The master of The Big National Treatment (Caribbean, Alaska, Poland, etc.) moves Mexico and Mexican history to the background of a novel about the passions, fine points, and meaning of bullfighting. Readers hoping to bone up on everything there is to know about America's new free-trading partner will find that Michener's Mexican history course ends during the Kennedy Administration when, according to Random House, the author set the uncompleted manuscript aside. Rather than drenching the book in post-Vietnam revisionism, Michener, in resuming the work, has left his story and his characters frozen in the sensibility of 1961 when the peso was cheaper, there was no OPEC, no Cancun, and, since there were no animal activists, metaphors such as bullfighting could still fly. His narrator is Norman Clay, a middle-aged magazine writer, the son of a Mexican mother and a Virginian father. After decades of absence, Clay returns to Toledo, the silver-mining city founded and reshaped by his Indian and Spanish ancestors respectively. He's there to reminisce (at length) and to write a story about an annual festival centered on three days of bullfighting. As a reporter and a relative of the town's leading family, the Palafoxes, breeders of Mexico's finest fighting bulls, Clay has an entre to everything of interest going on in Toledo. Hooked up by his publisher with a party of oil-rich Oklahomans, Clay has scores of opportunities to use that entre--and does, introducing the Yanquis to all the matadors, picadors, and the ghosts of the past. Anything Clay doesn't know about bulls, Leon Ledesma, the country's leading critic of the bullring and a charming, world-class cynic, does. The Oklahomans, staying up for those late Mexican suppers, learn plenty. The youngest of them, a pretty heiress just out of high school, learns just enough but not too much about Love and Nobility from the matadors. Genteel, free of epic overkill, safe for all ages, although kids may ask, "What's a bullfight?