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October 13, 1997 12:00 PM

by Peter Delacorte

A brilliant professor offers rootless travel writer Gabriel Prince an opportunity too delicious to resist. By climbing aboard a Tempocruiser A-4, the sleek engine of Peter Delacorte’s delightful time-travel fantasy, Prince visits Warner Brothers studios in 1938, romances a starlet and peddles a script titled Four O’Clock that bears a remarkable resemblance to the 1952 classic western High Noon. In return the left-leaning professor asks him to rewrite history by derailing the career of aspiring Hollywood actor Ronald “Dutch” Reagan—an errand that jibes with Prince’s politics too. Only, beware: If you think it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature, don’t even consider messing about with Father Time.

Delacorte is to be commended for choosing sci-fi’s road less traveled, the one that leads to a richly detailed past (rather than some breathlessly imagined future). It’s a warm, comfy place where toothpaste is called dentifrice, sex is mostly postmarital, and the Great Communicator is only a young bit player. Too bad that it’s just a novel. (Scribner, $23)

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