The Lost Get-Back Boogie , by James Lee Burke (Holt, $8.95). James Lee Burke's powerful, gripping novel begins on the day that Iry Paret, Korean war vet and some-time country musician, gets out of a Louisiana prison after serving two years for manslaughter. His father is dying of cancer and his brother and sister -- one in advertising, the other married to a rich lawyer -- can't understand why he wants to go back to playing the guitar in roadside taverns. So Paret leaves the bayou country and heads north to Montana, where a friend from prison, Buddy Riordan, lives on his father's ranch. But instead of finding new hope on his journey west, Paret only finds more trouble -- Riordan's father is fighting the owners of a pollution-causing paper mill, and the townspeople fear they will lose their jobs. Burke's prose is by turns taut and poetic and his portrait of a fundamentally decent man trying to do right -- but too often only able to do wrong -- is riveting.
The Weather and Women Treat Me Fair , by Percival Everett (August House, P.O. Box 3223, Little Rock, Ark. 72203; $6.95). In this collection of short stories, Percival Everett, the author of the novels Suder, Walk Me to the Distance and Cutting Lisa gives us the real and the exaggerated, the painful and the poignant. His characters are cowboys and painters, police and artists. In "A Real Hard Rain," a man who has bought a house on a hill feels vindicated when he and his family seem to be the only survivors of a state-wide flood. In "Cha'con, Cha'con," a scarred Mexican tough kills himself because he believes he has two sides -- one pure and good, the other evil and ugly. And in "Nice White People," a naive couple intent on going back to the land get bad advice from their Indian neighbors about rabbits, horses and weather.
Flight of the Intruder , by Stephen Coonts (Pocket Books, $4.95). Lt. Jake "Cool Hand" Grafton can land his A-6 Intruder on the heaving deck of an aircraft carrier in 2 1/2 seconds; he can fly his fighter-bomber through a deadly wall of North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles; and he can hit his target and return safely to ship. What he cannot do is see any sense in brave men being prevented from trying to win a bad war. Written by a former naval aviator, this first novel speaks movingly of the beauty of flight and the terror of aerial combat.
Yellowfish , by John Keeble (Perennial, $8.95). This adventure novel about the smuggling of would-be immigrants from China into the United States is rich in regional lore and offbeat meditations. The region in question is the Pacific Northwest -- the aliens are in Vancouver and desirous of landing in San Francisco -- and much of the lore pertains to its geology and Indian tribes. One of the most intriguing meditations is entertained by a man skeptical of Howard Hughes' existence until he sees a photograph of Jane Russell in her prime; her expression persuades him that she has seen and been victimized by the legendary tycoon's "big Puritanical mechanical hustle." When first published in 1981, the book won plaudits from practitioners of mainstream and minimalist fiction alike.
The Best of Photojournalism 12
(Running Press, $14.95). Here are more than 200 pages of photographs, presented by the National Press Photographers Association and the University of Missouri School of Journalism as the best of the year. An astonishing range is depicted here; there are photographs to make you laugh, cry, grow angry, mourn and wonder. Among the most moving: a photo-feature about an Indian family that lives on the streets of Calcutta; another on a girl who suffers from a rare disease that left her, at age 6, only 2 feet tall and weighing only 8 pounds; and another on life in Tunica County, Mississippi, one of the poorest counties in the U.S.
Diamonds Are Forever: Artists and Writers on Baseball , edited by Peter H. Gordon, with Sydney Waller and Paul Weinman, with an introduction by Donald Hall (Chronicle Books, 1 Hallidie Plaza, San Francisco, Calif. 94102; $18.95). Ninety artists and 55 writers are featured in this book, a companion to an exhibition organized by the New York State Museum and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. It is a fitting tribute to the summer game. Included are John Updike's meditation on Ted Williams' last game, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu"; excerpts from Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, William Kennedy's Ironweed, Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer and Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint. The art ranges from an 1870s painting, Brooklyn Baltics vs. Liberty Nine of New Brunswick, by an anonymous artist to Howardena Pinkell's 1970s Baseball Series: Video Drawing and William King's 1986 red vinyl sculpture Self as Doubleday. You can thumb through this book greedily or sit and savor it; either way there always seems to be one more treasure.
Coyotes: A Journey Through the Secret World of America's Illegal Aliens , by Ted Conover (Vintage, $6.95). Ted Conover didn't start out wanting to write a book about what it felt like to be an illegal alien. He was in Mexico to write about "what illegal immigration means to Mexicans" when the chance came to cross the border near Nuevo Laredo with a "coyote" -- a smuggler of undocumented workers. From that beginning, Conover spent a year living the life of an illegal alien -- he crossed deserts on foot, worked in fruit orchards, hid from the authorities, and managed to gain the confidence of many illegal aliens. In the foreword, Conover writes that his is "not a policy book, but a story. It relates to policy only insofar as I hope through it to flesh out a missing perspective in the immigration debate: the perspective of those whom the whole thing is about."
Curious Customs: The Stories behind 296 Popular American Rituals , by Tad Tuleja (Harmony Books; $8.95). Here indeed, as the subtitle has it, are the stories behind such customs as tipping a hat: Since hats or head coverings symbolize dominance and the bare head submission, tipping one's hat is a way of saying, "I am at your service." Or spring cleaning: Both practical and symbolic, it's done because warmer weather seems to prompt it, and as a way of affirming the feeling of renewal brought by the new season. Or buying someone a drink: "Tavern etiquette" for men requires that each return the favor if he wishes the conversation to continue. But for women, Tuleja writes, just the opposite is true. If a woman accepts the drink, the next stage might be for her to accept an invitation to dinner. If, however, she offers to buy the man a drink, it's her way of making sure they stay even.
Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things , by Charles Panati (Harper Perennial, $9.95). Author Charles Panati explains more than 500 customs, superstitions, holidays and inventions. Among the latter is the tin can, which though invented in 1810, had to wait some 60 years for the invention of the can opener we know today. In the meantime, there were cans carrying legends like: "Cut round on the top with a chisel and hammer." Other items for which background is provided include ready-mixed paint, the paper cup, Pyrex and the friction match. In addition, there are sections on the sources of fairy tales, holidays, toys and common items of clothing.
U.S. Marines in Grenada 1983 , by Ronald H. Spector (Goverment Printing Office, $2.25). The Leathernecks embarked aboard aboard USS Guam in October 1983 thought they were going to Lebanon; instead, on Oct. 25, they were awakened at 1 a.m., loaded onto helicopters and landed in half-darkness, without maps, onto a completely unfamiliar island. This was Operation Urgent Fury, the American invasion of Grenada, and here is the lively official history of the Marine side of that campaign (the U.S. Army was meanwhile seizing other parts of the island). Against weak opposition and despite serious communications deficiencies, the Marines seized their objectives with traditional dash and self-assurance, the helicopter pilots in particular showing verve. A footnote: what film did the troops watch the night before the invasion?: Sands of Iwo Jima, with John Wayne.
Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In , by Joe Bob Briggs (Delacorte, $8.95). Down in Texas Joe Bob Briggs walks tall as the best -- not to say only -- professional dusk-to-dawn movie critic. And when Joe Bob says drive-in he means the real thing: kung-fu classics, biker bonanzas, really low-rent horror flicks that'll send your main squeeze cuddling close. He judges movies strictly by the numbers -- of breasts glimpsed, heads chopped off, gallons of blood spilled. He drives a Toronado, his girlfriends have names like Wanda Bodine and Cherry Dilday, and his favorite power tool is -- rev 'er up, Joe Bob -- the chain saw. We're talking the guy who made Basket Case a cult classic, who lives for the three B's: bimbos, beasts, and blood. He's guaranteed to offend virtually everyone, but he's a lot of fun to read and he sure does know drive-in movies. Check this sucker out.
Here at The New Yorker , by Brendan Gill (Carroll & Graf, $12.95). The replacement of William Shawn as editor of The New Yorker earlier this year serves as an excuse -- if one is needed -- for bringing back into print Brendan Gill's lively and witty account of his 50-odd years as a staff writer for that august magazine. Gill spills beans and names names: his new introduction depicts "poor George Ryall," who wrote a racing column for the magazine under the pseudonym Audax Minor, in his dotage. "By means of some kindly subterfuge he was urged into retirement," Gill writes, "and such was the mercy of his condition that he believed himself to be still writing his weekly column." The junior editors were instructed to play along with him when he phoned in changes in his nonexistent copy. Only at The New Yorker, one feels -- so genteel and familial an institution -- could such a charade be considered, let alone successfully perpetrated.