Books: All in the Family

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK by JAMES BALDWIN 197 pages. Dial. $6.95.

This novel might be classified as a deadline drama. It tells of a large Harlem clan's desperate efforts to get a young man out of jail—he is awaiting trial for a rape he did not commit—before his wife has a baby.

As a novel it is not a success, being too sentimental and predictable by half. But it has the makings of a splendid opera. Certainly the peculiarly hectic, yet static complications are all there. When boy (Fonny Hunt) meets girl (Tish Rivers) they fight, then fall in love and finally...