You couldn't get through the book. You missed the movie. But everybody's talking about it, and you don't want to be left out.

So read comic strip. By keeping at it faithfully, reading three action-packed picture blocks a day and more on Sundays, you can read a current best-selling novel every six eight weeks, for free.

Best-Seller Showcase, a comic strip carried in 115 papers including The Washington Post, is to adults on the cocktail circuit what the old Classic Comixs were to kids who were supposed to be reading books for school. You get the story line with lots of pictures and only the most necessary words.

Serializing current novels for the comics was the idea of Elliott Caplin, a veteran of such strips as The Heart of Juliet Jones, Dr Kildare and, for a short period after the original author died, Little Orphan Annie Caplin, who is the brother of L'il Abner creator Al Capp, picks the books, assigns artists and authors and edits the material, which is distributed through Universal Press Syndicate.

"Raise the Titanis!" by Clive Cussler is running now; Jack Higgin's "Storm Warnings" is scheduled from Oct. 17 through mid-December; and Robert Ludlum's "The Chancellor Manuscript" will follow through mid-February.

"The continuity strip, is back in," says Caplin. "Look at the success of the countinuity story everywhere, especially on television. I thought of this while I was watching 'The Pallisers' and 'Roots' - doing books with adventure and continuity. The trick is to get best-sellers. The hardcover book might cost $8 or $9, but they can get it in the newspaper for free."

Publishers were hard to convince first, he says. "There seemed to be some feeling about comic strips. And of course we can't pay what paperbacks do. But we showed thwm we're not competing with paperbacks we're enchancing them.

"Look at 'Jaws' - as soon as the movie came out, the sales up. If you read a book in the newspaper, there's going to be a damn good chance you'll go out and buy it."

That argument seems to have turned publishers around; Caplin says he's now deluged with books. He speaks of "preserving the author's integrity," and "working carefully and respectfully" with the material, while Lee Salem of the syndicate says, "Of course, the subplots have to go. It has to be the kind of adventure you can cut down from a 500-to 600-page novel into a few words a day. We're thinking of going into historical romance next.

"And of course you know what happens to sex in the comics. You say 'sex' to an editor, and he'll panic."