FICTION Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine , by Ann Hood (Bantam, $6.95). This, one of the first titles in the Bantam New Fiction imprint, examines the lives of three women, college roommates from the '60s. One, Suzanne, has a child by a poet, then earns her MBA and refuses to tell her daughter about her father. Another, Claudia, marries and then is almost destroyed by the death of her son. And the third, Elizabeth, desperately ill, tries to remain true to the values she espoused in the '60s. Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine is also the story Suzanne's daughter's search for her father, and the love between the children of Claudia and Elizabeth.

Whitewater , by Paul Horgan (University of Texas Press, $10.95). Before there was Larry McMurtry's The Last Picture Show, there was Paul Horgan's Whitewater. Like the former, it is a sensitive and moving story of teen-age life in a rural Texas town. In Belvedere (population 5,000), Phil Durham and his friends Billy Breedlove and Marilee Underwood undergo the pleasures and torments of young love. Their journey to adulthood ends in tragedy for two of the friends, but not before the author marvelously evokes life in Depression America.

The Blotting Book , by E.F. Benson (Hogarth Press, $7.95). Best-known for his Mapp and Lucia series, E.F. Benson was also a scaremonger of note. Some of his horror stories still horrify -- "The Room in the Tower" and "Caterpillars," for example. And this novel, one of the progenitors of the classic British mystery, bristles with elegant suspense as it ushers its upper-class characters from their mansions to the harsh reality of a criminal courtroom.


Thinking Machines: The Search for Artificial Intelligence , by Igor Aleksander and Piers Burnett (Knopf, $17.95). Though computers can store vast amounts of information and solve complicated mathematical problems, they aren't really intelligent. This book about artificial intelligence examines such questions as: What would a "thinking machine" be like? What is the difference between human and artificial intelligence? And what purposes might an intelligent machine serve? The authors discuss ways of telling whether a machine can really think such as the Turing Test: A human asks questions of another human and a machine, without knowing which answers come from man and which from machine. If, argued British mathematician Alan Turing, the human interrogator cannot tell machine from human by the answers, the machine can be called intelligent.

Companion to Narnia , by Paul F. Ford (Collier, $10.95);

The Latin Letters of C.S. Lewis , by Martin Moynihan (Bookmakers Guild, 1430 Florida Avenue, Suite 202, Longmont, Col. 80501, $4.95). These two books suggest, yet again, some of the amazing range of C.S. Lewis. The first offers a detailed dictionary of the major characters, themes and events in the Narnia chronicle (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and its sequels), but with such thoroughness that these 450 pages, with diagrams and maps, also function as a major critical work. The Latin Letters is, by contrast, a 48-page pamphlet about Lewis' correspondence, conducted in Latin, with an Italian priest. Moynihan traces the growth of their epistolary friendship, discusses the religious issues raised and translates passages.


The Maker of Dune: Insights of a Master of Science Fiction , by Frank Herbert; edited and with introduction by Tim O'Reilly (Berkley, $7.95). If you were to poll readers, the odds are that Frank Herbert's Dune would emerge the most popular post-war science fiction novel. This collection of essays -- posthumous, alas -- gathers some two dozen articles, interviews and essays by Herbert, though only a few deal primarily with writing. Here are pieces on ecology, man's future in space, flying saucers, as well as a small dossier of material on the creation of Dune. Especially useful for collectors will be the extensive Herbert bibliography, listing magazine appearances as well as first and currently available editions.

Demons! , edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois (Ace, $3.50). Despite the trademark exclamation point, this series -- which includes Mermaids!, Unicorns!, Sorcerers! and several others -- is well-thought-out and altogether winning. This latest volume, featuring stories by Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Lucius Shepard and several others, makes clear that Dr. Faustus was hardly alone in finding contracts with the devil generally make for bad business deals in the end. Still, as Anthony Boucher reminds us in "Nellthu," sometimes you can cheat old Nick or his minions and get away with it. Besides the 14 stories included, editors Dozois and Dann also provide a six-page reading list.

Nightmares in Dixie: Thirteen Horror Tales from the American South , edited by Frank McSherry Jr., Charles G. Waugh and Martin Harry Greenberg (August House, Box 3223, Little Rock, Ark. 72203, $8.95; cloth, $19.95). Only New England can rival the South as a setting for horror fiction. (Has anyone ever written a scary story set in Nebraska or Michigan?) Poe, Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Flannery O'Connor have created a South of crumbling plantation houses, suppressed passions, degenerate hillbillies, a backdrop that these more conventional horror tales work with or against. Arranged by state, the stories include "Coven," by Manly Wade Wellman (Arkansas), "Dark Melody of Madness," by Cornell Woolrich (Louisiana) and "Cry Havoc," by David Grubb (West Virginia), as well as fine work by Jesse Stuart, John D. MacDonald, Ted White and Tom Reamy.