Notable books for the week of May 4, 1990
* Ben Hecht: The Man Behind the Legend William MacAdams (Scribner's, $22.50) The most brazen screenwriter of them all gets the vivid, hard-boiled biography he deserves. A-
* The Evening News Arthur Hailey (Doubleday, $21.95) A best-seller of the Big Read variety but a poor example of the genre. C-
* Flashbacks: On Returning to Vietnam Morley Safer (Random House, $18.95 The TV journalist's astringent and moving effort to follow up on a story he left 20 years ago. A-
* His Little Women Judith Rossner (Summit, $19.95) An accomplished writer (Looking for Mr. Goodbar) writes an unaccountably amateur piece of fiction. D
* Simone de Beauvoir Deirdre Bair (Summit, $24.95) Praise to the biographer who gave Beauvoir the last word on her life: ''I lived it the way I wanted. I'm sorry to disappoint all the feminists, but you can say that it's too bad many of them live only in theory instead of in real life. It's very messy in the real world.'' B+
* Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution Simon Schama (Vintage, paperback, $16.95) The work of history published last year, Schama's study is as absorbing as it is controversial.
* Comfort Food Holly Garrison (Dell, paperback, $8.95) Head straight for the sections ''Nursery Food'' (creamy rice pudding, condensed- milk caramel pudding) and ''Granny's Greatest Hits'' (big, soft molasses cookies, warm, flaky biscuits with honey butter).
* Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In Joe Bob Briggs (Delacorte, paperback, $10.95) The second volume of Joe Bob's B-movie reviews. A simple review (School Spirit): ''We got 29 breasts, including 19 wet ones. No blood. Two motor vehicle chases. Slime Slide. Excellent pig costuming. Gratuitous blind folk singers. Grocery groping. Chili slinging. No cheating on the shower scene. Mack truck fu. Yogurt-on-the-head fu. Water-on-a-clingy-silk-blouse fu. . . .Two stars. Joe Bob says check it out.''
* Three Behraim Boys: Growing Up in Early Modern Germany Edited & Narrated by Steven Ozment (Yale University Press, $25) The lives of three 16th-century Nuremberg youths a student, an apprentice merchant, and a ne'er-do-well told through their letters.
* The Warrior Queens Antonia Fraser (Vintage, paperback, $12.95) A series of biographical chapters on women who led armies and empires, from Cleopatra to Margaret Thatcher.
* We Are the Stories We Tell: The Best Short Stories by North American Women Since 1945 Edited by Wendy Martin (Pantheon, $29.95) Practically everybody is here: Mary McCarthy, Eudora Welty, Grace Paley, Paule Marshall, Leslie Marmon Silko, Joyce Carol Oates, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne Tyler, Alice Munro, Alice Walker, etc.