NONFICTION

Man Ray: Photographs , introduction by Jean-Hubert Martin, with three texts by Man Ray (Thames and Hudson, $24.95). Cocteau once called Man Ray "the great poet of the darkroom," and this lavish album makes clear why. Here are marvelous portraits of the great Surrealist writers and painters, erotic nudes, strange experiments with light and double exposure, Dali-like tableaux, bizarre landscapes, outrageous group pictures. For anyone captivated by the culture of the '20s and '30s, this is an essential book, both in itself and for its images of the great: Virginia Woolf, Erik Satie, Tristan Tzara, Stravinsky, T.S. Eliot, Eisenstein, Picasso.

The Journals of Thornton Wilder 1939-1961 , edited by Donald Gallup (Yale University Press, $13.95). Equally renowned as a playwright (Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth, The Matchmaker) and a novelist (The Bridge of San Luis Rey, The Ides of March), Thornton Wilder kept a sporadic journal, primarily as a vehicle for trying out approaches to his creative projects. Here, for example, he reflects on the writing of The Skin of Our Teeth: "It presents problems so vast and a need of inspiration so constant that all I can do is to continue daily to write it anyhow in order to keep unobstructed the channels from the subconscious and to maintain that subconscious in a state of ferment." Most playgoers who have seen a good production of Skin would conclude that Wilder eventually cut those "vast" problems down to size.

Swing to Bop: An Oral History of the Transition in Jazz in the 1940s , By Ira Gitler (Oxford University Press, $8.95). At the heart of this volume are interviews with about 50 jazz musicians who helped create the style of music known as bop or be-bop. Ira Gitler's thesis is that younger musicians in the late 1930s and '40s were struggling for a form of expression outside of the arrangement-dominated big bands. In a series of interviews with figures such as Shelley Manne, Dexter Gordon, Billy Taylor and Jimmy Rowles, Gitler evokes the rise, decline and fall of that freer, more idiosyncratic form of jazz.

Our Nature , by Bil Gilbert (University of Nebraska Press, $7.50). Here are 14 essays on topics as diverse as the last fresh, free-flowing spring on Manhattan Island (the author isn't revealing its location); Carl Linnaeus, the 18th-century Swede who devised the classification system; and the wild parrots that have roamed far from some undetermined jungle to take up residence in a downtown Chicago park. Bil Gilbert is a savvy naturalist and consummate stylist, and these pieces represent expository prose at its most pleasing and informative.

Strategies for Mobilizing Black Voters: Four Case Studies , edited by Thomas E. Cavanagh (Joint Center for Political Studies, 1301 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20004; $8.95). This study of ways to get black voters to go to the polls focuses on four voter turnout efforts: the 1983 mayoral campaigns in Chicago, Philadelphia and Birmingham, Ala., and the 1982 congressional campaign of Mickey Michaux in the 2nd District of North Carolina. It begins with an analysis of the factors that make people vote, then continues with extensive examinations of each of the four campaigns, including the background of the campaign and strategies to register voters and ensure a high turnout. The book concludes with an attempt to identify what goes into a successful voter-registration and turnout effort.

MYSTERIES

A Dark-Adapted Eye , by Barbara Vine (Bantam, $3.95). The first mystery here is the identity of Barbara Vine. Her publishers give the answer away on the book's cover: it is the brilliant English mystery writer Ruth Rendell resorting to a pseudonym. The book itself is a departure from the whodunit tradition in that we know almost from the outset who the killer is. The tantalizing question on which the book -- this year's Edgar winner -- turns is: Whom did she kill? As ever, Rendell has delivered a cunning plot and fashioned credible, compelling characters.

The Mammoth Book of Modern Crime Stories , edited by George Hardinge (Carroll & Graf, $8.95). This fat and reasonably priced anthology really ought to have the word English in its title: its 40 stories have been culled from the annual Winter's Crime collections published by Macmillan. The writers represented range from giants like Eric Ambler, Agatha Christie and Julian Symons to current practitioners so deft that they have transcended the label of genre-writers: Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, Patricia Highsmith. Highly recommended for Anglophiles, chill-seekers and devotees of double-crosses.