Two days after the hostages were released, ABC-News Paris Chief Salinger was on the air with (what he calls in mid-course) ""the biggest story of my life--the secret negotiations to free the hostages."" The particular negotiations to which Salinger was privy were not, however, the negotiations which eventually secured the hostages' release nor are they any longer unrecorded. (Terence Smith's summary, in the special May hostage issue of the New York Times Magazine, is reprinted in McFadden et al. No Hiding Place, p. 139.) And in elaborating on them here--within a makeshift, personality-heavy account of the hostage-crisis overall--Salinger gives them disproportionate importance. The book is also tabloid journalism--with reconstructed scenes and dialogue, and no indication of sources. All said, however, the story is both outlandish and instructive; and some of it is news. Through his French lawyer sister-in-law, Salinger was put in touch with Christian Bourget, a ""friend of the Iranian revolution"" who had represented Bani-Sadr and Ghotbzadeh, and subsequently Khomeini himself, during their French exile; now, in December '79, Bani-Sadr and Ghotzbzadeh--both opposed to the recent hostage seizure, soon to be Iran's president and foreign minister--had accepted Bourget's offer to try to make contact with American officials. Also drawn in was Argentine expatriate wheeler-dealer and ""revolutionary manquÃ‰"" HÃ‰ctor VillalÃ³n--a Ghotbzadeh intimate (through Bourget) currently representing iran in a deal with Panama. . . where, in January '80, the Shah had just taken refuge. Enter, then, their equally unlikely opposite number, Hamilton Jordan--acquainted with Panamanian strongman Torrijos from the Canal negotiations, hence the American in-charge-of-the-Shah. Torrijos has conceived a scheme to detain the Shah in exchange for the hostages' release (with Torrijos' assassination, some of this may never be known for certain); Bourget, VillalÃ³n, and Jordan become parties to it--and before it collapses (through Iranian mistiming and the suspicious Shah's departure for Egypt), the three, along with State department official Harold Saunders, have made contact in London: the first direct contact between the two sides, 77 days ""after the hostage seizure."" Most of the balance then concerns the intricate negotiations to find a mutually-acceptable formula for the hostages' release; the un-helpfulness of other parties (notably, the UN's Kurt Waldheim); the sabotaging of agreed-upon ""scenarios"" by Khomeini's son; Bani-Sadr's unreadiness/unwillingness to take the requisite political risks; Ghotbzadeh's contrasting, self-sacrificing temerity; and ""the guileless honesty of Hamilton Jordan,"" the second big hero here. In the long run, this will be an open line to relations among the revolutionary principals, if not much more; for now, about half of it is pretty intriguing.