Books: Through the Centuries

In the heady pages of historical novels, readers can be led on the straightest of fictional lines, past drawn sword and torn corsage, to the very bosom of the past. This fall's crop of historicals, ranging from Periclean Greece to 19th century North Africa, has everything the customers like, including a little history, but not too much.

THE ESCAPE OF SOCRATES, by Robert Pick (326 pp.; Knopf; $3.95). An arresting fictionalization, lightly laced with sex, of one of history's most famous trials. Unjustly condemned to drink the hemlock on the charge that he was impious and had corrupted the young, Socrates refuses...

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