As alternate midsummer selection of the Book of the Month, this is off to perhaps a bigger start than Pamela Johnson's previous record in this country would warrant. The subject too- an inside picture of the machinations of stage people- is a favorite with a substantial number of readers. This is one of those solid long English novels that rejoice those who yearn for the old Priestley type of book. The period flavor of 19th century London; the theatre of the Henry Irving era; a central actor figure whose resemblances to Irving are surely more than coincidental; a love story between this actor, Henry Peverel, and a young girl in his company who became his leading lady, Catherine Carter -- all offer tidbits for anyone who revels in the pastiche of the boards. A rich concoction, with just a touch of naughtiness which could offend only the most Puritanical, a cast that offers a panorama of theatre types, a story that has a certain competence and appeal, all combine to offset to some extent the occasionally heavy footed and ponderous pace of the story.