From the author of some recent, facile self-help manuals: a first novel that begins well--describing the agonies and operations of a small boy with a cleft palate--but then (as soon as this handicap is corrected) turns into an embarrassing sermonette about Overcoming Obstacles on Life's Expressways. The unsubtly named hero here is Jonathan Landau, son of a well-to-do doctor in Georgia. And once eased through that difficult, cleft-palated chidhood, with the loving encouragement of black house-servant Andrew (who calls the boy ""Cricket""), Jonathan discovers that all it takes to succeed is determination. He hits the longest golf-ball drive. He spills the beans about a military academy's cruel practices. He travels to Cuba and meets Hemingway (who says things like ""Luck comes in many forms""). He's a crack polo shot. He brains his way out of fighting in the Korean War. He's accepted at Oxford, where he and a chum write a play that will run for years. He drives a supply truck to Hungary during the uprising. He cables his first ""inside"" story, is invited to dinner at the House of Lords, interviews Hitler's other mistress, becomes a star on CBS news (Eric Sevareid finds him a dream apartment). And though some rain must fall--Cricket's English love dies of cancer, he loses his CBS job because of his honest coverage of Castro--he'll end up in inevitable glory, aiding and encouraging handicapped kids (with saccharine echoes of those good old days with beloved handicapped-helper Andrew). Perhaps of special significance to the Lande/Landau family; for the general reader: heavy sentiment in a leaky vessel.