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Big names dominate list of coming books

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These days publishers look for the sure thing whenever possible. The books planned for fall demonstrate that. There's everything from Sophia Loren to George Bush to Alice Walker, to a glorious picture book history of the West, to histories of the journey from slavery, to a book about turning 50 (Prince Charles).

A recent interest in memoirs, the perennial interest in cookbooks and the public fascination with film stars made "Sophia Loren's Recipes & Memories" (GT Publishing) a likely project. Cookbooks always sell, even as diet books do.Laced with photographs of the star wearing an apron in the kitchen, "Recipes & Memories" is the most glamorous - if not the most literary - of the many new books due out this fall. (It doesn't hurt that Loren's cookbook comes on the heels of "Sophia Loren," Warren Harris' biography of the film star from Simon & Schuster.)

At the recent Book Expo in Chicago, where publishers displayed their fall lists to the nation's booksellers, Loren's cool presence lent luster. Wearing tiny spectacles, the author/star spoke of growing up impoverished in Italy during the turmoil of World War II, but credited her grandmother, Nonna Luisa, with giving her a love of cooking: soup, pasta, pizza, vegetables, desserts.

"Her genius could flavor even a few crumbs of stale bread with herbs and turn them into an elegant dish. . . . It is to Grandma Luisa that I wish to dedicate this cookbook. Not only for the many things I've learned from her, but for her ability to transform even the most ordinary food into something succulent."

At 63, with her taut skin and shapely legs that look decades younger, Loren is a fine advertisement for eating from the cookbook, to be published in October. It's her first cookbook since 1972, when Doubleday published her "In the Kitchen With Love."

Here's a month-by-month summary of some other books to watch for in the next few months. It's only a sample.

August: "Irrational Fears," by Austin's William Browning Spencer. An offbeat novel about alcoholism and recovery (White Wolf).

"The Illustrated History of Britain," first two volumes, by University of Texas professor Roger Louis (Oxford). This book has raised controversy in England because it's being put together by an American.

"Fax Me a Bagel," by Sharon Kahn. A former rabbi's wife from

Austin begins a mystery series with a rabbi's wife as the protagonist. (Scribner).

September: "A World Transformed," by George Bush and Brent Scowcroft. Former President Bush and his national security adviser give a behind-the-scenes account of foreign policy during their administration (Knopf).

"Tomcat in Love," a novel by National Book Award winner Tim O'Brien (Broadway). Instead of Vietnam, O'Brien is writing about an English teacher and his attempt to find intimacy.

"The Loop," a novel by Nicholas Evans, who wrote "The Horse Whisperer" (Delacorte). "Something to Declare," essays by Julia Alvarez (Algonquin), author of "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents." These essays deal with her exile from the Dominican Republic and her split cultural identity.

"Rude Behavior" by Dan Jenkins. This is the sequel to "Semi-Tough," a classic novel about Texas football (Doubleday).

October: "Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery," by Patricia Smith and Charles Johnson. This book, a companion to a PBS series, tells the story of American history from the African American point of view and includes short stories by Johnson (Harcourt, Brace).

"By the Light of My Father's Smile," a new novel by Alice Walker. It's about a family from the United States who goes to Mexico and encounters the Mundo, a band of mixed race blacks and Indians (Random House).

"Bech at Bay," a quasi-novel by John Updike. Five new chapters from the life of Jewish American writer Henry Bech (Knopf).

"The Oxford History of the Twentieth Century," edited by Michael Howard and William Roger Louis (Oxford).

"Values of the Game," 10 essays on basketball by Bill Bradley, with a foreword by Phil Jackson (Artisan).

November: "A Man in Full," a novel by Tom Wolfe (Farrar Straus Giroux).

"Final Verdict: The True Account of the Murder of John F. Kennedy," by Vincent Bugliosi. One more account of the assassination (Norton).

"The Tale of a Dog," by Austin poet Lars Gustafsson (New Directions).