Ted Kennedy: diehard challenger; Ted and the Kennedy Legend, by Max Lerner. New York: St. Martins. $9.95; Edward Kennedy: The Myth of Leadership, Boston: Houghton Mifflin. $10.95.

Since Senator Kennedy remains a force to be reckoned with at the Democractic Convention and the mystique endures about his charismatic family, the Kennedy literature grows apace.

Two recent books complement one another nicely. Max Lerner's "Ted and the Kennedy Legend" examines the persona, and "Edward Kennedy: The Myth of Leadership" by Murray Levin and T. A. Repak concentrates on the senator's legislative record and his policy statements.

Lerner emphasizes the crucible of familial competition and its apparent effect on the youngest son, who seldom measured up to expectations. Now that he has consented to once more carry the Kennedy torch into the presidential battle, Ted has discovered a final irony.The primary path, which directed the nomination to JFK, has become crippling mine field for the surviving brother.

Levin/Repak analyze the Kennedy slippage in both polls and primaries by asserting the "charisma factor" was a myth that soon evaporated beneath the glare of several harsh realities.On the campaign trail, Ted barely resembled his brothers. He seemed a mere mortal as the rush of events began to leave him behind. The fabled Kennedy rhetoric, which had galvanized voters of the '60s, now seemed strangely hollow.

Both books conclude that, rather than concede the nomination to the President , Ted Kennedy is likely to lead his troops on a scorched-earth campaign across the convention floor in puruit of a delegate deadlock.

TWo 1976 books also deserve consideration. James MacGregor Burns's "Edward Kennedy and the Camelot Legacy" (New York: Norton) is a sympathetic, yet candid study by an able historian. Robert Sherill's "The Last Kennedy" (New York: Dial Press) is a searing investigative account of Chappaquiddick.

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