Hi! jrtroberts,I also own the books,and some of his chapter tutorials are a bit outdated for version 2.49a,but you can allways download the version tony(bugman_2000)used at the time he wrote the bookdownload either by the included CD or from [http://download.blender.org/release/].
I recomend using an older version of blender with the chapter tutorials from the book at least once if you want to get understand blender,but downloading is not necessary,as I have been there and i’m most like still there (stuck,frustrated,mad,etc.)but i’m not going to quit on blender yet! So far it has been a little difficult learning blender,the reason been that we as noob go digging to deep with learning how to walk instead of learning how crawl first.I,m almost a 100% sure that you can still fix that spec problem by just simply sitting back and taking a deep breath and observe your scene most likely it will be something simple like not turning off your spec button in your lights option,example if you have a three point light set up,try turning off the spec buttons functunality on two of the lights.Remember that you want spec to show from where your main light source is coming from,that type of illumanation is usually provided by a key light.The other two lights basically are use for,one softining shadows (fill light),two highlighthing the back of your shot(back light).A typical users setting for this type of light rig are keylight_(is up to you usually anything goes),recommended spot light_all values set to default except for the spot size(set to 60),and activate the auto(car icon)for the clip range,filllight_a hemi works great with an energy value of 0.5 and of course spec button disable,backlight_also a hemi with the energy level between 0.75 and 1 to get a rim light effect,spec disable on this one also.
Keep up the great work!