston, Michael Lowenthal unearths a shameful and little-known chapter in American history. During World War I, the US government incarcerated thousands of American women suspected of having venereal diseases to stop the spread of these infections among Army recruits . Lowenthal stumbled upon this fact in "AIDS and Its Metaphors," by Susan Sontag. In "Charity Girl," Frieda Mintz, a 17-year-old bundle wrapper at Jordan Marsh, spends a night with an infected soldier. He names Mintz as his last sexual contact, and she is hauled off to a detention center. The novel isn't unrelentingly grim. Lowenthal, who lives in Roslindale, works in details of the triumphant Red Sox season of 1918 .

Lowenthal speaks at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Brookline Booksmith , 279 Harvard St., Brookline . PEN New England hosts a reading by Lowenthal at 6:15 p.m., Feb. 7, at Hotel Marlowe, in Cambridge.

Admissions policy
Last June when Brookline Booksmith hosted a reading by Calvin Trillin, tickets were $2. This Friday , Trillin will appear at First Parish Church, 3 Church St., Cambridge. The price of admission? It's $14.95, which includes a copy of "About Alice," Trillin's love letter to his late wife. Yes, the upcoming event will feature Christopher Lydon onstage with Trillin, and a portion of the proceeds will go to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute , but the higher price is a sign of change, too.

Frank Kramer, owner of Harvard Book Store, the event's sponsor, said the price of admission to appearances by some high-profile authors will climb this year as the store seeks to cover the costs of its reading series. "Look what it costs to go to a ball game or to go to a concert," he said. Still, the public expects readings to be free. Both he and Dana Brigham, manager and co-owner of Brookline Booksmith, acknowledge that.

Typically, only 10 percent of attendees buy the book, Brigham said. Sponsoring readings requires money and staff, to say nothing of lugging around cartons of unsold books.

Coming out
"The Show I'll Never Forget: 50 Writers Relive Their Most Memorable Concertgoing Experience," edited by Sean Manning (Da Capo)

"The Song Is You," by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)

"Breakpoint" by Richard Clarke (Putnam)

Pick of the week
David Quammen, science journalist and author of "The Reluctant Mr. Darwin," recommends "Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code," by Matt Ridley (HarperCollins): "Crick was a wonderful character as well as a toweringly important scientist, but what elevates this book above mere science-explication is Matt Ridley's voice, which is elegant, smart, lucid, and droll. How many other writers could make a history of molecular genomics read like a guilty pleasure?"

Jan Gardner can be reached at