Clear trends in fiction were as absent as greatness. The novels were a mixed bag that included some good storytelling, an occasional commentary on contemporary life that reached the mark, an unceasing flow of hackwork by old, bestselling pros. Among the best, the most popular and the most interesting:

NOT AS A STRANGER, by Morton Thompson, was the year's biggest bestseller, by a writer who died at 45 before his book was published. This sprawling story of a dedicated doctor won its audience with sincerity, energy and enough consulting-room detail to satisfy the most...

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