July Publications

Never one to shy away from a good saga, Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds) tackles the Trojan War in The Song of Troy, a retelling modern in idiom but faithful to the original where it counts. Narrated by several of the key participants (Achilles, Agamemnon, Helen, etc.), it follows the war from the beginning, when Helen leaves her husband, Priam, for Paris of Troy, to the end, when Odysseus uses the wooden horse to sneak his soldiers into the city. Not aimed at classics scholars, this is a laudable interpretation of the epic, rendered with both sweep and intimacy. (Orion, $27.50 404p ISBN 0-75281-413-3)

A major house has picked up another self-published novel, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Karen E. Quinones Miller's Satin Doll, after it hit the BlackBoard African-American bestseller list. The writing here is better and the plot more successfully imagined than most other offerings in this genre. After years of living on the edge in Harlem, Regina Harris is shot and violently beaten. She decides to change her life, attending college, getting work as a writer and finding love with Charles Whitfield, a well-bred, aspiring politician. But Regina's past, Charles's present and the class differences between the two threaten both their relationship and Charles's career. (Simon & Schuster, $23 320p ISBN 0-7432-1433-1)

Naughty takes on classic fables are old hat, but that doesn't stop Hillary Rollins from trying to plumb new depths of depravity in The Empress's New Lingerie, a bawdy collection of recycled fairy tales in which no fetish is left unexplored. It would be difficult to pick the worst offender, but in some of the raunchier vignettes one finds Snow White servicing all of the dwarves at once, near-bestiality in "Jackie and the Beanstalk," a Prince Charming with a thing for feet in "Cinderella" and plain old incest in "Hansel and Gretel." Timid readers should consider themselves warned. (Harmony, $16 160p ISBN 0-609-60705-7)

Vella Munn (Blackfeet Season) recounts the travails of warriors Grey Bear and Lone Hawk in Cheyenne Summer. Drought plagues the land and food is scarce; the Cheyenne must compete with the rival Pawnee for food. Wildfires sweep across the land, adding to the danger and drama. Various romantic intrigues and power struggles play out against this backdrop —especially the tense rivalry between Grey Bear and Lone Hawk over what is best for the tribe. This will interest only those who know the genre and are willing to tolerate dialogue along the lines of "Look into my eyes and see the eyes of your death." (Forge, $24.95 384p ISBN 0-312-86948-7)