From the author of Same Bed, Different Dreams (1991), a tale of the Hollywood misadventures of a screenwriting upstart: in the tradition of--but hardly on a par with--Michael Tolkin's The Player (1988) and Peter Lefcourt's The Deal (1991). Sheldon Green moves from Cleveland to Los Angeles with the hopes of writing and directing feature films. No one will hire him but a copy supply center, so he becomes a toner salesman and is rejected by every girl he asks out while he waits for his big break. It comes when Sheldon's boss uses him to deliver messages to Philip S. Fried, a washed-up producer now managing parking lots. Sheldon defects to Phil's company to answer phones. When the opportunity arises to produce a movie with Max Planck, another desperate producer looking for cheap talent, and Ethan Albright, a consultant for Japanese investors, Sheldon and Phil jump at it. Sheldon, having just taken a screenwriting fundamentals course, will create the script (for very little money), while Max will arrange the rest. In order to keep costs down, Sheldon comes up with a story that requires neither star nor special effects. Mitch and Me chronicles the goofy adventures of a middle-American family that mistakenly believes a lost chimpanzee is the foreign exchange student they'd been expecting. The ho-hum novel peps up with the introduction of on-the-set mayhem, including some strained personal relations and problems with the two chimps playing Mitch (one dies before the end). Gross can be funny: Sheldon's passing ideas for movies, always with wacky titles; the oddball cast and crew of the movie; and some stray one-liners and situations are all cute. However, sometimes it seems as though the central plot is simply a showcase for stray cleverness, and the author goes out of his way to avoid real conflict. Thin and lackluster.