Although one bumptious merchant of voyeur publishing is instantly recognizable, the main target of this fictional undressing-down is a late night talk show emcee and guessing is all part of the saleable titillation. Duke Shafter, riding high in the ratings, learns that publisher Nero Seger plans to braise him slowly and painfully via a fictional biography. Duke hires one Jack Farley to do a ""true"" biography which no one can claim is biased since everyone knows that Farley has no love for him. The rather tacky early life of the Duke unfurls: he was adopted from unmarried Yankee parents by a Hollywood scandalmonger and a beautiful if dimwitted alcoholic; he was in a carnival; fell in love with and married ""Red,"" an enterprising gal who smooths out the rough edges; he was in and out of radio and a TV quiz show scandal in which Farley was the sacrificial goat. Finally finding that Farley's biography is too close for comfort, Duke makes a deal with Seger and Farley retains the ""life"" for a novel and here, presumably, it is. Some amusing TV studio insides, some hardworking sex, but Duke isn't all that dreadful or familiar and it boils down to small -- and cold -- potatoes.