Space for Hire, William F. Nolan (International Polygonics). It’s a long, hot Martian afternoon and hard-knuckled private detective Sam Space is perched behind his desk, “speculating on the progress of a Martian sandworm.” Suddenly, a ravishing Venusian triplehead enters, brandishing a deadly paralysis beamer. Henceforth, Sam is hypnotized, seduced, slugged, double-crossed, tortured and brainwashed. To Nolan, a writer living in Agoura, Sam is “Bogart in a space helmet, blasting his way out of the ‘Black Mask’ era into the World of Tomorrow.”
Thinner, Stephen King (Signet). Only weeks after sideswiping an old Gypsy woman on a Connecticut street, Billy Halleck is acquitted by a judge. But, just as he breathes a sigh of relief outside the courtroom steps, he falls victim to a mysterious Gypsy curse that causes rapid weight loss. Seeking salvation, Billy, like King characters before him, first turns to the authorities, but then boldly takes his life into his own hands, chasing a Gypsy leader up the coast of Maine. King’s pop writing style keeps us smiling rather than worrying--at the height of the crisis, for instance, Billy is shot, and King writes, “the pain broadcasting station in (Billy’s) hand jumped from 50 thousand to 250 thousand watts"--but this is still a page-turner with a point: Billy’s brush with death proves rejuvenating, enhancing his ability to love his wife and children, as well as McDonald’s Big Macs.
Rocking America: How the All-Time Hit Radio Stations Took Over, Rick Sklar (St. Martin’s). Harmony can be found in Top 40, writes the author, who helmed the deejay seat in the 1960s at top-rated WABC radio. Sklar’s key to success? Repetition. Without acknowledging the underlying irony, Sklar writes that by playing a dozen songs over and over again until they became popular, he could appeal to a culturally diverse audience--whites, blacks, urbanites, young and old. Sklar’s account of funny and unusual promotional stunts (he enlisted the aid of Wernher von Braun’s rocket scientists, for instance) is more creative than the format he created.