by Sylvester Stallone

Picture this. There are three Italian brothers kicking around New York's West Side slums just after World War II. Cosmo Carboni is nothing but a smalltime hustler, Victor's an iceman with big muscles and a little brain, and Lenny "throws stiffs in a crate" for a funeral home, but they stick together, see. They love each other...and they've got dreams. The brothers try to survive in the brutal neighborhood, meet a whore with a golden heart, talk gutter language and lay all their money on a climactic prizefight that seems reminiscent. The result is a low-rent Rocky, a novel whose original title—Hell's Kitchen—apparently wasn't upbeat enough. The talented young actor went the distance with his Academy Award winner, but when he steps into the ring with this lightweight contender, the fans should scream, "Throw da bum out." (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $7.95)

by Barbara Plumb

Not all architects are rich. A surprising number build and furnish their own homes with more ingenuity than extravagance. Color is inexpensive and some of the best ideas pictured here cost no more than a can of paint. Most interesting is the elegant way many architects use pillows or canvas or cheap plastic chairs. For the restless homemaker with an urge to redo, this book is right on. (Viking, $17.95)

by Ira Berkow

Maxwell Street is Chicago's version of Manhattan's Lower East Side, where Jewish immigrants settled first. The author frames his mass of material about life there with descriptive essays on the appearance of the street at dawn and again at dusk. In between are taped interviews with survivors and some chapters about the street's famed and infamous graduates: Arthur Goldberg, William S. Paley, the late Jack Ruby, Benny Goodman, author Meyer Levin. Because our ears have been conditioned by Jewish comics, many of the harrowing accounts of crime, sweatshops, filth and suffering seem almost light and humorous in the odd cadence of the prose. The book is shamelessly untidy and repetitive but also full of unexpected treasures—like the jammed pushcarts on a Maxwell Street market day: (Doubleday. $14.50)

by Avery Corman

A child custody battle is the crucial nexus in a novel that deals on one level with the Madison Avenue/swinging singles/Fire Island life-style and on another with a modern tale of a man deserted by his wife and left to care for their child. Author Corman (whose last novel, Oh, God!, was recently brought to the screen) offers a generally run-of-the-mill story of a marriage gone bad. The final chapters on the legal confrontation are touching, but for the reader, Kramer versus Kramer ends in a hung jury. (Random House, $7.95)