HER ONLY SIN by Ben Stein


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Despite a schlocky title and uneven style, Stein's (Dreemz, 'Ludes) serious Hollywood opus--a roman d clef seemingly about 20th Century-Fox former top executive Sherry Lansing--is his most mature novel to date, has plenty of clout as a story, and more authenticity as a Hollywood novel than many, even those by old Hollywood hands. Most worthwhile is Stein's grip on the business side of dreamland, the straight marketing savvy. His narrator is Benjy, a rather gutless writer, the staunch friend of Susan-Marie Warmack, whom we meet calmly engineering the stock takeover of Republic Studios while her Malibu beachhouse bums down around her during a disastrous brushfire and just before she's shot twice by a publicity-mad maniac. Not the old B-movie factory, Republic sounds more like 20th Century-Fox. Benjy and math-prodigy Susan-Marie went to school near Georgetown and to the high school prom together. Later she married and divorced while he went from writing dog-food commercials to a basement office in the Nixon White House as a TV-movies-cultural affairs maven-advisor, then got Susan-Marie hired as his staffer. Susan-Marie, whose Army officer father was killed in Korea, has been movie-obsessed since early childhood and thinks writer-director-producer Paul Belzberg's Estonia the greatest escapist film ever made. When she meets Belzberg and studio head Sid Bauman at a Nixon dinner, they're so impressed by her marketing smarts that they hire her away from Benjy. In Hollywood she begins a series of fearless marketing maneuvers that bring her enormous prestige as a braino and eventually the power to film the escapist blockbusters Laser Tracks and Alpha Chi (read Star Wars and Animal House). Someday she'll make Chosin, about her dead father, but for now she's a hardheaded escapist rounding up dollars and voting stock. What's more, she rounds up heavy reader interest. Effective and gripping--and escapist.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's