Despite its disclaimers, this frothy Hollywood debut fiction seems to be dipping from the same well that's supplied a number of recent novels and movies—the career of the producer (and master vulgarian) Joel Silver, whose manic personal style was best captured in last year's film Swimming With Sharks. Richardson, a senior writer at Premiere, where this novel was serialized, differs from the rest, however: He ends up proving his Silver stand-in a nice guy, and also ends up defending, even celebrating, Hollywood's exuberant vulgarity. Everything else is just pretentious arthouse stuff for academics and navel-gazers, which is exactly what Peter James is before he's plucked by Merwin ``Max'' Fisher to be his assistant. Max revels in the triviality of movies, which are all about love, not ideas. And Max should know- -the box office has affirmed his success time and again. White- bread Peter can't take Max's mood swings, despite his promise that he'll make Peter a Tinseltown player. Richardson provides some intrigue to fuel this comedy of (absent) manners: Max is accused of raping his disaffected mentor's 19-year-old daughter, and suspected of killing her best friend. Peter believes it, even though he knows that smart and sexy Tracy Rose got her blackened eye from a bout of rough sex with him. Soon Peter begins lying on behalf of his crazy boss. He destroys evidence. He lies to the police. Then he begins to wonder whether he's caught up in a sick settling of accounts by Max and Max's old boss, Barry Rose, ``two bitter, obsessed, scheming bastards.'' Peter literally takes a bullet for the much aggrieved Max, though he's suitably rewarded in the novel's final pages, a sappy, happy testimonial to Max, who turns out to be a lamb in wolf's clothing. Ignore the editorials, relish the real-life cameos, and appreciate this bouncy novel for what it is: a bit of fluff as trivial, bankable, and enjoyable as one of Max's movies.
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