IT HARDLY SEEMS like you've had time to sweep those brittle needles out of the corner where the Christmas tree was standing when along comes Valentine's Day, the Easter Bunny and 43 trillion new books to look at. John le Carr,e? You've got him. Ditto Dick Francis, Trevanian, Joseph Wambaugh, and Diane Johnson on Dashiell Hammett. You can even look forward to a book of the comic strips created by Hammett himself back in the '30s, Dashiell Hammett's Secret Agent X-9 (Academy Chicago). That's a start, anyway, if you like suspense. If you don't, consider, perhaps, the letters of P.T. Barnum or those written to E.T. One notices a life of Margaret Mitchell and another of "Magic" Johnson, biographies of two great lovers, Joe DiMaggio and Charles Boyer; Joan Didion on El Salvador and David Hockney and Stephen Spender together on China; Norah Lofts and Nora Ephron; Prince Charles' valet; everything from quarks to the Donner party. As usual.
What there are fewer of: video game manuals and cat books. What looks to be holding their own: diet and exercise books. (But, then, so are those bulges, aren't they?) In a crowded field, "Book Report's" favorite among the fat-off titles is The Science Fiction Weight-Loss Book (Crown/April). This is a short story collection, actually, and if you want to slim by its methods, you'll probably have to be willing to leave this solar system. Cookbooks--a more agreeable topic, I always think--invariably exist in about the same proportion each season as their opposite number, the reducing guides. (The notion that publishing fewer new recipes might whittle the populace down a few inches around the middle has never caught on as a system, I'm happy to say.) Eggs, p.at,es, relishes, popcorn and all manner of other kinds of specialty cookbooks abound; if it's digestible, the recipe for it will eventually find its way to the chef it's meant for. Or onto your dinner plate.
Do two chess novels constitute a trend? Probably not, but the shelf of Gandhi titles looks like it will continue to lengthen. Though the divorce rate is apparently heading downwards, books to help one through the experience continue to dot the lists, as do this category's opposite number, the wedding planners. There are two aids to writing for the romance market--How to Write a Romance and Get It Published: With Intimate Advice from the World's Most Popular Romance Writers by Kathryn Falk (Crown/June) and How to Write Romance Novels That Sell by Marilyn M. Lowery (Rawson/May). Then there's a volume for tall women, The Height Report by Judy Bachrach and Claudia DeMonte (Andrews and McMeel/April), as well as a reprinted one for those females of shorter stature, Allison Kyle Leopold and Anne Marie Cloutier's Short Chic (Bantam/April). Who'll want the data contained within the pages of Building the Herreshoff Dinghy by Barry Thomas (Stephen Greene Press/June)? Or in the Wonderful World of Bee Pollen by Joe Parkhill (Caroline House)? To wander through the publishers' seasonal announcements is often to feel like Alice . . . curiouser and curiouser.
"Book Report" does take a somewhat irreverent view of the ritual of assimilating all this data, if only as an antidote to the your-eyes-are-growing-heavier syndrome liable to result. Herewith, then, a few more titles that seem curious, and probably won't be nominated for National Book Critics Circle awards. Omar Sharif's Life in Bridge by Omar Sharif, translated by Terence Reese (Faber and Faber/June). Build Your Own Vatican by Alan Rose (Perigee/April). The Naughty Nineties: A Saucy Pop-Up For Adults Only (Price/Stern/Sloan). (No comment. This is a family newspaper.) And what sounds like a companion volume, Scripophily by Keith Hollender (Facts on File); however, the subtitle--Collecting Bonds and Stock Certificates --clears everything up. Next to last: the publisher of the following seems appropriately named: Leonid I. Brezhnev: His Life and Work, with a foreword by the late, great man himself (Sphinx Press/distributed by Frederick Fell). And, finally, in the suprising publicity vein, the people who bring you The Christian Mother Goose (Decker Press) are promising "national hot-air balloon appearances." Again, no comment.