The historical novels of the late ALFRED DUGGAN can be divided into two types; one ( Winter Quarters, Family Favorites) describes a collision of cultures or religions through the eyes of an observer not seriously committed to either camp. The second type, to which his last book, COUNT BOHEMOND (Pantheon, $4.95), belongs, concerns the struggle for social advancement by a man or a family. In this case, the family is two jumps from a Norman pigsty and the man is Bohemond, a landless warrior who cannily uses the First Crusade to make himself Prince of Antioch, equal to any man and subject to nobody but the Pope. It is hard to believe that any human being could ever be quite so single-minded as Bohemond, but Mr. Duggan’s concentration on a single aspect of character enables him to bring a considerable degree of order to the confusion of the First Crusade and turn chaos into a good story.
VONDA ROSEGOOD (Harper & Row, $5.95) is the latest novel by RICHARD DOHRMAN, who has fortunately outgrown his early addiction to long, Latinate synonyms of decent onesyllabie words. His new book tells a strange, ambiguous story with liveliness, skill, and no stylistic affectations at all. The book is about possession insofar as it admits to being definitely about anything — lovers’ attempts to possess each other, parents’ attempts to possess their children, and supernormal powers which possess a reluctant miracle worker. Vonda Rosegood drifts into a quiet, well-behaved Southern town, where lack of money and an exasperated desire to get rid of her incomprehensible talent lead her, by devious reasoning, to set up as a holy woman. The result is a tremendous hassle involving various degrees of belief (with or without religious aspects), the police, the courts, a large group of assorted citizens, a phalanx of big-time newspaper people, and a murder. All of it is fast-moving, persuasive, and stimulating.
“A memoir” seems too quiet a subtitle for ALEXANDER DONAT’S THE HOLOCAUST KINGDOM (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $5.95), for the book tells, with a flat, unemotional precision more disturbing than any amount of reproachful eloquence, what the author and his wife endured under the Nazis, first in the Warsaw ghetto and later in a string of concentration camps. The Donats were very lucky; they survived. They came to the United States and started life over again, and have now got around to reporting what happened to them. Seldom raising his voice and never losing his self-command, Mr. Donat, with some help from his wife and the Polish friend who rescued his small son, methodically describes live years of horror. In the long run, he spares nobody - Germans, Christian Poles, Lithuanian and Ukrainian guards, timeserving Jews, and men like himself who, backed to the last wall, inevitably maneuvered to save their own families and their own lives.
FROM FROZEN NORTH TO FILTHY LUCRE (Viking, $6.95) is a book of cartoons by RONALD SEARLE, with a commentary by Jane Clapperton. The two seem to have been exploring the North American frontier. Mr. Searle has a wonderful knack of converting the peculiar into the grotesque and the grotesque into the hilariously monstrous. Miss Clapperton’s commentary suits the drawings. It has an air (totally spurious) of accuracy and reason.
GENTLE WILDERNESS (Sierra Club, $25.00) contains photographs of the Sierra Nevada by RICHARD KAUFFMAN. The pictures are so enchanting that they would carry almost anything in the way of text, but the editors have gallantly provided a good one: extracts from the writings of JOHN MUIR, telling what it was like (and, in some areas, is like) to ride, and tramp, and camp, and herd sheep in these lovely mountains.
THE FRATRICIDES (Simon and Schuster, $5.00) is described as the novel on which NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS was working at the time of his death. One is therefore entitled to assume that this book, with its grimly questioning theme (how is a God-loving man to reconcile himself to God’s indifference to human suffering?), would have been cured of its annoying repetitions, cardboard minor characters, and disconnected action if the author had lived to finish it. As it stands, it suggests the painfully roughed-out preliminary form of a potentially splendid sculpture.