Nova's Hollywood novel is an ambitious murder/blackmail melodrama full of echoes (Fitzgerald, West, Chandler, even Citizen Kane), but the ambitions get in the way of the melodrama. Movieland's most eligible bachelor, new studio head Warren Hodges, was raised in the unglamorous Hollywood of used-car lots and high school gangs. He has hustled his way to the top but still feels walled in, his lifelong love of illusion intact but unsatisfied. All that changes when he throws a lavish party and is mesmerized by a young blonde. Uninvited guest Marta Brooks is a nobody, a Berkeley droput who places ads for lonelyhearts, an emotional outcast ever since her mother admitted lying about her parentage. She is having the worst day of her life. She killed a mobster in self-defense and is now being blackmailed by ex-con Victor Shaw, who witnessed the incident. Despite her torment, Marta does not confide in the intensely sympathetic Warren, not even during an idyll in his mountain hideaway following the party, and her hard-to-believe silence throws the whole novel out of whack. Warren, the natural lead, becomes a bit player, upstaged by the less interesting but problem-plagued Victor. More trouble stems from Nova's use of a broad canvas; the action constantly stops for another colorful character sketch or another sideshow, and the story trails a passel of loose ends by the time it finally staggers to a denouement involving Marta, Victor, and a hit man who reads Tacitus, with Warren as usual on the sidelines. Enjoy the digressions in Nova's eighth novel (after Trombone, 1992), but don't expect a satisfying narrative payoff or a coherent vision of contemporary Tinseltown.