Here, Tryon borrows a device from his last novel (Crowned Heads, 1976) and links together five novellas to tell cautionary tales of Hollywood--but the current crop is a verbose disappointment, essentially a book of gossip that takes itself too seriously and fails to entertain. The narrator is Charlie Caine, a wheezy alcoholic minor-actor-turned-writer who tells, with great somber nostalgia, the stories of five old-time movie stars of the 30's and 40's, all of whom he knew. There's Babe Austrian, the blonde bombshell Ã¡ la Mae West, who was killed on a yacht but lived on in the form of a brilliant female impersonator who tells his secret only to a chosen few; sweet ingenue Belinda Carroll, who survived breakdowns, mental hospitals, and alcoholism to become ""a lady who lives in Manhattan now and lunches and leads a useful, happy, prosperous life""; April Raines, an actress who went completely bananas due to the usual Lotusland pressures and whom Charlie visits faithfully in an asylum (""Hollywood is like the beast in nature that eats its young""); Maude Antrim, a great, now ancient, star from the Golden Days, who is Belinda's mother-in-law and grandmother to the nefarious Faun, of whom more later; and Claire Regrett, a nasty Bette Davis type who is trying to get Charlie to write her memoir. The connecting link here, aside from Caine, is Frankie Adonis, a high-powered agent who loved and lost (or left) all the Fateful Five, and who was murdered by Faun when he wouldn't give her money. At heart, a dense, repetitive novel without a central hook to hang its hat on, which reveals nothing while pretending to reveal all--but which suffers mainly from the long-windedness of Tryon's prose: ""Time, age, sorrow, loneliness, and unhappiness may have bowed that lily neck, those shining orbs may have wept buckets on and off screen, murder, pillage, and rapine may have dogged the wake of those size-5 feet encased in their ankle-strap shoes, but by God here she was again. . ."" And again and again and again.