In the spy business, it's called "jumping blind," said Joseph Persico, author of "Piercing the Third Reich", a book about some 200 Americans who did just that-bailed out of planes over Germany during World War II to spy on the Third Reich.

"An agent like that was jumping blind into a hostile place," said Persico, "where there were no reliable means of communication and no structure of resistance on the ground. It was rather brash to emback on the mission."

Persico, with James A. Michener, whose latest novel is "Chesapeake," and Cynthis Propper Seton, author of "A Glorious Third", spoke at The Washington Post Book and Author Luncheon yesterday at the Sheraton Park Hotel.

Michener, the author of numerous books, including "Hawaii," "The Source," and "Centennial," talked about those he hasn't had a chance to write. "I got four-fifths of the way through a novel on Mexico," he said, "which could have been very good, but things got off the track. I also drafted a very stunning thing on the Caribbean, but I never wrote it.

"But the book I'm saddest about not writing," he continued, "is the story of Islam. Think how valuable that would be if I'd written that 20 years ago . . . But there are only to many hours of the day."

Seton's novel, "A Glorious Third," revolves around the coming of age (at age 45) of wife and mother Celia Dupont during the late-'60s turbulence and "sexual permissiveness," as Seton called it.

"I say I write comedy," said Seton. "I grew up in the '30s when we really believed things should have happy endings. And I cling to this. My characters aren't dizzy and dopey, though. But they do turn out better at the end."