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NEW YORK — WHY LET DEATH STAND IN THE WAY OF A GOOD STORY? Fans of the fictional detective Nero Wolfe gathered in New York not long ago to celebrate the publication of "Murder in E Minor" (Bantam), the first revival of the Wolfe Pack's favorite sleuth since the death of his creator, Rex Stout, in 1975. Written by Chicago journalist Robert Goldsborough, the book centers around the slaying of a famous philharmonic conductor, a case that entices Wolfe to come out of retirement. The new novel about the corpulent, orchid-loving detective has been published with full cooperation of the estate of Rex Stout. Said Barbara Stout, explaining why the family had finally agreed to re-create the Nero Wolfe character, "We wanted to do it with someone who cared about the characters and my father."

MOBILIZATION? The Book Review was somewhat disconcerted to receive on March 26 a large box containing about 1,000 copies of "It's Your Move," the American Forces Information Service for members of the Armed Forces who are about to change residence. The box came addressed personally to Jack Miles. There was no covering letter.

HOW DO YOU SPELL DISARMAMENT?: Late one wintry night last year, Dartmouth College student Eric Semler was holed up in Baker Library, poring over a newspaper article on nuclear issues. When he came across "some words that seemed incomprehensible, very technical," he began seeking out a dictionary that might define the language of this nuclear era.

Suffice it to say that he found none, not even in the largest undergraduate library in the country. Later, while working as an intern with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament in Geneva, Semler "sprung this idea on my director, about actually writing a nuclear dictionary." By the time Semler, now a 20-year-old Dartmouth junior, returned to school, he was ready to collaborate with fellow students Adam Gross, Jim Benjamin and Sarah Rosenfield on the project that became "Coming to Terms With Nuclear War: Everyone's Guide to Nuclear Weapons Terminology." In it, Semler and his cohorts use clear, simple prose to define more than 1,500 nuclear terms. The four received credit for the project, but better yet, they just snared a $10,000 advance from Harper & Row.

The goal, Semler said, was to help demystify the nuclear age. "I think the issue itself is the most important, urgent, critical issue of our time," Semler said. "It's the one issue where the outcome has the potential to devastate every one of us. But it's clear today that the general public perceives the arms race as an issue that is beyond its control and comprehension. I want my dictionary to help encourage readers to take a more active role in the nuclear discussion, or at least to understand what the experts are talking about. I just want people to be concerned."

A Russian major from Portland, Ore., Semler will carry the dictionary with him to Stockholm in June when he serves for four months as the first student intern to the U.S. Delegation to the Conference on Confidence and Security Building Measures and Disarmament in Europe.

BATTER UP: In his new autobiography from Times Books, San Diego Padres first baseman Steve Garvey reveals "there might be a future for me in public service." "Real communication" takes place in all the travels, "all the hand-shaking, all the autographing," he writes in "Garvey" (co-written with Skip Rozin). Garvey discloses that he is "gratified" to see how many people share his own "basically conservative, methodical approach toward society and its flaws." Garvey says he has talked to representatives of both parties, and that he is giving "serious consideration" to the prospect of politics. But he does have his reservations: "Can I, getting involved with politics this late, be effective? At what level would I enter, and when? Those questions must be answered."

SETTLING UP: Viking Press has agreed to an out-of-court settlement to satisfy a suit brought by the widow of a man who claimed Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy libeled her and her husband. Marie Maguire of Albany had asserted that an anecdote in Kennedy's "O Albany!" libeled her and her late husband John, who died in January. The passage in question recounts a story that John Maguire supposedly told about receiving money to vote a certain way at the polls. Maguire's lawyer, Jonathan Lubell of New York City, said the story was not true. A former colleague of Maguire's at the Albany Times Union in the 1950s, Kennedy said of the matter, "This was unnecessary. A phone call from John Maguire would have been enough for me to eliminate the story, if that was what he wanted." The amount of the settlement was not disclosed.

BRAIN TRUST: Scholars write books, but the big assumption behind University Press Books/New York is that big-brained types will also buy books. It worked in Berkeley, certainly, at the 11-year-old University Press Books/Berkeley. But the new shop at Union Square here says it is Gotham's first bookstore to deal only with academic presses. University Press Books/New York opened with about 10,000 titles from more than 75 university presses and hopes to expand to as many as 30,000 titles. The space and free rent for the new operation are being provided by the New School, just around the corner.

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