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October 09, 1988|ELENA BRUNET

FREEDOM SONG A Personal Story of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement by Mary King (Quill / William Morrow: $12.95) Two years after four black students ordered Cokes at an all-white lunch counter at a North Carolina Woolworth's, defying the South's segregation laws and spurring the civil rights movement, Mary King first traveled to Nashville, Tenn., Atlanta, Ga., and Tuskegee, Ala., as part of a college "study tour" with Ohio Wesleyan University.

After graduating, she returned to work on a special race-relations project for the Southern college division of the YWCA, traveling with a black female college student and assessing "the extent of academic freedom in Southern colleges"--potentially courting "a head-on conflict with legalized segregation."

In 1963, Mary King joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) staff and worked four years in the communications section.

Hers is a personal account. "I am a white woman writing about my experience working in a mostly black, largely male-led organization." The movement gave King a political definition, but also gave her political identification as a woman. In an unconventional, yet thought-provoking conclusion, King argues that the civil rights movement lit the fire under women to demand equal rights and launched the feminist movement.

TROUBLE IS MY BUSINESS by Raymond Chandler (Vintage Books: $8.95)

The 12 short stories in this volume are precursors for Raymond Chandler's longer detective novels, which feature Chandler's famous hero, Philip Marlowe. (Marlowe is vividly prefigured in the detective persona that Chandler describes in his essay, "The Simple Art of Murder." See Endpapers, Page 15.)

In celebration of the centennial of Raymond Chandler's birth, Vintage Books has released a complete collection of his classic detective novels and shorter works of crime fiction.

The titles of the seven Philip Marlowe novels will be familiar to readers; many have been made into full-length feature films: "The Big Sleep," "Farewell, My Lovely," "The High Window," "The Lady in the Lake," "The Little Sister," "The Long Goodbye" and "Playback" (Vintage: $5.95 each).

Set in the California underworld--and starring gamblers, gangsters, blackmail, drugs, dangerous women and murder--these detective novels are told with Chandler's inimitably eloquent style of suspense.

OIL & HONOR The Texaco-Pennzoil Wars by Thomas Petzinger Jr. (Berkeley Books: $4.95) Gordon Getty, poet, composer and opera singer who inherited his family's 40% ownership of Getty Oil, agreed to a merger with J. Hugh Liedtke, chairman of Pennzoil. Four days later, Getty signed a contract handing Getty Oil over to Texaco's John McKinley. "By its own admission, Pennzoil had failed to secure a signed, formal contract for the deal," yet, in the lawsuit that ensued, the jury decided in Pennzoil's favor. The court of appeals upheld that ruling and fined Texaco more than $11.1 billion. Texaco subsequently filed for bankruptcy.

"Oil and Honor" is the story of the fight for Getty Oil, based on thousands of pages of sworn trial testimony and other court documents as well as more than 200 interviews by the Houston bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal.

CRAZY HEART by Thomas Cobb (Perennial Library/Harper & Row: $7.95) Bad Blake is on the road between Las Cruces, N.M., and Phoenix when one of his songs comes on the radio: "Slow Boat," the deejay announces, "by the late Bad Blake, one of the great ones."

Bad's been a great country Western rocker, but at 56 years old, with four ex-wives and a taste for drinking, his career is on the skids. His agent is thrilled when he can book him into a 10,000-seat arena, but only as an opening act for a kid Bad taught to sing and play guitar--Tommy Sweet.

Though demoralized, Bad can still get fired up to play "runs he hasn't played in years . . . finding new phrasings of the melody that demand answers" from the other instrumentalists. And he never loses his sense of humor: Bad teases Tommy: "Those are the goddamned ugliest boots I ever saw in my life. . . . Salesman threaten to shoot your dog?"

But Bad's an alcoholic from start to finish. Like the book, in reviewer Miles Beller's words, he "really just peters out." Nevertheless "Crazy Heart," Thomas Cobb's first novel, vividly captures the life of an aging musician and the world of music.

FISHES OF THE PACIFIC COAST by Gar Goodson, illustrated by Phillip J. Weisgerber (Stanford University Press: $7.95) An excellent guide, splendidly illustrated, to all known species of fish along the Pacific Coast--from Alaska to Peru, and including the Gulf of California and the Galapagos Islands. Intended as a guidebook for snorkelers, divers, aquarists as well as fishermen, this book carries the devastating news that bluefin tuna, sardines, herring, anchovies, salmon, sturgeon and many others are rapidly diminishing and will soon be extinct--"unless more attention is paid to their protection and preservation."

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