Before his fame as a screenwriter (North by Northwest, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, etc.), Lehman wrote short stories, the most famous of which, “Tell Me About It Tomorrow,” became the hugely atmospheric, sleazy film classic Sweet Smell of Success (1957), whose totally artificial but fabulously acidic dialogue was boosted by co-screenwriter Clifford Odets’s razory cynicism. (The flick still holds up.) No pedigrees for the 13 stories in this sheaf are given, at least not in the galley. In its day Lehman’s story “The Comedian” was probably his second most well-known work, telling as it does of grotesquely unsympathetic Sammy Hogarth, the nation’s more beloved TV comic, whose new show is so hot that it’s about to open on three networks at once, to the biggest audience ever. But a banana peel awaits the funnyman: his own character flaw. The other 11 stories also pull down the pants of Broadway and show biz.
Siddown. Listen to these. They are not Lindy’s cheesecake or long on kisses and schmaltz. But if you like prose pale as a shark’s belly, they do just fine.