The tragicomic accidental death of omnipotent New York gossip columnist Lolly Pines sets in motion a cheerful scramble for control of her column, access to her sources, and knowledge of the secrets that made her so powerful. The first contender for Lolly's throne is her assistant, Kick Butler, still sweet-tempered despite a disillusioning romance with novelist Lionel Maltby (a user if ever there was one) and the repeated rejections by Fifteen Minutes editor Fedalia Null that landed Kick on Lolly's payroll. Her principal competition is Baby Bayer, a second-string gossiper for the tabloid New York Courier who's sleeping her way up from Courier editor Joe Stone to Lolly's lawyer, Irving Fourbraz. Baby, perhaps the only character in contemporary American fiction who can unzip a man's fly with her toes, doesn't care that her burning-sheets affair with Fourbraz is depriving his wife, Neeva, of affection, trust, and the getaway money her mother left her. As Kick, Baby, and Neeva, like early amphibians, struggle up through swamps of foul men to the freedom of a feminist shore, former food columnist Georgina Dyson, wife of the Courier's publisher, is in danger of suffocating on dry land from the uxorious ministrations of Tanner Dyson, who can't help milking the publicity machine to insure that her every attempt at independence is successful. While Kick and Baby merrily battle each other for men, power, and publicity -- a TV star's defenestration of his female companion in the opening pages turns into an endlessly fertile source of headlines -- there's room for a million subplots, naughty bits, and flashbacks showing you exactly how they all got to be that way, before everybody (yes, everybody) finally hunkers down to live happily ever after. Like Madame Cleo's Girls (1992), nonstop connivance without a mean bone in its body: a Mister Rogers production of Tosca.