Deborah Comstock of Boston and Jeff Kirby of Harlem are a pair of skin-crossed lovers in this skin-deep study of an interracial marriage which cracks up. The dust jacket calls it ""a novel of passion, conflict, frustration and fulfillment,"" which is surely one of the most accommodating statements in years. Shortly before his death, Ottley completed the first draft; some time later his wife, ""with the assistance of the publishers, completed the editorial work by fitting together and selecting from the various versions."" For the most part, the style is hopelessly journalistic. The plot, set in New York on the eve of the Second World War, follows the skittery disintegration of high-minded Deborah who is unable to cope either with her Juilliard educated husband or the ritual hostilities of both the white and Negro worlds. In the end, she lights out for a sleazy Cuban death, while Jeff, in the novel's coda, finds peace of mind years later with a girl of his own race. The best parts--little, paragraph-like scenes of undoubtedly biographical authenticity (Jeff remembering his first encounters with prejudice, the atmosphere and characters of a Harlem dive where a great deal of the action takes place), though terribly earnest and at times even moving are still simply not enough to energize the meager proceedings nor the pitifully undeveloped hero and heroine.