FICTION

The Last Adam , by James Gould Cozzens (Carroll & Graf, $4.95). Cozzens's early novel about a bumbling veterinarian and a typhoid epidemic in a small Connecticut town has ambitious plotting and characterization. It will be of major interest to those who regard his Guard of Honor and By Love Possessed as modern American masterpieces.

The Grandmothers , by Glenway Wescott (Arbor House, $6.95). The career of Glenway Wescott has been one of the most interesting in American letters. As a young man, he established his fame with this novel -- a series of linked stories, based on a family album -- and confirmed it with Goodbye, Wisconsin. Soon Wescott was in Paris, where he knew everyone from Hemingway to Stein. His next achievement, The Pilgrim Hawk, is one of the greatest examples of the short novel -- a quartet of figures who interact in a dance as subtle as that of Ford's The Good Soldier. But then in the '40s Wescott seemed to lose his way: he wrote a couple lesser books, worked on voluminous journals (which will be published posthumously and are filled with the kind of gossip that Truman Capote hoped to incorporate into Answered Prayers), served as president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and began the genteel rural life on a farm in New Jersey that he still enjoys. This reissue, it may be hoped, will reintroduce a fine writer to a new generation.

NONFICTION

Sea of Slaughter, by Farley Mowat (Bantam, $9.95). Farley Mowat, the great Canadian celebrator of vanished and vanishing ways of life -- Never Cry Wolf, The People of the Deer -- considers this to be his most important book: a comprehensive indictment of mostly Canadian and U.S. policies that have led to the drastic reduction of wildlife along the Northeastern seaboard. Among the creatures so jeopardized is the black bear, against which, Mowat writes, no one has ever been been able to establish a case "as a species inimical to human enterprise." Nonetheless, the bears are extinct on Prince Edward Island and greatly reduced everywhere else, thanks in no small part to a Canadian recommendation that hunters be allowed to kill 30,000 of them a year. For his final chapter he saves the seals -- a modest success story, in that the opponents of their slaughter "are slowly gaining ground."

Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD, and the Sixties Rebellion , by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain (Grove, $12.95). Aficionados of '60s acid -- or at least of the counterculture it came to symbolize -- will remember Owsley, Augustus Owsley Stanley III, the mass-producer of the LSD that kept the Haight-Ashbury stoned. What they may not know is what a bizarre person Owsley was. "What can you say," the authors of this volume wonder, "about someone who ate four steaks a day because he was convinced that vegetables were poison? What indeed? What you can say about the '60s is that they were an extraordinarily colorful and energetic decade. This funny and irreverent book brings it all back.

The Chief: A Memoir of Fathers and Sons , by Lance Morrow (Collier/Macmillan, $8.95). The author's father for 20 years was Nelson Rockefeller's speech writer and press secretary; he himself writes for Time magazine; between them they have seen much of the world from privileged vantages. Their relationship -- that of stern father and rebel son -- is not unusual -- members of most families know well the gradations of guilt and love. What is unique about this memoir is the poignant intensity of its writing, as the son explores the emotional complexities of the father's divorce, the son's religious conversion, the death by cancer of a 17-year-old brother, the birth of a son and grandson. In Advance of the Landing: Folk Concepts of Outer Space , by Douglas Curran (Abbeville Press, $16.95). Curran, a photographer and reporter, toured the country in search of flying saucer cults; this delightful book records his encounters with people who live in houses filled with electronic sensing equipment, who gather on hillsides to welcome our Space Brothers, and who dress up in elaborate, albeit tacky, costumes for the Unarius Conclave of Light. Curran reports on all these people with skeptical sympathy, the result pure pleasure for anyone who enjoys the wilder shores of human belief.

American Design Ethic: A History of Industrial Design , by Arthur J. Pulos (MIT Press, $22.50). Tinkerers, inventors, engineers -- Americans have always been makers of better mousetraps, sturdier chairs, sleeker trains, more efficient stoves, faster cars. This hefty history, replete with illustrations, traces the developent of American design and attempts to understand what makes a product particularly American.

Pioneering the Space Frontier: The Report of he National Commission on Space (Bantam, $14.95). Despite tragedy and setback, there can be no turning away from the exploration of space -- this is the final frontier and Americans have always been frontiersmen. This report, written in clear, jargon-free prose (but with some daunting graphs), describes the likely future of the space program -- unmanned probes, international cooperation, new technology.

Funny Money by Mark Singer (Laurel, $5.95). This highly-praised example of non-deadline reporting -- it appeared about three years after the main event -- is the story of how a small bank failure in Oklahoma City almost led to the undoing of several of America's largest banks. The time was the late '70s and early '80s -- oil-boom days for Oklahoma (by now a bygone era). Bonanza-hungry investors were agog with tips about geologic formations "as exciting as a trip to Jupiter," and the bank in question ran a loose ship. To witty author Mark Singer it resembled nothing so much as "a delinquent pupil in a permissive boarding school . . . who has a cheerful demeanor but nevertheless can offer no satisfactory explanation of how the Founding Fathers diorama came to rest in the chapel belfry." This is a book that refutes anyone operating on the prejudice that business reporting must be dull.

Adventure Travel North America and Adventure Travel Abroad , by Pat Dickerman (Henry Holt, $12.95 each). These twin books are shopping guides to outfitters in the adventure-travel business. One of the least bold endeavors available in their pages is backpacking; other choices include ballooning, dog sledding, and -- a neologism -- "jeeping." The color photos make virtually every trip look like supreme slide-show material, and the information is current. One suspects that the first of the two books will far outsell the second in this season of seeing America -- and opting for safety -- first.

Wilderness Writings , by Theodore Roosevelt (Peregrine Smith, $5.95). In addition to busting trusts and carrying the big stick, President Theodore Roosevelt conducted a love-affair with American wilderness. His was the last recorded sighting f the passenger pigeon in the wild (here chronicled in ""Small Country Neighbors") -- a species that shortly afterwards became extinct. He went camping with John Muir, helped found the Boone and Crockett Club (devoted to the preservation of the Yellowstone country), and was thought to be the world's foremost expert on big game -- an achievement that had everything to do with his hunting it. Contemporary conservationists may bridle at T.R.'s blood lust, but they will find much to admire in his fine prose and infectious enthusiasm for the great American wilds.

A Dynasty of Western Outlaws , by Paul I. Wellman (University of Nebraska Press, $8.95). The thesis of this unusual book is that the great gangs of the Wild West -- the James Boys, the Dalton gang, Belle Starr and her gang -- were all linked in "a long and crooked train of unbroken personal connections" and that their example strongly influenced such 20th-century desperadoes as Pretty Boy Floyd. The fountainhead of all this mayhem was the Quantrill Raiders, the Civil War guerrillas operating in Missouri, whose number included Frank and Jesse James. Though Wellman got some of his facts wrong, his main argument has been confirmed by later historians (the book first appeared in 1961), and his emphasis on popular sympathy for the outlaws has solidifed into the concept of the "social bandit" -- one whose outlawry is met with widespread approval by law-abiding society.

An Open Elite? England 1540-1880 , by Lawrence Stone and Jeanne C. Fawtier Stone (Oxford University Press, $10.95). This historical study questions the widely-accepted thesis that the English landed aristocracy perpetuated itself by affording easy access to newly wealthy members of the mercantile class. Professor Stone (he holds a chair at Princeton) and his wife argue that the influx of outsiders into landed society was far smaller than generally supposed and that there were "delicate but infinitely resistant lines of snobbery" that few newcomers could cross. The elite was primarily open, they conclude, in the opposite direction, by virtue of the ease with which younger sons could fall out of it -- a departure from the situation in continental Europe, where primogeniture was not so rigidly practiced. Among other evidence for their revisionist position, the authors cite the depiction of minute social gradations in the novels of Austen, Thackeray, amd Trollope. In the main, however, they rely on a painstaking examination of the composition of the elite itself. This is a fascinating book for the serious Anglophile.

MYSTERY

urder by Remote Control , by Jamwillem van de Wetering, designed and illustrated by Paul Kirchner (Available Press, $4.95). A man cries, "Aaaargh." A low-flying model plane dips its wings and kills him with a "Wak." A dog goes "Bow wow wow." On one page the steam from a cup of coffee serves to separate one panel from the next. Marilyn Monroe and Elvis make cameo appearances. All of these impossibilities become possible in the world of the comic strip -- of which this mystery novel is a variation. The writer is no slouch -- Janwillem van de Wetering, a Dutch-born novelist with a large international following. The artist, Paul Kirchner, hangs his work in the likes of Heavy Metal magazine. Their collaboration, which is not necesarily for kids, is stylishly amusing.