December 12, 1977 12:00 PM

by Howard Fast

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake provides the backdrop for a rags-to-riches story of three California families. Daniel Lavette, son of French-Italian immigrants, loses family and home in the holocaust. But like the city, he rises from the ashes to become a shipping mogul. It is lonely at the top, but the love of a wise and wonderful Chinese lady makes up for broken dreams and lost fortunes (zzzzzzz). This book is chock-full of standard clichés: pompous and intolerant bankers, very rich, very beautiful society women, long-suffering wives and little people who struggle to make it. The Immigrants is part one of a trilogy about 20th-century America. Books two and three may succeed, but author Fast produces hardly a tremor on the interest scale with number one. (Houghton Mifflin, $9.95)

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