Books: Hail Cesar

THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE by Oscar Hijuelos;

Farrar, Straus & Giroux;

407 pages; $18.95

Wine, women and song, not necessarily in that order, keep the pages turning in Oscar Hijuelos' second novel. All are enjoyed by a Cuban musician named Cesar Castillo who immigrates to New York City after World War II and has a few good years in the 1950s as leader of the Mambo Kings. The band's biggest hit was Beautiful Maria of My Soul, which was first recorded in 45 r.p.m. and rose to No. 8 on the "easy listening" charts in 1955. Close but...

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