The Dick Tracy Casebook: Favorite Adventures, 1931-1990, selected by Max Allan Collins and Dick Locher (St. Martin's, $15.95). Reading "Dick Tracy" never prepared anyone for real life: Contrary to what you see on the strip, villains are sometimes less than grotesque of face and police detectives do not come equipped with right-angled jawbones. But it certainly prepared its readers for film noir, television cop shows and imitative comic strips, of which there have been plenty. Taking advantage of the imminent release of the much-ballyhooed Warren Beatty movie, the strip's current authors have selected seven episodes, five by Chester Gould and two by his successors. What they show is that no one could draw an adventure strip as stylishly as Gould (his bold, precise black-and-white images seem to have been strongly influenced by Art Deco) and that over the years Tracy's jawline has evolved ever more toward those full 90 degrees.
Moon Palace, by Paul Auster (Penguin, $7.95). Best known for his New York trilogy, which deftly mingled the detective story form, the landscape of Manhattan and allusions to classic American literature, Paul Auster possesses a captivating imagination and a prose style to match. In this novel he interlaces the stories of three figures: a young Columbia student who almost starves to death in New York and then goes to work for an eccentric millionaire; the millionaire recluse himself who relates his strange adventures out West early in the century; and a somewhat pathetic overweight professor, who holds the key to this exuberant, very American tale of dreams lost and found.
The Work of Betrayal, by Mario Brelich; translated by Raymond Rosenthal (Marlboro Press, $12). In this provocative novel, Brelich imagines that Auguste Dupin -- the reclusive and brilliant detective invented by Edgar Allan Poe to solve "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" -- takes on the case of Judas Iscariot. He examines the evidence for his betrayal of Christ, tries to understand its motives and follows his itch to know down the labyrinthine ways of theological controversy, Christian dogma and many other areas of religious thought.
Sweet Summer: Growing Up With and Without My Dad, by Bebe Moore Campbell (Ballantine, $8.95). Most of the time, Bebe Moore Campbell lived with her mother in Philadelphia. But during the summer, she went south to North Carolina, where she stayed with her father. Left crippled after a car accident, George Moore remained nonetheless a man with a zest for living. Summers, Bebe Campbell Moore remembers, the two would go riding in his specially outfitted car: "I'd hop into the seat next to his and we'd take off. In those days I was his partner, his roadie, his little minimamma homegirl. In the summer he hardly went anywhere without me."
Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music, by Greil Marcus (Dutton, $12.95). First published in 1975, this is a study of rock 'n' roll that focuses on two musicians Greil Marcus calls Ancestors -- Harmonica Frank and the bluesman Robert Johnson. Marcus then looks at four artists he calls Inheritors -- The Band, Randy Newman, Sly Stone and Elvis Presley. In this last, a long essay called "Presliad," Marcus writes, "Beside Elvis, the other heroes of this book seem a little small-time. If they define different versions of America, Presley's career almost has the scope to take America in."
Hindoo Holiday: An Indian Journal, by J.R. Ackerley (Poseidon Press, $8.95). After the original publication of Hindoo Holiday (in 1932), Evelyn Waugh wrote that it was "radiantly delightful" and a book "difficult to praise temperately." Actually he was probably understating the charm and humor of this minor classic. On the advice of his friend E.M. Forster, the young Ackerley took a post as companion/secretary to the maharajah of an Indian province he calls Chhockrapur. He stayed for six months, recording his impressions, the Maharajah's superstitions, theories and passions, his language tutor's comical attempts at political advancement, the behavior of British colonials. What makes the book so fine, though, lies in its tone -- affectionate, bemused, slightly ironical and altogether winning.
The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown, selected by Michael S. Harper (Triquarterly Books, ILPA, Box 816, Oak Park, Ill. 60303; $9.95). Less well-known than his contemporary Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown was a native Washingtonian who spent much of his life teaching at Howard University before his death last year. This reissue of his work (first published in 1981), includes some of Brown's best-loved poems, including "Ma Rainey," his Slim Greer poems, "The Last Ride of Wild Bill" and "Strong Men," his account of the the black sojourn in America with its stirring refrain "The strong men keep a-comin' on/ The strong men git stronger." Much of Brown's finest work is often mistakenly dismissed as folk poetry because it is written in an unlettered folk idiom. This collection makes it clear Brown's strength was his ability to tap the mythical aspects of black folk culture and to render with dignity the lives and aspirations of ordinary people.
Callaloo, Vol 12. No. 4 ($20 a year; Johns Hopkins University Press, 701 W. 40th St., Baltimore, Md. 21211). Callaloo bills itself as "a journal of Afro-American Arts and Letters," and as it approaches publication of its 13th volume, enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a primary source of black fiction and poetry, as well as critical studies of all forms of black art in the U.S. and throughout the world. This issue includes fiction by and an interview with Trinidadian writer Merle Hodge, an essay by Alice Walker titled "Turning Into Love: Some Thoughts on Surviving and Meeting Langston Hughes," two poems by local literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller, as well as comprehensive bibliographies of Afro-American, Caribbean, Latin American and African literature published in 1988.
Ploughshares: Spring/Summer 1990 ($5.95; Emerson College, 100 Beacon St., Boston, Mass. 021126). Coedited by the Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Rita Dove and her husband, the writer Fred Viebahn, this issue of Ploughshares contains poetry by Marilyn Hacker, Kathleen Spivack and Jane Hirshfield, as well as fiction by Jamie Diamond, Maria Flook and a story by Eileen Pollack called "Past, Future, Elsewhere," about a 13-year-old girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut and who encounters three would-be hippies in 1969, the summer of Woodstock and the first moon landing.