ROMMEL & THE REBEL by Lawrence Wells (Doubleday: $17.95). Some time back, Lawrence Wells, publisher of the Yoknapatawpha Press in Oxford, Miss., came across an old local newspaper clipping that told of a 1937 visit to his state by several German military officers. What they had come to see was the Civil War battlefield at Brice's Crossroads, where Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest defeated a Union force twice his size. This seemingly insignificant little news item set Wells' creative hammers banging, and he pounded out "Rommel & the Rebel," an imaginary but convincing account of a pre-World War II visit to the United States by the Desert Fox himself.
As the tale begins, Erwin Rommel and his Nazi companions arrive in New York City, go to a New York Giants baseball game, climb skyscrapers, stroll around Central Park and do other touristy things that provide Wells a chance to set up some very funny scenes. But the real reason the future Feldmarschall of the Afrika Corps has come to America is to get a first-hand inspection of Forrest's tactical terrain, and soon Rommel finds himself cruising the dark country roads of north Mississippi, accompanied by a young U.S. Army escort officer, Lt. Max Speigner, a former German language major at Ole Miss, now assigned to collect intelligence on Nazi commanders.