The highly anticipated memoir by three Americans taken prisoner in Iran during the summer of 2009 arrives in bookstores this month. A study of marine life around the world and a baseball-related detective novel are also among this month's new releases by Bay Area authors.

  • "A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran" by Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 336 pages) It was a beautiful day in the hills of Iraqi Kurdistan when American hikers Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd wandered off course and unwittingly crossed the border into Iran. By now, many Americans know what happened to the three friends in the summer of 2009: Apprehended by the Iranian border patrol, they were imprisoned on suspicion of being spies and eventually moved to the political ward of Tehran's infamous Evin Prison. Bauer, an investigative journalist and photographer, and Fattal, a historian with a background in environmental sustainability, spent more than two years in prison; Shourd, a writer, editor and educator who became Bauer's fiancée, was held in solitary confinement for 410 days.

    With "A Sliver of Light," the three finally give their own accounts of the ordeal. Told in alternating chapters, the authors recount the confusion of their arrest, the shock of being incarcerated, the torment of interrogation -- and the feelings of despair they experienced as they contemplated the possibility of dying in prison. Initially kept blindfolded, they organized several hunger strikes before being moved to Evin. After Shourd was released, she worked tirelessly on behalf of Bauer and Fattal. It's clear from their narratives that all three were changed irrevocably; Shourd writes eloquently of the episodes of fear and panic that persisted after she had returned to the United States. Yet "A Sliver of Light" is the record of a human rights triumph, a moving memoir by three individuals who found the strength to survive. Bauer, Fattal and Shourd will make Bay Area appearances March 27 at Berkeley Arts and Letters, March 28 at the Commonwealth Club, and March 31 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

  • "The Extreme Life of the Sea" by Stephen R. Palumbi and Anthony R. Palumbi (Princeton University Press, $27.95, 256 pages) From the claustrophobic oppression of life in prison, we move to the almost incomprehensible expanse of the earth's oceans. In "The Extreme Life of the Sea," biologist Stephen R. Palumbi, who directs the Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford University, and his son, Anthony R. Palumbi, deliver a fascinating survey of the underwater world. They begin in 1909, with the discovery of the Burgess Shale -- a site in British Columbia where the fossils of more than 65,000 marine creatures were found, giving scientists a snapshot of life "taken about 505 million years ago." Life as we know it evolved from these "random spare parts," say the authors, who go on to catalog the current inhabitants of the seas. Highlights include chapters on the resilient bowhead whale and the amazing clownfish, which changes gender as needed; giant tube worms, glass sponges and the Antarctic krill, of which there are an estimated 800 trillion, "outnumbering human beings 100,000 times over." As fascinating as they make these discoveries, the Palumbis offer more than a slide show; the book outlines the threats to the oceans, urging specific changes to preserve its complex ecologies. Meet the authors April 15 at the Commonwealth Club and May 18 at the Tech Museum in San Jose.

  • "The Setup Man" by T. T. Monday (Doubleday, $24.95, 288 pages) Pity poor Johnny Adcock. As a 35-year-old relief pitcher with the San Jose Bay Dogs, he's seen better days. But Johnny's got a pretty good backup plan. Moonlighting as a private investigator, he works "the ugly side of baseball," delving into the dirty little secrets that coaches, agents and his fellow players don't want the public to see. When his teammate, backup catcher Frankie Herrera, is found dead in a car with a 17-year-old prostitute, Johnny decides to find out why -- and uncovers a case involving porn, drugs and a nasty cartel operating in various baseball towns. "The Setup Man" is the first novel by Monday, who lives in San Jose; smart and snappy in the old-school tradition of detective fiction, with all the twists readers expect from contemporary noir, the book should score with mystery aficionados and baseball fans alike. Could this be the start of a series? Ask Monday when he reads from the book April 1 at Books Inc. in Mountain View.

    Contact Georgia Rowe at growe@pacbell.net.