Screenwriter Wagner's second well-done Hollywood novel (Force Majeure, 1991) surveys the mostly sordid L.A. scene from top to bottom, making up for a lack of dramatic focus with lots of hypergossipy vignettes of hustling, deviance, New Age goofiness, and consumer lust--and that's just among the successful. Wagner's bitchy narrative compiles an index of Hollywood types from pathetic wannabes and has-beens to lucky arrivistes and powerbrokers. Their degrees of separation are much lower than you'd expect, forming a daisy-chain of odd relations, with such sites in common as a children-with-AIDS benefit, a New Age seminar, and restaurants where the help is always on the entertainment make. Mostly, though, Wagner's characters speak in manic monologues, and the result is a cacophony of disembodied cellular voices. They include those of the dying wife of a producer, her hot-shot ICM agent-son, a Big Star with a taste for drugs and melodrama, her drug-pushing doctor, and a psychiatrist's son who makes a living cleaning out dead animals from houses. Women sound off in various genres: A producer hoping to remake Pasolini's Teorema pens her memoir † la Julia Phillips; an insane masseuse claims in her manuscript to have conceived the hottest TV shows; a waitress turned porn star commits her aspirations to a diary; and a TV casting director, hoping to be a movie producer, writes letters to her newborn son, blind from birth and rejected by his coke-addled dad. Wagner dips his pen deep in venom for his portraits of truly despicable characters like mega-hit producer Zev Turtletaub, an obnoxious member of the gay elite, who treats his assistant like a sex slave and has little time for his own sister, dying of AIDS. Much smarter than the recent bunch of novels and movies on Hollywood, and much more believable for its very lack of a narrative hook.