Books: Shadow of the Beast

THE ASSASSINS by ELIA KAZAN 311 pages. Stein & Day. $7.95.

Elia Kazan, of stage and screen, broke into bestselling novel writing five years ago with The Arrangement, in which a middle-aged adman turns intellectual and works up a healthy sweat over old values and a new woman. The prose was rough cut; the characters were slabs of emotional clichés. Kazan was not out to master the novel form but to overwhelm it on his way to the movie script.

The Assassins fits a similar pattern, except now Kazan's subject is the whole United States of America—as a terminal case. Military hardware lies...

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