Proof that truth must indeed be stranger than fiction, since tales like these, for all their brisk, sad veneer, couldn’t...

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DANGEROUS COMPANY

DARK TALES FROM TINSELTOWN

Variety editor Bart’s first foray into self-identified fiction is a cycle of stories featuring the residents and hangers-on at Hollywood’s fashionable Starlight Terrace.

“This is Hollywood . . . everything’s a little on the bogus side,” says Zsa Zsa Gabor–inspired realtor Evan Vaine, née Vajna, inventor and promoter of Starlight Terrace. And indeed nothing could be more bogus than the screenwriting talents of Sidney Garman, the former golden child who’s fronting for a surprising collaborator, or the Botox-inhibited facial expressions of Denise Turley, whose 52-year-old face has lost more than its lines in her latest desperate bid for a role. Todd Plover, coming out to the production company he serves as co-president, is greeted by sympathy as shallow as it is widespread; Tom Patch, the heartthrob who’s trying to bury his dread approach to the big Four-O by flirting with still another flight attendant, is ludicrously insincere; a son of Middle America gets a trendy ethnic makeover only to be rejected as “too ethnic”; and every drink scalawag agent Justin Braun shares with his ex-partner only sinks him deeper into trouble. Occasionally, Bart touches deeper chords, as with the conflicted censor determined to take an indiscreet shot out of an indie film that moved her or the two adopted teens who share more than a sex life and a congenital medical problem. For the most part, though, he hugs the surface so resolutely that the stories’ main hook is their teasing intimation of real-world models from Kevin Costner to Lew Wasserman. Only “Hard Bargain,” in which a producer’s theft of a down-and-out film doctor’s lover conceals a twist dangerous to all hands, stands on its own as a successful story.

Proof that truth must indeed be stranger than fiction, since tales like these, for all their brisk, sad veneer, couldn’t stand on their own for a minute without the tabloid promise of real-life prototypes.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2003

ISBN: 1-4013-5190-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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