Take The Aspern Papers, add plenty of sex talk about Marilyn and Elvis, sprinkle in some dead bodies, and you get—a first novel brimming with brio, self-confidence, and nostalgia for vanished idols of Hollywood’s various Golden Ages. Levinson’s mouthpiece is Neil Gulliver, an entertainment columnist for the Los Angeles Daily whose wry, side-of-the-mouth comments on every little thing grate until it becomes clear that they reflect his essential humanity. Gulliver’s ex-wife is Sex Queen of the Soaps Stevie Marriner, an ego-bound beauty who still calls him daily for advice—in this instance about her attempt to escape TV thralldom by making her stage debut as Marilyn Monroe in a one-woman show. Stevie’s having big problems with her director, John “Black Jack” Sheridan, a Broadway playwright who moved to Hollywood 30 years ago. The biggest problem is that he’s now dead, laid out in his bedroom at the Motion Picture Retirement Estates, his brain bashed in by a blunt object: his Oscar statuette. Although Stevie, at Neil’s command, will admit nothing to the police, she later tells Neil an involved story. Sheridan attacked her in his living room. Elderly actress Claire Cavanaugh, who has passing moments of senile dementia, walked in on them. When Sheridan started to strangle Claire, Stevie whopped him with Oscar, then passed out. She regained consciousness to find the body—Claire having vanished along with Stevie’s alibi. Many suspects turn up, as do more bodies, with the plot turning on a lost cache of love letters between Marilyn and Elvis. Do the letters really exist, and if so, where are they? Will Neil and Stevie do the nasty? Will Elvis and Marilyn? Levinson, a former Los Angeles crime reporter and p.r. executive, knows his turf well enough to make this readable celebrity rip-off a plausible first for a projected series.