Title: "The Ultimate Plan"Author: Gregory YawmanPublisher...

BOOK BRIEFS

August 07, 1994|By ANN EGERTON | ANN EGERTON,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Title: "The Ultimate Plan"

Author: Gregory Yawman

Publisher: Northwest Publishing

Length, price: 260 pages, $8.95 (paperback)

Not only does crime not pay in "The Ultimate Plan," it doesn't even work. In this novel, by McCormick and Co. attorney Gregory Yawman, Paul Starke, the No. 2 man at a Baltimore real estate company, devises what he believes is a perfect plan. He wants to murder his heiress wife and to set up a company newcomer as the murderer.

But the plan unravels. The stooge is more brave than bright; but his girlfriend is both, and they are assisted by a kind and meddling neighbor, although there is an off-putting fillip of larceny at the end.

The lead characters are part James Bond, part Nancy Drew, and the police inspector is a little like Columbo, but the story is an engaging page-turner. Baltimore, from the Cross Street Market to Towson Town Mall, makes a yeasty backdrop. Title: "Summer of Love: The Inside Story of LSD, Rock & Roll, Free Love and High Times in the West"

Author: Joel Selvin

Publisher: Dutton

Length, price: 384 pages, $22.95

It definitely gives one pause -- a book titled "Summer of Love" beginning with the denial that the "summer of love" ever existed, the explanation being that the phrase was invented by glib, Eastern news magazines. The title is just about the only misstep in the book, however, for San Francisco Chronicle music critic Joel Selvin has otherwise written a fine book, at least for anyone even moderately interested in rock and roll.

The story of the San Francisco music scene is a familiar one -- the Grateful Dead playing Ken Kesey's Trips Festivals, the Jefferson Airplane living in a Haight-Ashbury mansion, Bill Graham producing everyone at the Fillmore -- but Mr. Selvin's book differs from most others on the same theme by ignoring everything but the music culture itself. His limited, risky approach pays off, in part because the "psychedelic" music scene merits detailed discussion, but also because he has woven the particulars, old and new, into an engrossing narrative.

Among the highlights: Rod McKuen recommending the unsigned Airplane to his record label, RCA Victor, and hoping the band would play some of his songs; a charter pilot complaining about the Airplane's cigarette smoke, inspiring Paul Kantner to open a door in mid-flight to throw out his cigarette butt; former actor Bill Graham, years before Ronald Reagan, using a dramatic line from an obscure movie during a heated, public argument -- and getting caught.

It's all here, in spades, meaning that Mr. Selvin's account of San Francisco's musical glory years is likely to be definitive. Title: "Seasons of Her Life"

Author: Fern Michaels

Publisher: Ballantine

Length, price: 522 pages, $21.95

Life was never easy for Ruby Blue. Her mother was weak and her father was tyrannical, even stopping a potential marriage of Ruby's simply because he objected to the ethnic background of her boyfriend. Escaping this bitter home life, Ruby went to Washington during World War II to work as a secretary in the Navy. She found love, married, and started a family.

But military life was hard and the constant moving took its toll on her family. Drawing on her own strength and independence, Ruby becomes an entrepreneur: She uses an old family recipe and starts a cookie business. But while she realizes success beyond her wildest dreams, she must come to terms with her past.

"Seasons of Her Life" quietly illustrates the transition women went through in the mid-20th century. Without using polemics in the novel, author Fern Michaels explores the achievements and vexations women suffered as their roles changed. Ruby is a fully realized character and has a fine supporting cast. As her life goes through myriad beginnings and endings in career choices, friendships and family situations, Ruby emerges triumphant.

EILEEN POWER

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