Books: Something for the Trade

STEAMBOAT GOTHIC (562 pp.)—Frances Parkinson Keyes—Messner ($3.75).

Frances Parkinson Keyes (rhymes with eyes) insists that she doesn't really know how to write a bestseller and doesn't much aspire to learn; she likes to think of herself as "a woman of letters." Her readers, who buy her books by the million, find her disavowals hard to believe. So do booksellers; to them, Author Keyes is simply one of the blessings of the trade.

The latest Keyes novel, Steamboat Gothic, will not let anyone down. The style is reliably ponderous, the dialogue stilted and sometimes all...

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