Len Deighton, like Le Carte, probably never should have left his native no man's land; Bomber bombed and while this is somewhat livelier -- dealing as it does with the transitional Hollywood of the '40's and '50's -- former superstar Marshall Stone is permitted to drag those feet with a four-inch pancake from set to location. Stone had once done a classic Hamlet in England; now, alas poor Yorick, he's en route to becoming a commercial ham with a TV series dangled in front of the nose of a once better profile by TV conglomerator Leo Koolman. What gives this book its ""close-up"" virtues is the sort of Haileyesque nametaped veracity and skilled synchronization -- namely the sense of what makes the wheels go round from merger to option to contract while panning in and out on a lot of personnel: Stone's producer, a former bestselling writer, an agent, a new boy director, and assorted women who include the wife he'd divorced, the girl who had attempted suicide, and a new starlet perfectly willing to perform in any way to get ahead. Rude, vain, petulant Marshall Stone with the angelic face framed by a hairpiece is really typecast for that commonest of human roles -- middle age thinning out into neglect and failure. But then he is very much part of this world which has learned to equate ""avant-garde with disastrous"" so that the book is written on a formularized obverse of that principle. After all Koolman knows you give the people the kind of entertainment they want (perhaps Deighton does too); in fact he's got it all prefigured: ""A very well-known writer is working from the screenplay to put together a book of the film that we will paperback at the time of the premiere."" It certainly gets even better when the vehicle is a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate.