Books: Son of P.P.

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RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE (256 pp.)—Grace Metalious—Messner ($3.95).

Whatever the inspiration that sent a flat-wheeled caboose clattering after Author Metalious' steam-powered first novel, Peyton Place, the sequel bears all the marks of a book whacked together on a long weekend. The original novel required readers interested only in literary privy-peeping to wear out their forefingers spelling through long passages devoted, with some success, to such matters as scene-setting and characterization. Return has little more scene-setting than a limerick, and the characterization is negligible. The meat of the book is as strong-flavored as bear steak—"Jennifer lay awake in the dark, smiling. She touched the welts on her thighs, running her fingers over them hard so that the pain burned all through her and her teeth gleamed white in the dark room."

Jennifer, the flagellant with fluorescent molars, is a new character. But her leering mother-in-law, who crouches by a hot-air register listening to the merry whack of belt on flesh, is an old friend from the first novel. So is Heroine Allison Mac-Kenzie, the girl author who writes by day and wrongs by night. Like Author Metalious, she produces a bestseller about a meretricious little New England town, and is all but drummed out of it by indignant neighbors. Her fatherly old publisher comforts her in the best way he knows how, and he certainly knows how. Does Allison love happily ever after? Of course not; an auto accident puts the publisher out of print and Allison into the hospital. But there are still plenty of unusual Krafft-Ebing case histories and lots of stones unturned in New England's granite hills, with novels beneath each one of them.