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Dunne (The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, People Like Us) returns to Hollywood for this fabulously readable reworking of his favorite--maybe his only--theme: the outsider fighting for acceptance within an exclusive and riotously nasty in-crowd. The parvenu this time is Flo March (nÉe Fleurette Houlihan), aggressively, pathetically lovable waitress-turned-mistress of wealthy, powerful Jules Mendelson. For years Jules has ordered his life by keeping Flo separate from his blue-blooded, self-contained wife Pauline (despite a trip to Paris with Flo memorialized in a photo mailed to Pauline by viperish columnist Cyril Rathbone); but when Pauline's friend Hector Paradiso leaves a party at the Mendelsons' house to cruise a notorious gay bar and is found shot next morning, Jules (for mysterious reasons that most readers will soon figure out) gets Hector's murder passed off as a suicide, leaving himself open to blackmail by gangster Arnie Zwillman, who wants Jules to launder drug money when he's named head of the American delegation to the emerging European state. After the Mendelsons squirm through an excruciatingly tasteless and funny party at coke-snorting producer Casper Stieglitz's, where Zwillman makes his pitch, Pauline walks out on Jules--who's solacing himself at Flo's apartment when he gets the word that he's been dumped from the delegation and has a heart attack in Flo's bed. Flo, desperate for the money Jules has promised her (shortly cut off by his widow), falls in with Cyril's plot to sell her autobiography for six figures, finally shaking Pauline's cool in a delirious scene at Jules' funeral and threatening to go public with the details of dear Hector's death. As it winds down to its predictable close, Flo's life is brightened by decent, savvy authorial stand-in Philip Quennell; but if you ignore his improbably normal affair with young widow Camilla Ebury, every other human relationship here is deliciously corrupt. Forget the forthcoming miniseries (a six-figure deal itself) and catch the story this way. Television could never capture Dunne's brisk, no-nonsense skewering of the venal, grasping world that so obviously fascinates him.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0345522206
Publisher: Crown