In 1926 Boston authorities arrested and tried H.L. Mencken for selling "pornography" on the Boston Common in the so-called Hatrack case. At last, Mencken's own chronicle of his standoff against the "wowsers" (Puritans) and "smellers" (Post Office censors) has been published. The Editor, the Bluenose, and the Prostitute (Boulder, Colo.: Roberts Rinehart, 174 pages, $19.50), edited and with an introduction by Mencken biographer Carl Bode, is a timeless tale of the tyrannies of censorship.
Mencken fans can feast on more of his inimitable prose in H.L. Mencken's Smart Set Criticism (Washington, D.C.: Gateway Editions, 349 pages, $10.95 paper), edited by William H. Nolte. The collection, taken from Mencken's 1908–23 writings for The Smart Set magazine, is a bountiful reminder of Mencken's artistry.
In the science fiction genre, four books about aliens, far-off solar systems, robots, and other futuristic life forms weave stories about war, peace, and the struggle for survival. Agent of Chaos (New York: Franklin Watts, 191 pages, $16.95), originally published in 1967, is Norman Spinrad's dramatic novel of tyranny and rebellion in a solar system where one government rules billions of citizens.
Also published by Franklin Watts is John Shirley's new novel, A Splendid Chaos (368 pages, $17.95), a story of humans stranded on an alien planet battling schemes of social Darwinism.
Together for the first time in one volume are several masterworks by Robert Silverberg in Three Novels: Thorns, Downward to the Earth, The World Inside (New York: Bantam Spectra, 487 pages, $4.95 paper).