Despite the System

By Clinton Heylin

In this blow-by-blow account of the travails of Orson Welles, Heylin pits the visionary filmmaker against the philistine studios. After "Citizen Kane" tanked at the box office, the studio RKO took control of Welles's next projects. It is heartbreaking to read the filmmaker's reasonable--and largely unheeded--pleas for the integrity of his versions of "The Magnificent Ambersons" and "Touch of Evil." Heylin, a British biographer, relies too heavily on journalistic cliches, and his jauntily aggressive tone is downright grating. But it's not his fault that the story ended as unhappily as your average auteur film.

--David Gates

Small Mediums at Large

By Terry Iacuzzo

In this lively memoir, a professional psychic to New York celebrities wittily recounts her colorful childhood in a dysfunctional Sicilian-American family of seers. Her father gave betting tips to friends, her mother revealed neighbors' marital secrets, her sister led seances, her brother boasted a VIP client list. Introverted and insecure at 18, Iacuzzo moved from Buffalo to Manhattan in the late '60s, experimented with drugs and sex, then set up a successful practice in her tiny walkup apartment. A sensitive writer, Iacuzzo candidly re-creates the various worlds she has inhabited. Hers is a lucid, insider's depiction of the psychic process.

--Vibhuti Patel

The Memory of Running

By Ron McLarty

In one grim week, Smithson Ide, an overweight, hard-drinking Rhode Island factory worker, loses his entire family. His parents die after a car crash; the body of his mentally ill sister turns up in L.A. So Smithy hops on his old Raleigh and starts pedaling west. McLarty, an actor and playwright who first published this work on tape, writes rather blandly. But Smithy's journey across America--during which he loses weight, his dependence on alcohol and his emotional paralysis--is still an exhilarating ride.

--Susan H. Greenberg