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Beach Browsing : Summertime . . . and the Reading Is Easy

July 06, 1986|Jack Miles | Times Book Editor

Mr. Majestyk, Elmore Leonard (Mysterious Press: $3.95). Isn't this the same "Mr. Majestyk" of several years ago? Yes, indeed, as a reissue. Just as one can't hear the song, "On the Good Ship Lollypop," from the lips of anyone but Shirley Temple, neither can one read this character study of a beleaguered Arizona melon grower without casting Charles Bronson as the laconic, and deadly, Vincent Majestyk. Which is exactly what Hollywood did. Confronted by a crooked cop and the mob who wants to tell him who to hire for his fields, what's a peace-loving man supposed to do? You got it--blow everyone away in one unrelieved blood bath. Brain tired? Plot complexities a bore? Have we got a book for you!

Stillwatch, Mary Higgins Clark (Dell: $4.50). "Stay Tuned" might have been a better title, for this tale of pseudo-intrigue in Washington's hip and beautiful circles of power has all the depth of a failed TV pilot. TV characters do all sorts of TV things. The plot, as such, has to do with an idealist television reporter doing a profile of a senator from Virginia who is within a mascara's brush stroke of the vice presidency. The senator is assisted by her own personal hit man. The reporter's sidekick happens to be a hip, beautiful and available congressman from Pennsylvania who does more leg work than a Capitol page. Sure.

The Cat Who Saw Red, by Lilian Jackson Braun (Jove: $2.95). It helps . . . no, let's amend that to say that it's essential to like cats to appreciate, fully, this off-the-wall murder story featuring newspaper reporter Jim Qwilleran and his two Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum. If you can accept the premise that we have two cats here with an instinct for solving crimes then you're more than halfway home. Most of the action centers in a weird, Gothic boardinghouse in the Midwest run by a lawyer-gourmet cook who tests his recipes on his pliant tenants--two of whom turn up missing. Which does not give the plot away. All of this is very much tongue-in-cheek-bordering-on-arch.

Help the Poor Struggler, Martha Grimes (Dell: $3.50). Grimes' low-key ace, Scotland Yard detective Richard Jury, returns to solve a series of horrible child murders in Dartmoor, where Sherlock Holmes' Hound of the Baskervilles once roamed. This time, Jury teams with a fiery and well-drawn local cop named Brian Macalvie. Macalvie is haunted by an unsolved murder of 20 years before--the only case he's never solved--and approaches the heinous murders of three local school kids with a hunch that there's a connection. The hunch pans out, of course, and the unlikely investigative duo winds up working two crimes two decades apart. The murder scenes are not for the squeamish, but the story holds together well despite the blood and gore.

Mr. Moto Is So Sorry, John P. Marquand (Little, Brown: $3.95). One of the most unlikely heroes in the annals of intrigue, Japanese super-agent I. A. Moto serves his emperor and the cause of the Co-Prosperity Sphere. One of three Moto books being reissued this summer by Little, Brown (the others are "Your Turn, Mr. Moto" and "Thank You, Mr. Moto"), this 1936 novel is full of all the nasty, deadbeat weasels you'd expect to find on a mysterious trek from Japan to Mongolia during the Japanese expansion. At the center of the action are Americans Calvin Gates, a card-carrying flop, and artist Sylvia Dillaway, a brash, tough cookie destined to break your heart if you don't take a fall first. Keep your eye on that cigarette case. The Russian let it out of his sight, and he wound up with a bullet between his eyes.


To Get Rich Is Glorious: China in the '80s, Orville Schell (New American Library: $3.95). This is an unsettling stroll through Deng Xiaoping's "open door," dazzling with the disturbing symbolism of the new China. Pedicabs are back. Vanity is in. Superstition and executions are on the rise. Rodents are out of control because born-again entrepreneurs are trapping hawks for gourmet food. But few Chinese officials seem to see the link between the "evil wind" and the new economic policies. A longtime China watcher, Orville Schell has a wonderful, sharp eye. Among the garbled T-shirt slogans visible on Chinese city streets, "Uncle Sam's Misguided Children, Beijing, China."

The Tunnels of Cu Chi, Tom Mangold and John Penycate (Berkley: $3.95). The Vietnam War above ground was treacherous enough. Below ground, in a triple-decker warren of tunnels and chambers where the Viet Cong shrugged off surface offensive by shell and napalm, it was a blind battle in a subterranean slaughter house. They hid. We sought. Death was often by knife blade or bare hands and man's greatest handicaps in this creepy, crawling combat were human emotions and a sense of fair play. British broadcast journalists Tom Mangold and John Penycate are masterful guides through an era of modern combat they were the first to fully chronicle.

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