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'Devil May Care'

By Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming

Doubleday, $24.95

Sebastian Faulks, a British novelist with an impressive list of substantial titles, has decided for some unearthly reason to compromise his talent and legacy by imitating the style of Ian Fleming in this "New James Bond Novel."

There's probably a lot of money in it for him, but he really is too good a writer to do this.

Ian Fleming at his best was no Sebastian Faulks. But James Bond still draws in moviegoers, so why not beef up his literary life? At least that's what the publisher seems to be saying.

Here, an Algerian drug runner is executed in the desolate outskirts of Paris. This isolated event quickly forces Agent 007 from his Rome sabbatical to come and dominate the intrigue.

Bond's glamorous accomplice is a Parisian named Scarlett Papava. Back to the Cold War.

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'The Crowd Sounds Happy'

By Nicholas Dawidoff

Pantheon, $24.95

The author takes a boy (himself) who cannot quite fit in and gives him baseball to solve his problems.

It is a coming-of-age story of a boy in a doomed hometown. One of the most remarkable characters is Nicholas Dawidoff's stoical mother, who is a determined, enterprising woman who wants the best possible life for her kids.

The result is personal history, including a local playground, a kidnapping and a murder, rock 'n' roll, adolescence and first love all tied to the rambunctious game of baseball.

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'To the Swift'

Edited by Joe Drape

St. Martin's Press, $25.95

This book, subtitled "Classic Triple Crown Horses and Their Race for Glory," is a compilation of some of the best-written essays about famous horses.

Such authors as Jane Smiley, Laura Hillenbrand, Red Smith, George Vecsey, William Grimes, Bryan Field, Arthur Daley and Linda Greenhouse, to name a few, make good company for anyone interested in racing.

At a time when the country had big hopes for Big Brown to be a Triple Crown winner, this book is just the ticket. The writers bring horses such as Secretariat, War Admiral, Omaha, Gallant Fox, Whirlaway, Citation and Seattle Slew to special attention.