I´m not expert either.
Photomatix is the most serious software to produce HDR. But there are many brands arriving to the market so check regularly on the net.
You can produce decent results starting with only one picture if the dynamic range of that picture isn't no broad (don't know if that's the appropiate word but I mean if there is not much difference between dark and light areas)
No sunny day. 1 shot
You can always (well, depending on your camera) manually take the necessary pictures to covert the whole range of the scene. F.e I took this picture with my F31 (no bracketing but Shutter Speed mode) altering the shutter speed from fast to slow though it wasn't enough as there is still a bit blown out area:
And finally a 3 exposures bracketing with the LX3 but no super bright sun that morning:
Hope this helps.
Unfortunately, sometimes, instead of changing cameras to get good pictures, you have to change the photographer.