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Storytellers: New in September

August 14, 1988|KAREN STABINER

A student at Reed College in Portland, Ore., says that the verdant landscape of that heavily forested state is balding, thanks to the growing demand for paper: Now, instead of driving along a freeway bounded by endless trees on either side, she finds herself confronted, at regular intervals, by a blank patch. Then it's back to the forest, and then, another blank patch.

How those groves must tremble at the mere whisper of Judith Krantz's name. For the announcement of another Krantz best seller means that 500,000 copies worth of trees have gotten their marching orders, and that's just for the first printing. On the other hand, perhaps it's consolation to be sacrificed on the altar of the big book. At least a tree knows it hasn't died for nothing. Lots of people are going to pick it up.

TILL WE MEET AGAIN by Judith Krantz (Crown: $19.95; 544 pp.) In Till We Meet Again, Krantz's fifth, we meet the rebellious Eve Coudert, a Parisian singing sensation who leaves home and marries the elegant Paul de Lancel, scandalizing his so-proper family, before you can say sacre bleu and that's only the set-up for the stories of Freddy and Delphine, Eve's "astonishingly different but equally lawless, brave, willful, and outrageous daughters." Freddy ferries aircraft for the brave British soldiers in World War II, while Delphine is an actress who has a rather interesting, and intimate, physiological response to being placed in front of a camera. Each one has the requisite number of love affairs with the wrong men, or the right men at the wrong time--as well as ongoing trouble from half-brother Bruno, who empties the family's champagne cellars for his Nazi friends.

If this sounds like another installment of Life Styles of the Rich and Fictional, it is--but, then again, thanks to the substantial research done on the extraordinary women of the British Air Transport Auxiliary, it isn't. And, of course, Freddy will be flying soon on a television set near you, since CBS and Steve Krantz Productions have a miniseries deal for this Literary Guild main selection.

BLACK WIND by F. Paul Wilson (TOR, distributed by St. Martin's Press: $18.95; 480 pp.) For those of you who believe that World War II is the only war worth reading about, there's also Black Wind by F. Paul Wilson. His hero, Frank Slater, thinks it's the best war around--that's why he's decided to set down the story of his friendship with Matsuo, who was his only friend and the nephew of the family gardener back when the Slaters were among San Francisco's wealthiest families. The Depression and the war change everything, of course, but Frank and Matsuo are fated to meet again and again, as they battle, not only as military officers for their respective homelands, but over the affections of Meiko, who is inconveniently betrothed to Matsuo's sinister older brother Hiriko.

Wilson is as much a Japanese historian as a novelist; unfortunately, integrating the details of Japanese custom and politics is not an easy task, and frequently the story grinds to a halt while Wilson fills in the background. But that does give the reader time to recover from the bloody confrontations between a strange sect of monks and their intended victims.

BUTTERFLY by Kathryn Harvey (Villard Books: $18.95; 496 pp.) The only thing spilled in Butterfly is champagne. Kathryn Harvey--she, and many of her characters, rely on pseudonyms--is poaching on Krantz turf here, with an amusingly X-rated twist. Butterfly is a brothel with a back-story: A Rodeo Drive brothel for upscale women, started by a mysterious woman with a past, natch, who has taken a remarkably long and winding road of revenge against a man who done her wrong, several years, and many plastic surgeries, ago. We get the whole sordid history--and, just to keep us from getting too depressed, we get Butterfly vignettes, fantasy sexual excursions that might be called soft-porn if they weren't dolled up in best-seller clothing.

To insure the moralist's vote, after all these successful professional women get done dressing up in funny clothes, or staging unenlightened rape scenarios, they all come to their senses and either find true love or leave a bad love behind. It's the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too school of contemporary fiction.

SHADOWS AND DREAMS by D.C. Richardson (Berkley: $3.95; 384 pp.) There are plenty of characters in D. C. Richardson's Hollywood novel, Shadows and Dreams, who might reasonably be expected to respond if someone hurled Pavel's epithet their way: If the movies were really run by people this dull, the writer's strike would be an act of charity. Great movie fiction hits all the keys--venality, greed, cunning, wrath, resentment, ennui--but this is a one-note samba of a book about Jane Turner, whose beauty far exceeds her talent, both of which leave her brains at the starting gate. Her love affair with a good man is unconvincing, and her love affair with a bad man is trite, but hit her with a spotlight and she positively glows. Richardson should be given a pickup truck full of saplings and a shovel and sent north, to replenish the paper stock.

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