An amusing send-up of the publishing business that mixes together an allegedly washed-up novelist, an ex-priest turned literary agent, some intrigue in Michigan, and a hit man who's a midget. Mack Green, promiscuous and heavy with too much drink, comes up with a great money-making idea: Why not write a novel for aging baby-boomers called The Diary of a Dying Man, in which the ostensible author commits suicide at its end? Green's agent, Tommy Russo, a former priest who also happens to have substantial gambling debts, thinks it's a terrific idea and sells a percentage of Green's still-unwritten book to Herman Reggie, a bookie and mobster who considers himself a ``people person'' and who employs Afterbirth, a midget, as his heavy. Meanwhile, Artie ``Stealth'' Wolfowitz--editor in chief of Gothic Publishing--considers books a commodity like ``gym shoes, breakfast cereal'' and has for years wanted to ruin Green because once, decades earlier, the then- successful, big-time writer had slept with his new young wife, Louise. (``There were many ways that Wolfowitz could have killed Mack Green's career, but he opted for slow strangulation.'') Through a series of clever plot twists, Chafets has Wolfowitz hire a real dying man to plagiarize Green's novel, while Reggie contrives to have Green killed so that the book will be a bestseller and make him millions. Green, back in hometown Michigan writing his suicide book and falling in love, plays straight man to the characters around him and to the plot, which climaxes in a publishing house boardroom with the ``failed'' writer once again the rich and soon-to-be famous author he deserves to be. Second-novelist Chafets (Inherit the Mob, 1991) keeps his people funny and fresh enough to offset some formulaic writing. A lively plot-driven romp.