The relationship between a youngish independent literary agent and his most important client, an evil-genius Wunderkind--in a slickly readable first novel (by veteran editor Marek, president of E.P. Dutton) that's initially involving, then increasingly predictable, hollow, and contrived in its melodramatics. Tony Silver, the earnest (and often self-congratulatory) narrator, quits his big-agency job on a matter of principle, sets up on his own, and very soon receives a career-making manuscript in the mail: Success, the second novel by young Eric Meredith, a tall, massive, intense charmer. The new book, Tony avers, is ""a masterpiece. A fucking miracle."" He eagerly agrees to represent Eric, who returns Tony's admiration: ""You're a humanist. . .You've got a soul!"" The novel becomes a smash hit, of course. Great reviews, big bucks. But, while thriving on the cash-flow, the male-bonding, and the prestige, Tony (sometimes prodded by shrewd wife Judy) sees more and more of the psychopathology behind the novelist's fierce creativity Eric is utterly selfish and insensitive, violently moody; his wife's a secret druggie, his small son's near-catatonic (and worse); Eric philanders grossly, using Tony to provide the alibis. Eventually, then, though repeatedly re-seduced by Eric's charisma, talent, and pseudo-vulnerability, Tony (tiresomely slow on the uptake) will be disgusted enough by Eric's escalating swinishness--cruelty, decadence, savagery--to renounce him forever, no longer needing ""his genius or him for my own fulfillment."" Despite heavy insistence in the humorless narration, it's never made credible that Eric's work is ""the most important American writing of the decade."" Likewise, the shrill underlining of the obvious themes here (often in stilted dialogue) only highlights the shallowness--especially once the novel's crude pattern (one nasty revelation after another) becomes plain. So. though some of the publishing-biz details may offer sporadic interest or glimmers of roman Ã clef titillation, this is finally a simplistic, overdrawn treatment of a basically familiar scenario: a very poor man's Humboldt's Gift.